10 QUESTIONS FOR…Jill Starishevsky, children’s book author and attorney

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**FYI, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Monthfinaljillheadshot1

Author interview with Jill Starishevskymybody-cover1

Jill Starishevsky is an Assistant District Attorney in New York City, where she has prosecuted hundreds of sex offenders and dedicated her career to seeking justice for victims of child abuse and sex crimes. Outside the courtroom, Jill’s fondness for writing led her to create thepoemlady.com, where she pens personalized pieces. Her mission to protect children, along with her penchant for poetry, inspired My Body Belongs to Me, a book intended to teach children that their bodies are privates – www.MyBodyBelongstoMe.com. A mother of two, Jill is also founder of HowsMyNanny.com, a service that enables parents to purchase a license plate for their child’s stroller so the public can report positive or negative nanny observations.  Featured on Good Morning America, CNN and the New York Daily News, HowsMyNanny.com has been hailed “an honest solution to a tough problem.”

1. Tell us about your latest book. 

The story is a simple scenario involving a gender neutral child who is inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend.  The powerful message really comes through when the youngster tells on the offender and the parents praise the child’s bravery.  The last page shows a proud, smiling child doing a “strong arm” pose.  The text assures them that it wasn’t their fault and by speaking out the child will continue to grow big and strong.  It is a compelling and uplifting message.

The “Suggestions for the Storyteller” section is an important, interactive feature that facilitates the discussion to follow.  It will make any caregiver feel more comfortable talking about this important subject, thereby helping to PREVENT the unthinkable from happening to their child.  Studies show that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be molested and without educating children as to the importance of disclosing, the abuse can continue and escalate.   

As a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City for more than a decade, I have often encountered children who were sexually abused for lengthy periods of time and suffered in silence. One case in particular had a profound impact on me and compelled me to write this book.

I prosecuted the case of a 9-year-old girl who had been raped by her stepfather since she was 6. She told no one. One day, the girl saw an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” about children who were physically abused. The episode, “Tortured Children,” empowered the girl with this simple message: If you are being abused, tell your parents. If you can’t tell your parents, go to school and tell your teacher. The girl got the message and the very next day went to school and told her teacher. I prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s office. The defendant was convicted and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence.

I have thought often of that very sweet, very brave 9-year-old girl. It occurred to me that after three painful years, all it took to end her nightmare was a TV program encouraging her to “tell a teacher.”

I wrote My Body Belongs to Me to continue that message. It endeavors to teach children that they don’t have to endure abuse in silence. Parents and educators should use it as a tool to facilitate an open dialogue with youngsters. It is my hope that by educating girls and boys about this taboo subject, My Body Belongs to Me will prevent them from becoming victims in the first place.

2. How did you get started as a writer?

I have been writing poems since I was little an started a poem writing service a few years ago.  There was such great demand for my work that I expanded the genre I covered.  Once I saw the need for a book on child sexual abuse prevention, a book written in verse came very naturally to me.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

I work full time as a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes, come home to my family and work on my various businesses at night.  Life is usually a bit hectic, but whose isn’t.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

I call it organized chaos.  I know where everythine is, but it’s likely no one else would.

5. Favorite books 

Green Eggs and Ham

7. Favorite quote

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

Best: Watching others enjoy your work

Worst:  Watching others critique your work

9. Advice for other writers

If you feel passionate about something, share that passion.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. 

I once wrote a 50th anniversary poem for a couple who had 11 children whose names all started with the letter D.  Shortly after the poem was read aloud at the anniversary party, the father passed away unexpectedly.  One of the daughters, a woman who I have never met, contacted me a few months later to let me know that the mother has the poem framed in her living room.  She reads it every day and remembers that last happy occasion they all shared.  It’s an incredible feeling to know that my work has touched someone so profoundly and that it continues to bring her joy. 

Where can people buy your book?

The book can be ordered now online at www.MyBodyBelongstoMe.com – it will be in stores this fall.

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