The Monterey County Rape Crisis Center has released a kids activity/coloring book called Hear Me Roar!, subtitled “an activity book to help start a conversation about consent.”
Lauren DaSilva, MCRCC’s deputy director, says that adults talk to young kids about permission to go outside or to play with toys – and that permission to touch is a cornerstone of consent.
“It’s important that children know they have the right to not be touched,” DaSilva says.
She notes that in the vast majority of sexual abuse incidents, the perpertators are people close to the victim. And even when there is no malicious intent, adults can inadvertently lay the groundwork for victimization. A preface reads: “When we force children to touch or be touched, we unintentionally teach them that they have no control over their own bodies.”
The book was conceived and written by Francis Everwoods, who has been a volunteer and intern at MCRCC for three years and who just graduated from CSU Monterey Bay last weekend with a bachelor’s degree in collaborative health and human services, and a minor in education.
She says she read every book in the Monterey County Free Libraries system that pertained to child abuse for ages 12 and younger. She took notes about lessons, tone and vocabulary. And three years of answering calls at the Rape Crisis Center and shadowing its educators at elementary schools taught her much.
She wanted Hear Me Roar! to be interactive, a guide for kids as young as 4.
“The story features not just [childrens’] own bodies, but teaches [them] to respect the bodily autonomy of other children as well,” Everwoods says.
The characters take the form of big cats including lions and lion cubs, cheetahs and tigers who play out a scene in which one cub attempts to cheer up another cub with a surprise hug. When the recipient rejects the unwanted contact, it sets in motion a chain of events including consultation with adults and lessons about how to avoid unwanted touching. There are prompts along the way that ask “Who are adults you can trust?” and “What does it feel like to be comfortable?”
The illustrator, Demi Seva’aetasi, was recruited from the Youth Arts Collective and Everwoods gives her credit for the clothing, appearance, expressions and poses.
The book can be printed for free from MCRCC’s website or attained by calling the office, and one of their board members is working on a Spanish translation.
Clare Mounteer, MCRCC’s executive director who’s worked there for 32 years, helped support the project.
“We were really pleased with the way it came out,” Mounteer says.