The #MeToo movement has changed the way many people view the world, but how well do tweens understand it? #MeToo and You: Everything You Need to Know about Consent, Boundaries, and More explores the nuances of emotions, comfort, and discomfort in sexually charged and emotionally abusive situations. Tween readers will learn about consent, harassment, abuse, and healthy boundaries in all types of relationships.
Today author Halley Bondy joins us to answer a few questions!
Content warning: This post deals with themes of assault and abuse. Exercise discretion and seek out support if you require it.
Why did you decide to write #MeToo and You?
This is the book I wish I had when I was young, and it’s the book I want my daughter to have.
I’ve been through episodes of abuse myself – unfortunately so have most women I know. The Me Too movement opened up the conversation in unprecedented ways. But, if we’re going to fight sexual abuse, education has to start young, and it has to start with the basics about power and relationships. Most people – though not all – are abused by someone they know. All too often, sexual abuse is narrowly described by the act itself, not by the toxic forces that led up to abuse, and not by the psychological and legal aftermath for the victim and their allies. It’s heavy stuff, but kids should be empowered to understand when a dynamic is unhealthy, to believe themselves and others, and to know that it’s not their fault.
What research or other sources influenced you as you wrote #MeToo and You?
Everything in the book is based on research gleaned from interviews with victims and experts, as well as primary sources, studies and expert vetting. That’s something I want to make clear, since the book does have an informal tone in order to relate to kids.
The statistics were certainly influential: one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. One in two transgender individuals will be abused at some point in their lifetime. In eight out of 10 abuse cases, the victim knows the assailant, and less than one in five cases of abuse go forward to prosecution. The adults are failing the kids. I was determined not to be another failure of an adult by writing this book.
Why did you decide on this particular structure with scenarios and stories sprinkled throughout the text?
The book is nothing without actual stories. You can talk about theories of relationships and abusive dynamics all you want, but until you see them play out, they can be hard to picture. Victims and allies told me their true stories, but I also used fictional stories in order to illustrate certain points – many of these stories have nothing to do with sex abuse, but they describe certain familiar nuances of relationships. My hope is that kids see these stories and recognize some of the dynamics at play. Perhaps they can take what they’ve learned and feel more empowered in their lives.
One thing I want to point out: my husband illustrated the book. This was important to me not only because I trust his artistic judgment, but also because I wanted a man’s name on the cover. This is not just a woman’s issue. Whether they’re rejecting toxic masculinity, acting as allies, or whether they’re victims themselves, boys are a huge part of this conversation.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
Everything about it was challenging, particularly hearing and reading stories of abuse. I had to disconnect at times and just grind through the chapters. I had to work very hard with my therapist to get through it (I detail this journey in the book, too). What kept me going was when my husband said “If we can change just one kid’s life, that’s a success. More than one, then, wow.” It’s not the loftiest goal, but really, that would be incredible.
How do you see educators and parents using #MeToo and You?
My dream is that #MeToo and You becomes available in schools as a resource in sex education classes. Parents can recommend it to their kids and walk them through the content. The first chapter has nothing graphic about sexual abuse – it’s just about relationships, consent, boundaries and more – and yet kids can learn so much from it. This was purposely designed so all kids can get something from the book, even if they’re not ready for the more graphic content.
What do you want young readers to take away from your book and how could they incorporate this information into their lives?
First, a disclaimer: the book is intended to empower and teach kids, not to be a band-aid after abuse occurs. That work must come from a kid’s support structure, and from professionals.
Ideally I want kids to read the book and understand the complex nature of sexual abuse. When I was a kid, I learned what rape was on a bare-bones level. I learned what molestation was. An ally was someone who wore a cape and saved rape victims in alleyways. I didn’t recognize things like subtle coercive behavior, grooming, uneven power dynamics, the shattering of boundaries or agency, or complicit bystanderism. These are important concepts to understand, even when sexual abuse does not take place. If they recognize the patterns, they can be more empowered in their own relationships. They’ll also recognize when they, themselves, are behaving in a toxic manner.
I also didn’t know how complicated our legal system is when it comes to child sexual abuse. We’re mostly exposed to court dramas where everything is tied neatly into a bow, but that’s not what happens. Kids should know what to expect so that, maybe, it all feels slightly less frightening. If they are unhappy about our systems, kids should feel empowered to fight them. That’s the last chapter of the book: how to fight sexual abuse on a political, rather than personal level.
What other projects are you working on now?
So many. I have a new book coming out on Lerner about empowering young girls. As a professional journalist and script writer, I write about social justice every day.
Praise for #MeToo and You
“[C]hapters work together to offer tips on asking for help, being an ally, and taking action against sexual abuse. . . . Bondy presents real and fictional stories that expand concepts, and she makes sure to include LGBTQ+ victims in her discussions.”—Booklist
“Real talk about sexual abuse and harassment that neither sugarcoats nor catastrophizes.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A recommended resource to jump-start difficult conversations.”—School Library Journal
Download this free Relationship Assessment Chart to spark a discussion or self-reflection!
Follow Halley on Social Media
Website: This is Halley