By Brenda L. Holmes
The Plainfield Community School Corporation invited parents, teachers, and members of the community to learn about the Body Safety program that elementary students were taught this week.
Terry Hall, a 42-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, spoke to the adults first and then spoke to children about touching “for no good reason.”
Brentwood Elementary School Principal Pat Cooney introduced Hall by saying, “I was able to hear Mr. Hall when I first came to Plainfield,” Cooney said. “I can tell you it is the most important thing I’ve heard as a parent and I’m glad you are here tonight.”
Hall has spoken to more than 600,000 people over the years and said he finds victims of sexual abuse at each school he visits. A few hundred people attended the program here.
“I can tell you, this is the biggest turnout I’ve had for one of these programs in two years,” he said.
To create the Body Safety program, Hall explained that he had interviewed many pedophiles about their experiences.
“One thing I talked to pedophiles about was how they get the kids to not tell about an experience,” Hall said.
Time and time again, he said perpetrators say children don’t tell because they’ve been taught not to.
“Kids are not allowed to talk about their private parts,” Hall said. “If you learn one thing tonight, please go home and talk to your kids about the correct names for their private parts.”
He said taught his daughter the correct terms when she was 8.
“My wife thought we were going to go to prison for using such words,” he said. “And my daughter, armed with the new words she learned, went to the grocery store with my wife. And she said, ‘Mom, I’m growing. I’m almost up to your vagina.’”
He said his wife left a basket full of groceries at the store and drove home. She then confronted him, telling him how embarrassed she had been.
“I told her ‘just think if she can’t say she is almost as tall as your vagina how scared she would be if someone had touched her there,’” Hall said.
He said giving a child a “pet” name for their private parts sends a confusing message.
“I had one parent come up and tell me that they call their son’s penis ‘his worm,’” he said. “They didn’t see that it was sending a confusing message. I said, ‘well, I would hate to take your son fishing.’ Specific body parts have specific names. Be direct.”
He said he also teaches children “that it is their body to protect.”
“I tell them they don’t have to be scared and that they don’t have to watch out after everybody — just their body,” Hall said. “And that it’s not always a stranger who may want to touch their private parts.”
One thing he also stressed for parents in the group was not to force their children into giving affection when they don’t want to.
“I had an Aunt Lois and when she gave me a gift my mom would always make me give her a kiss,” he said. “Why?”
He retold a story about a third-grade student who was molested on a field trip.
“He told him to come over where they could not be seen and said, ‘rub me here and give me a kiss,’” Hall said. “And the kid did it because that’s the way you show respect for adults. Tell your children they have to say ‘thank you’ for a gift. They should not have to show affection unless they want to.”
Another myth he dispelled for parents is that only men sexually abuse children and that only girls are victims..
“Fifteen percent of perpetrators are women,” he said. “More boys are actually molested because they’re less likely to tell. The mass molesters have all abused boys.
“And gay men touch gay men. Gay women touch gay women. Child molesters touch children. People with an alternative lifestyle are not more likely to molest. And child molesters molest until they are stopped.”
During each program, Hall speaks about his own experience of being molested at age 8.
“I tell them it was not a stranger,” he said. “It was my mom’s twin brother. My uncle would always have something special for me. He would take me to do things like go get ice cream.
“When a child suddenly decides he does not want to go with someone, it’s a good indicator. If they suddenly say, ‘I don’t like ice cream anymore.’ My uncle came back the very next day. Why do they do that? To test the waters. I told my mom I didn’t want to go with him.”
He said his mother pushed him to go and he was molested time and time again. It wasn’t until he was 19 that he finally had the courage to disclose the abuse to his mother and she didn’t believe him.
“That changed my life,” he said. “That year at the family reunion I saw my uncle down at the creek with the kids. When they asked for someone to pray for the meal, I offered up a special prayer.
“I said, ‘Please don’t let Uncle Paul molest any more kids. There was a lot of crying at that family reunion. I found out I was third in line of 15 kids he molested.”
He said his mother chose her brother over her son.
“I lost my mother at age 19,” he said. “I still go to the family reunion when I can. People ask me why I go and I tell them I did nothing wrong.”
He said he was an adult giving the Body Safety program before he was fully aware that being molested was not his fault.
The program started out as the Good Touch, Bad Touch program in the 1980s. It has since evolved to the Body Safety program. Now the program encourages children to tell their parents or anyone they are comfortable with if they are touched in their private parts “for no good reason.”
Body Safety explains that parents or doctors may need to touch a child’s private parts for good reason such as cleaning or examination.