Safe Shores was created by the D.C. government to help children after they suffer the trauma of abuse. But Executive Director Michele Booth Cole wants parents and community members to know they can help prevent abuse and neglect from occurring in the first place. She joins Kojo to discuss the Safe Shores model and the challenge of talking with kids and adults about abuse.

Guests

  • Michele Booth Cole attorney; and Executive Director, Safe Shores: The DC Children's Advocacy Center

Transcript

  • 12:25:30

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. By the time a child comes into contact with Safe Shores, it's almost always a story of missed signals and opportunities after a child has experienced the trauma of abuse and neglect, a neighbor who didn't ask questions or report strange behavior, a parent who didn't have that difficult, sometimes awkward talk with their kid about speaking up. As the D.C. nonprofit tasked with helping young victims of abuse and neglect, Safe Shores' immediate job is to make sure their young clients get all the care and attention they need.

  • 12:26:02

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut executive director Michele Booth Cole has a more ambitious goal, getting people to recognize all those subtle signs and to think proactively about preventing abuse before it occurs. She joins us in studio. Michele Booth Cole is executive director of Safe Shores, the D.C. children's advocacy center. Michele, good to see you again.

  • 12:26:21

    MS. MICHELE BOOTH COLEAnd it's great to see you, Kojo. Thank you for having this conversation and allowing me to be part of it.

  • 12:26:26

    NNAMDIAnd if you'd like to join this conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. What does it mean to you to be a good neighbor and a good parent? 800-433-8850. You can send us email to kojo@wamu.org, or simply send us a tweet, @kojoshow.

  • 12:26:43

    NNAMDIOn the one hand, Michele, this is a conversation about a very awful subject that makes most of us recoil instinctively. But it's also a conversation about what it means to be a responsible parent and a responsible neighbor in a world that is sometimes unsafe for kids. Do you think we do a good enough job talking about abuse and recognizing it around us?

  • 12:27:04

    COLEWell, I think we can certainly do a much better job from what I've seen. One, I want to thank you again because this is the last day of child abuse prevention month, which is in April.

  • 12:27:13

    NNAMDIOh, OK.

  • 12:27:14

    COLESo it's a really very fitting that we be having this conversation today. And having this conversation is exactly what we need to be doing as a community because it focuses a shining light on what thrives in darkness, which is child sexual abuse and child abuse. So we could do a better job. But the fact is, is that we live in a society that places a high premium on speed, convenience, hurry up, text me back, BlackBerry me, why didn't you return my voicemail?

  • 12:27:43

    COLESo all those things, if you think about them, they are very counter to what good parenting and good neighboring really requires, which is slow down, pay attention, listen to me, take time for me. So the fact is, I mean, I know your experience as a dad and a granddad, you know that good parenting is inconvenient, right?

  • 12:28:06

    NNAMDIOh, yeah.

  • 12:28:08

    COLESo when we talk about what it takes to really endeavor to be a good parent -- and I have three of my own, and I am certainly just endeavoring each day -- what I really think a lot of it comes down to is being mindful and being intentional about what we want for our children.

  • 12:28:25

    NNAMDII'm glad you mentioned because your own -- being a parent because when I met you, you were about to become a parent just for the very first time.

  • 12:28:33

    COLEExactly. That's right.

  • 12:28:34

    NNAMDIAnd now you're a parent. But you come at this not only as a professional who serves young clients but also as a parent. How do you recommend people start the conversation with their kids?

  • 12:28:44

    COLEThat's a great question, and you're right. I was very pregnant or became pregnant when we were in our leadership Washington class together.

  • 12:28:52

    NNAMDIWhich means that your eldest is 13 years old.

  • 12:28:54

    COLEShe's 13, and she towers above me at 5-foot-8, yes, indeed.

  • 12:28:56

    NNAMDIWhoa.

  • 12:28:58

    COLEAnd, frankly, you know, that's a great question because I've been having these conversations since she was at -- preverbal. And it starts with language. A lot of it starts -- when we do training around child sexual abuse at Safe Shores, a lot of what we teach is give children the power of language. Teach them the proper names for their body parts, right?

  • 12:29:20

    COLEBecause when we teach nicknames and names that other people outside our family may not recognize, one, we disable out children. We don't give them a universal ability to talk about something if it happens, right? It's not a cookie. It's not a wee-wee. You know, call it what it is, right?

  • 12:29:37

    NNAMDIMm hmm.

  • 12:29:37

    COLEAnd the other piece is that we empower children by being able to not have a sense of shame. When we give nicknames to things, often it connotes that there's a sense of shame. So when you're teaching children, that's your arm, that's your finger, that's your -- teach them the proper names for their body parts so that they can have the power of language. And then it goes from there. A lot of what I think parents really want to do and need to be doing is having regular conversations with their children every day.

  • 12:30:06

    COLESo the debrief doesn't feel like it's an interrogation, right? If it's part of your pattern, when you see them at the end of the day, whether you do school pick up or bus pick up or you're seeing them when they get off the bus, you're saying, hey, tell me about your day. And you don't accept one word answers. You ask like you are the great interviewer you are, Kojo. You ask open-ended questions so that they are forced to tell you so-and-so stuck their finger in my cheeseburger, and I couldn't eat it.

  • 12:30:31

    COLEOr somebody, you know, this happened or this teacher asked me this question. But I think part of what it really is is creating a climate in your family where you have an on-going conversation with your children about whatever comes up.

  • 12:30:45

    NNAMDIWe're talking with Michele Booth Cole. She is executive director of Safe Shores: The DC Children's Advocacy Center, taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Have you talked to your kids or someone in your neighborhood about child safety and child abuse? How did you initiate the conversation? Share that with us, 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow.

  • 12:31:08

    NNAMDIMichele, tell our listening audience exactly what Safe Shores. As the name itself is telling all kids need a sense of security and safety. And for kids who have experienced some kind of traumatic experience, those concerns are even more important, right?

  • 12:31:24

    COLEAbsolutely. Safe Shores is a nonprofit organization that was created back in 1995 because there was a recognition in the District of Columbia that we could do better as a city around how child sexual abuse and child abuse allegations were investigated. So back before there was a children's advocacy center in the District, if there was an allegation of abuse, it might be that a uniformed police officer showed up in a squad car at a child's house and talked to them in front of who might be the alleged perpetrator.

  • 12:31:55

    COLEOr they may have shown up at school and carted them away from school in a squad car and then sat them at a police precinct and asked them very difficult personal questions that a child didn't feel comfortable to answer. Now, what we have is a model that -- rather than that child being talked to by a police officer and then a social worker and then a prosecutor, all those professionals come to the children's advocacy center and their questions, as part of their investigation, are funneled through someone who is trained to talk with children about traumatic events.

  • 12:32:25

    COLEAnd we talk to children not just about sexual abuse and physical abuse, but we also see children who are witnesses to violence. So we have on staff what are called forensic interviewers who are trained to talk to children in a developmentally appropriate way but also in a neutral fact-finding way where they're not asking any leading questions.

  • 12:32:41

    COLEAnd then beyond the forensic interview, you know that, when you're dealing with someone who has been a victim of crime, you have to meet the full array of needs that might exist. So when you're dealing with children -- we have a victim services staff who greet the child, who play games or just watch movies, do something that makes that child feel calmer and safe enough to talk about what happened. Of course, you have to have snacks. We do referrals for families for crime victim's compensation.

  • 12:33:06

    COLEAnd then we also have a mental health component where we have therapists on staff who are able to do immediate crisis intervention with the family or with the child but also who are able to do ongoing therapy should that child need it. And then the other part of the model is the medical evaluation. When you're dealing with a crime like this, you have to have seasoned capable medical professionals to do the child sexual abuse investigations and the child physical abuse, and that's our fabulous partners...

  • 12:33:31

    NNAMDIBecause if you don't have that, you run the risk of re-traumatizing the child.

  • 12:33:34

    COLEWell, that's the notion. To have a child talking about over and over again the same thing that's happened, it's not helpful to the child. But it's also -- if you're trying to prosecute a case, it's not necessarily very helpful to have the child talk to several different people because our memories are such that we may remember different components of what happened each time we tell it. So let's do one time, one child, one place.

  • 12:33:56

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones, we'll start with Sarah in Anne Arundel County, Md. Sarah, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:34:05

    SARAHI was calling because I was very shocked to learn that my niece had been sexually abused for several years between the ages of 10 and 12. When my sister, who is now deceased, complained to the local private school that she thought this teacher was a pedophile, they completely belittled and ignored her statements and chose to humiliate her in the community and refused to believe her. And this -- I just think we have to be really aware that there is a real need and want in people to refuse to believe this.

  • 12:35:03

    SARAHMy sister since was killed, and her daughter, as an adult, came back and eventually brought charges against her abuser who was convicted. But the school replied to my sister's complaints -- it was a certified letter refusing to believe her. And I think that we live in an age where we think that people will respond appropriately, and in some of these institutional environments where they just (unintelligible).

  • 12:35:44

    NNAMDII'm glad -- really...

  • 12:35:45

    SARAHThey don't want to acknowledge it.

  • 12:35:48

    NNAMDII'm really glad you brought that up, Sarah, because I wanted Michele to talk about how institutions behave sometimes differently than individuals when it comes to addressing the abuse allegations, right? Earlier this month, a 20-year-old man was arrested for abusing a 3--year-old at a day care center at a church in Northeast Washington at Zion Baptist Day Care, raised all kinds of troubling questions about reporting -- when reports emerged that a witness came forward two days after seeing something. So could you respond to Sarah and talk about how institutions sometimes tend not to respond?

  • 12:36:19

    COLEOf course. Well, Sarah, first, I want to commend your niece for being brave enough to go forward and to push forward to prosecute her -- the perpetrator. But you are absolutely right. We can't assume that institutions are going to respond properly. But what we can do is push for them to have the policies and practices in place that do require proper reporting and that insist on it. And we ask those questions as parents, as, frankly, education consumers when we put our children in institutions.

  • 12:36:51

    COLEI mean, in the Zion Baptist Church case, that still is unfolding, but the -- what I would hope the church would do is, one, make sure that the alleged victim and his family are getting some help and getting the support that they need and then, two, put policies and practices in place that are going to make sure that that is very unlikely to occur again. And that includes training for staff and administrators in child abuse prevention policies and making sure that the reporting guidelines are very clear and very swift in that institution, so there's not a two-day delay when somebody sees something.

  • 12:37:28

    COLEA lot of the times, people want to do the right thing and often don't know what to do. And institutions have a responsibility to have the policies in place that tell people exactly what they should do.

  • 12:37:39

    NNAMDISarah, thank you very much for your call. Say two words: Penn State.

  • 12:37:44

    COLEWow. Isn't that just amazing? I mean, it has opened up such a dialogue. And I think, you know, of course, in our organization, we are dealing with these issues every day. But I think one of the things we were struck by is the different venues in which this dialogue started taking place. When you hear people on sports radio start talking about child sexual abuse, you know you have entered a new corridor of the conversation.

  • 12:38:12

    COLEAnd so on that level, if there is some good to come out of all the terrible pain that the victims of the Penn State situation have dealt with, then let's hope it is not just starting the dialogue but keeping it going and then making sure that it is an informed dialogue. I mean, you know, Sarah referenced people don't want to believe it happens.

  • 12:38:33

    COLEThe statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach their 18th birthday. That's epidemic proportion. So we need to be having this conversation in our families, in our schools, in our communities, in our organizations and in the media and make sure that they are well-informed conversations.

  • 12:38:57

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. If you -- is it possible to talk honestly about child abuse and neglect without becoming paranoid? 800-433-8850. We heard Michele talk earlier about the conversation about -- in the conversation about equipping kids with the real names for their body parts. Is that something you do, or is that something you would find a little difficult? Call us, 800-433-8850. Here is Moaz (sp?) in Hyattsville, Md. Moaz, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:39:31

    MOAZHey, thank you, Kojo, for taking my show -- my call. Great show again. I just want to really share a mixed feeling. When I was kid and back home -- back home is in Tunisia, and my mom was telling me this stuff before we go to this summer camp. It's going to be by the Mediterranean. And she's telling me, hey, make sure nobody touch you here, nobody touch you here. And she shocked me. She's telling me this stuff, and I was, like, embarrassed.

  • 12:40:02

    MOAZI'm like, no, don't tell me this or don't -- you know, Tunisia is a Muslim country, and we are very conservative. I didn't like the way she was staying this stuff, but, believe me, it was -- it is (unintelligible) we not know. It's tough, people touching you here and there is starting a sexual abuse experience for me. And from there, I was standing up for myself and anybody, you know...

  • 12:40:29

    NNAMDIYou're saying, Moaz, that had she not had that conversation with you, you would probably have, in fact, been a victim of sexual abuse?

  • 12:40:37

    MOAZYeah. Well, I believe that will be the case because we don't know anything. We don't know what is appropriate, what is not if somebody's, you know -- and she shared that with me, and I am doing this with my kids, too. I told them. They're getting that shock like me, but they knew now. And I recommend every parent to do that. I hope at school they do this.

  • 12:41:06

    NNAMDIMoaz, thank you very much for that, but I suspect some people are still asking, exactly how do we do this? So here is Kim in Vienna, Va. Kim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:41:17

    KIMYes. Thank you for taking my call. That is the exact question I had. I have three young girls. And, you know, I want to educate them and let them know that there are sexual predators out there. But I'm not sure the best way to talk to them about this issue without scaring them or going over their heads.

  • 12:41:37

    COLECan I jump in? All right. Well, one, I wanted to commend Moaz and your mom. Go, mom, because she did just the right thing. One, we have to remember that it's really adult's job to keep children safe, and one of the ways we do that is by having the conversations with them. And so there are some ways that you can talk to your children without scaring them. Obviously, we want to make sure that we're not introducing information that they're not ready for.

  • 12:42:03

    COLESo there are developmentally appropriate ways. You can start by teaching them that their body is theirs, the privacy and primacy of their own body, and that no one has the right to touch them if they don't want somebody to touch them. And then you go into what are appropriate touches. You can talk about your pediatrician. Your pediatrician is often a great source of information to help guide parents in this.

  • 12:42:27

    COLEWhen we do child sexual abuse prevention training, we use a curriculum called "Stewards of Children." But we also supplement that with materials, and they have them for ages 3 through 5, ages 5 through 8, 9 through 11. And one is called "Know What? Your Body is Yours."

  • 12:42:43

    COLEAnother -- you know, I mean there are appropriate resources out there that can teach parents, and these look like little coloring books. They're actually books that you can go through with your children that have connect the dots and different exercises that provide very age-appropriate, sensitive topical information for parents to get your kids involved in this conversation.

  • 12:43:01

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Kim. There are others on the line. Please hold on. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll get to your calls. If the lines are busy, go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there, or send us an email to kojo@wamu.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:44:58

    NNAMDIOur guest is Michele Booth Cole, executive director of Safe Shores: The DC Children's Advocacy Center. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. I remember having this conversation with my own kids, Michele, a long time ago before social media, before cellphones, before so-called sexting. I get the sense that parents today are facing a much more complex environment, especially when it comes to technology. You've actually grappled with this changing environment with your own kids, right? How do you handle it?

  • 12:45:28

    COLEI continue to grapple with it. I mean, a big part of it is having the conversations with them about it's not that I don't trust you, it's that there are risks out there that you may not understand. So part of it is making sure that they understand why you're putting parameters on their use of technology. And some of it really does mean, again, going for me, kind of old school and counterculture. Just because your friends can do it doesn't mean you can do it.

  • 12:45:53

    COLEAnd here are the reasons why, though. So it's not that I'm just being old-fashioned because of this. It's because I understand what the risks are out there. And as they get older, certainly I'm having a different conversation with my 13-year-old than I have with my 8-year-old, right?

  • 12:46:05

    NNAMDISure.

  • 12:46:05

    COLESo there's much more kind of information flowing based on what she sees on "Glee" and some of the questions I get on in response to that. So the technology is huge. And I think we also have to remember that the implications for technology in terms of our children's usage, but also in terms of the exploitation of crimes against children, is huge, and we have, in some ways, become desensitized to it.

  • 12:46:28

    COLEI think the desensitization of the premature sexualization of children that just occurs in terms of all the images we see in the media. You think back to Brooke Shields when she was a prepubescent -- nothing gets between me and my Calvins -- and that media image. And it's just grown from there to the way children dress. I mean, I have three daughters. Trying to find age-appropriate clothing for the 13-year-old is tough.

  • 12:46:55

    COLEAnd so -- but part of it means, as parents, one, I think you reference the notion of being part of the community. We have to reinforce each other. We have to slow down and reinforce each other. If your children are going over someone's house, you better know who's going to be there. Take the time to know who they are. Don't just drop your child off at somebody's door without walking them up to the door, which happened to me recently. I looked up there with a child standing at my door with no parent.

  • 12:47:17

    COLEI was like -- saw the car driving off. I was like, whoa, don't you want to know who I am? And so there's a real opportunity for parents to reinforce what some may think is a hard line, but -- and share information with each other. What do you know about technology? What can you teach me? And, again, continue to have the conversations with our kids 'cause they can teach us.

  • 12:47:35

    NNAMDIOn to Tanya in Clarksburg, Md. Tanya, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:47:40

    TANYAYes, hi. I'm wondering if your guest might be able to comment on, you know, the best ways for a person to go about reporting something, you know, if you are that neighbor that, you know, suspects there could be a problem, you know, two houses away and -- or your child tells you, you know, so and so, you know, says their mom or dad did this. You know, she might be able to just speak to the best ways for people to, you know, report suspected activities. And I can take my comment off the air.

  • 12:48:10

    NNAMDITanya, I'm so glad you raised that issue because all through this conversation, the name Banita Jacks has been going through my mind.

  • 12:48:18

    TANYAYep.

  • 12:48:18

    NNAMDIFor people who don't remember that name, she was the D.C. mother convicted of murdering her four daughters back in 2009. She was also convicted on charges of child cruelty and neglect. But my mind comes back to that case because I think there must have been signs. And one wonders how individuals like Tanya, who may have been living in that community, responded when they saw the signs. She made a phone call to this show. What do you think, Michele?

  • 12:48:42

    COLEWell, you asked one about reporting. Let's keep in mind that the standard for reporting is you don't have to know all the facts. It's a reasonable suspicion of abuse. That's the standard. So I really -- we strongly urge people to report if they have a reasonable suspicion of abuse. And let me just add this: don't do it via email. Our -- sometimes I get emails in our general mailbox at Safe Shores. You need to pick up the phone and call the child abuse hotline. The District of Columbia has the number, and it's 202-671-SAFE. It's 202-671-7233.

  • 12:49:19

    COLEBut every jurisdiction has it. You can call your local -- your police department. You can call 911 to report suspected abuse. But really encourage you, if you see abuse, you witness it, certainly report it. And if you suspect it and you have a reasonable suspicion, report it, and report it properly. The situation you reference with your daughter, with somebody coming -- with his friend saying something, you know, I think part of it is having a conversation with people at the school, you know, to let them know because the school has a responsibility to report.

  • 12:49:47

    COLEYou can talk with that child to get more information, but I wouldn't try to have -- conduct an interview yourself. All you need, again, is a reasonable suspicion. And we've got to report, and we've got to talk about it as a community so that other adults won't be afraid. They'll feel empowered to do the reporting that we should be doing as neighbors.

  • 12:50:05

    NNAMDITanya, thank you for your call. How about people who want to know what other resources there are out there that might be of assistance to them or to children who are the victims of abuse and neglect?

  • 12:50:15

    COLESure. Well, there are some great resources in terms of talking about it. I referenced these booklets, one by a company called Channing Bete. And I think that'll be on your website. These are resources...

  • 12:50:24

    NNAMDIYou can find a link on our website, kojoshow.org.

  • 12:50:27

    COLEThese are resources that we actually give away when we do trainings because parents frequently ask these questions. And there's one called Keeping My Body Safe, and it starts with things like, everyone has private parts. And it takes parents through the little connect-the-dots and how do you talk to children about these in a very safe, appropriate way. We, again, recommend -- Darkness to Light has information about Stewards of Children Training and what child sexual abuse is, which is another excellent resource.

  • 12:50:51

    COLEGo to our website, safeshores.org. And, obviously, HHS has the Child Welfare Gateway. So there's a lot of good information. In terms of books about child sexual abuse, there's a really excellent one by Robin Stone called "No Secrets, No Lies," about child sexual abuse in the black community and really trying to deal with that and take that issue head-on. I thought "So Sexy So Soon" was a really excellent book. It's "The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids."

  • 12:51:21

    NNAMDIStop right there for one second.

  • 12:51:22

    COLEYep.

  • 12:51:22

    NNAMDI"So Sexy So Soon." Here is Michael in Washington, D.C., who has a question related to that. Michael, your turn.

  • 12:51:29

    MICHAELHi, Kojo. I just wanted to ask any of the experts if -- well, first of all, the premise of my question is that I get the sense that in -- the parents in the modern day believe that because we have increasingly easy ways of communicating with each other -- you know, you mentioned sexting as the first one that came to mind.

  • 12:51:54

    MICHAELAnd, you know, the media is becoming ever more pervasive in our lives with all sorts of images, you know, suggestive images of sexuality. Is there actually any evidence to suggest that increases in technology or increases in the availability of media to young people actually has any sort of effect on their psychological development, specifically with, you know, with respect to sexuality and sexual development?

  • 12:52:19

    COLEWell, I don't know that I'm an expert on media impact of -- on brain development and technology. But I do know there's an excellent book that talks about how pornography affects our lives and our relationships in terms of family. It's called "Pornified," and there's a lot of references to studies and resources in that book. It's by Pamela Paul. We do know that the impact and certainly of technology in child sexual abuse cases is huge because a lot of the times perpetrators will use that threat against children to keep them from telling.

  • 12:52:51

    COLEI'm going to put it on the Internet so then everybody will know what you did. And so that has a really pernicious effect in terms of discouraging children even further from telling. And it lives on forever on the Internet, which is something that I think young people don't necessarily understand.

  • 12:53:07

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Michael. We move on to Malcolm in Fredericksburg, Va. Malcolm, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:53:15

    MALCOLMGreetings, everyone. Thanks for taking my call. I just wanted to give a super shout-out to Michele and her organization. I'm a recent attendee of the Stewards of Children Darkness to Light training as recently as last week. I took it with Jessica Gilmore, (sic) a staff person of yours.

  • 12:53:35

    COLEYep. Jessica Galimore. She's a superstar.

  • 12:53:37

    MALCOLMOh, without a doubt. Without a doubt. And I don't know if it's been said, but one of the just sobering statistics that just knocked me off my chair was that 90 percent of the perpetrators in sexual abuse cases are families or friends. That really had me re-evaluate almost everything that all of my six children do on a daily basis, and that the policies and procedures that are totally neglected in most cases, even as something in common as extracurricular sports. And...

  • 12:54:24

    NNAMDIWell, you know, Malcolm, we're running out of time very quickly, but you give me the opportunity because you mentioned that the majority of predators are not strangers. So, Michele, talk a little bit about recognizing the signs because these might be people you respect, even people you love. What are you supposed to be looking for?

  • 12:54:42

    COLEWell, one, I want to commend Michael as a dad for taking this training. And I should mention that on our website you'll see dates for upcoming trainings. We're having one in May and one in June, so I would encourage people to take advantage of this free learning opportunity. I think when we teach about recognizing signs of sexual abuse, a lot of it comes down to knowing your child, and that means you are listening to and observing your child on a regular behavior.

  • 12:55:02

    COLESo it might be about a change in their behavior, a change in their response or how they respond to the notion of being around a particular adult. That could be part of it. The other piece, though, is, you know, pedophiles do something called grooming, which is, when they really try to inculcate themselves in people's lives by building trust, by building comfort, by being sometimes overly accessible, overly helpful.

  • 12:55:27

    COLEI'll tutor your child. I'll -- you can bring them by my house. We can -- you know, I'll be there, one on one. So I think a big part of what you raised, which is so critical, is making sure that the policies are in place that really govern one-adult-one-child contact and limit that in institutional settings, and supervise your children very carefully and pay attention and teach them to listen to their instincts. And then when they do, respect and honor that when they tell you.

  • 12:55:52

    NNAMDIWe got a comment posted on our website by Tess. "A big pet peeve of mine is when parents insist that their children hug or kiss another adult."

  • 12:55:58

    COLEOh, yes.

  • 12:55:59

    NNAMDI"Chances are the child has no interest, and it also forces them to accept possible inappropriate touching from others. Please tell your listeners never to pressure children to accept hugs or kisses or to give them."

  • 12:56:10

    COLEExcellent, Tess. This is something that we talk about in the training as well. That is brilliant. I don't know about Kojo, but I grew up in the Baptist Church where they said, hug Sister Philson. (sp?) Hug Deacon Jennings. (sp?) Hug so-and-so. And people smelled like peppermint and Bengay and all kinds of stuff, and they had whiskers. And a lot of times I didn't want to. And you raise such an excellent point.

  • 12:56:30

    COLEThe affection that children give should be given freely and voluntarily, and we need to really heed that because you're right. Again, going back to children's instincts, if they don't feel comfortable with it, don't make them do it. The challenge is sometimes you get a lot of push-back from family and relatives 'cause, you know, what's that child think they're uppity or something? So you really have to back up our children. We have to listen to them and back them up when they don't want to give that affection.

  • 12:56:55

    NNAMDII'm afraid we're running out of time very quickly, but I got this email from Gail in Southern Maryland, who said, "I just want to add that, as difficult as it is to begin this conversation with your children, the pay-off is enormous in many ways unseen at the time one begins. We started just as your expert says by helping our kids know the actual names of their body parts and that their bodies were theirs to control.

  • 12:57:18

    NNAMDI"But as our kids grew up, having such open, honest conversations helped us have input and influence over them as they became adolescents and teens." The pay-off comes off also down the road, too, doesn't it?

  • 12:57:29

    COLEBrilliant. I certainly hope so 'cause I'm trying to see that now. I think the other great piece of advice someone gave me recently was when your children talk to you, don't judge. Don't judge so that when they do do something that you told them not to do -- and they will -- they will still feel safe and comfortable coming back and telling you. My children aren't at the age where they attend parties where necessarily alcohol is an issue yet.

  • 12:57:51

    COLEBut you know what? I've told them when it comes that time, wherever you are, you will always be able to call me and tell me. Call your father. Tell him, come get me. I am in some place I don't belong. And there will not be judgment that day on the way home. We will talk about it, but not judging, and listening to our children, and making it safe for them to confide in you is really, really critical.

  • 12:58:12

    NNAMDIMichele Booth Cole is executive director of Safe Shores: The DC Children's Advocacy Center. She's a Washingtonian of the Year, 2009. Michele, always a pleasure.

  • 12:58:23

    COLEThank you so much, Kojo. You are brilliant for having this conversation.

  • 12:58:26

    NNAMDIAnd I'm brilliant because people like you show up on this broadcast. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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