January 24, 2005
Officer battles abuse in talks about touches
In the classroom: PLAINFIELD - School sessions help kids learn what's OK, bad
January 24, 2005 [Indianapolis Star] By Michael Dabney
Terry Hall, a 28-year veteran of the Indianapolis Police Department, knows about child abuse, and he spends a lot of time trying to eliminate it.
That's why Hall, an IPD dive commander, created a Good Touch/Bad Touch program in 1983.
The police officer conducted lessons at Plainfield's Central and Brentwood elementary schools recently.
Hall said he developed his program after seeing light sentences often handed down to people convicted of child molestation. "The judicial system wasn't working well," he said. "I had to do something."
In addition to working in the department's dive unit, Hall is a trained child abuse investigator and trains other law enforcement officials in how to spot and pursue child abuse cases.
But he gets a special joy in teaching children what is a good touch and what is a bad touch.
"More than anything, it empowers kids to know what is good and what is bad, and that they have the right to say no," said Diana White, a counselor at Central.
"We do this just to keep the kids safe," said Mike Underwood, Central's principal, regarding the 18 years Plainfield schools have received Hall's presentation.
Hall uses dolls -- he calls them tools -- to show students where it is appropriate and where it is inappropriate to be touched. He said it is not always inappropriate for someone to touch "private parts," such as during a medical examination.
"Private parts are not nasty," he told a gathering of attentive first- and second-graders. "What some people try to do with them is nasty."
The students were amazingly familiar with the proper terms for certain parts of the human anatomy, although mentioning them could result in small giggles.
Holding up a girl doll, Hall asked the children whether it is appropriate for someone to touch the breasts "for no good reason."
"No," roared the children.
"Is it ever your fault," he asked.
"No," the children responded again.
"Is it OK for someone to touch you for no good reason," asked Hall.
Again, the children said, "No."
"Most people who touch you for no good reason are generally people who you know. It's generally not a stranger," said Hall, who said he was the victim of abuse as a child.
"Tell your mom and dad; tell your uncle or aunt; tell your teacher or principal or counselor," he said. "Keep telling someone until someone listens."
Hall later said he tackles the problem because it is so massive.
Nationally, one in four girls and one in eight boys under age 18 report some form of abuse, he said.
"But it is also one of the most unreported crimes," Hall said.
All children are vulnerable, said Underwood.
Although she declined to be specific, White said children have approached school officials over the years to privately report cases of abuse.
"He is tremendously effective," Underwood said.
Posted by Nancy at January 24, 2005 06:11 PM