Putting Domestic Violence in Pictures

Search “domestic violence” in the book section of Amazon.com and you’ll find more than 40,000 options to add to your reading list. Not surprisingly, most are aimed at adults, even though more than 15 million children in the U.S. live in a household in which partner violence has occurred at least once in the last year.

While definitely not a serene bedtime story, most advocates agree domestic violence is still a subject that even young kids should be educated about. That’s why several authors think picture books are a good place to start.

Anger is Okay, Violence is NOT

Author Julie Federico authored Anger is Okay, Violence is NOT after spending 14 years as a middle school counselor and realizing that, while there were a few books to help tweens and teens understand violence, there wasn’t much in the way of books for little ones.

“Domestic violence is built on silence,” says Federico, and fear is a barrier for all ages, kids and adults, that prevents them from opening up about abuse, she adds.

But, “if you start talking about it, it kind of starts to dissipate.” She wants to see domestic violence education, including how to recognize domestic violence and speak out about it, to be commonplace, just as much as teaching kids about the importance of seat-belts.

Federico is also a survivor herself, enduring a nine-year marriage to an emotionally abusive man. She admits she didn’t talk about it much with her two children, the oldest of which was just 3 when she left her abuser, until several years ago. Today, they’re 10 and 14.

“It dawned on me one day that I wasn’t validating their reality, so I started calling it what it was. I worry about them because they’ve seen a lot. I worry about them picking boyfriends and spouses. Now, we talk a lot about it. I tell them, ‘You want to be dating someone who is more respectful than this.’”

Her book is not exclusively centered on domestic violence. “There’s a message here for all toddlers struggling with anger, or tantrums even. The book features sea creatures, like fish and turtles, getting angry at one another. On one page, a turtle is about to throw a starfish at another fish. The book asks, “Is it OK to throw something when you are angry?” ultimately offering other solutions, like painting a picture or playing soccer, even crying, when you’re mad. It emphasizes that anger should not hurt others and, if you’re being harmed by others, tell a trusted adult.

To find out more about Julie and her work, please visit: www.juliefederico.com

Claire Cappetta
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