How do you keep children out of harms way from sexual predators? It starts with with plain talk. In this episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, Billie Tarascio chats with sex abuse survivor and pediatric nurse, Katie Hastings, who has some very plain talk about what really works to keep kids from falling for the manipulations of a predator.
Not only does Katie explain the safe steps for very young children, she also talks about the methods to keep teens from inadvertently opening themselves up to sextortion schemes through fake online profiles and immature love relationships gone bad. For parents with children of any age, and especially single parents who may not always be able to control who their children are with, this episode is packed with honest facts about what you can do and how to do it.
To learn more, Katie has recently written a book on the subject, called Your Safe Body, available on Amazon and all your favorite book dealers.
[00:00:00] Billie Tarascio: Hello, and welcome to the Modern Divorce podcast. We are back again with a topic that no one really loves to talk about, but everybody actually wanted more information. We talked about this before, and this is about preventing childhood abuse, childhood assaults and making, keeping our kids safe. So today, all the way from Hawaii, we have this Katie Hastings.
Welcome to the show.
[00:00:51] Katie Hastings: Thank you.
[00:00:53] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. So excited for you to be here. So you are the owner of shout, the author of a [00:01:00] children's book. Yes. And I'd love to know a little bit about how you got into child abuse prevention.
[00:01:06] Katie Hastings: Sure. Yeah, you're right. It's kind of a topic that's been taboo for a while. Right. It's hard to talk about, but it's something that we gotta talk about.
And the reason I got into it is I was a child abuse victim myself, and I'm also a pediatric nurse and I would get patients coming in that had been sexually abused. And then drawing from my own experience and reporting abuse late later in life. It's just something that. I went through that process, started it about three years ago and we just finished I just finished child like a year ago.
It kind of just when I was going through that, the reporting taking the knowledge of things I was seeing today, that's going on with kids as a pediatric nurse, seeing the education gap that. That was relevant for me that there's this big need. We need to have more body safety education for kids. We teach them a lot of things, especially in the public [00:02:00] education school system.
[00:02:01] Billie Tarascio: Yeah.
[00:02:01] Katie Hastings: That are preventative health. Some of them like, you know, like we've got the dare programs. To help with drug abuse prevention. We've got simple little sayings. They learn like stop, drop and roll. Mm-hmm , we've got a lot of catchy fun things. They're even learning you know, purity videos at school, but we're not really teaching body safety education and it needs to be taught in a public level and in our homes to help children self advocate.
So I'm trying to fill this gap that I see in education to help parents educate their children, to help caregivers, healthcare providers, teacher. And that's a need I'm seeing and where shout came from, so right.
[00:02:37] Billie Tarascio: Is shout an acronym?
[00:02:38] Katie Hastings: Yes, it is. So shout stands for stop, help out safe and tell it's also the name of my company.
It's that's dedicated to child abuse prevention, but shoutout is what's taught in my children's book. My children's book is called your safe body. Okay. Yeah. And so children learn about through that book. And it's like a body safety [00:03:00] tool. That's coming a household saying. Nice.
[00:03:03] Billie Tarascio: Okay. All right. So then why don't you take us through, well, what, what age is the book?
Aimed at for kids.
[00:03:13] Katie Hastings: Yeah. So it's, it's geared for toddler to elementary age children. Okay. So we'd say like the sixth grader about it's still applicable to the older kids that they haven't gotten any body safety education, But when we get to that teen and. Phase. We wanna be incorporating a lot of like consent and things to solve.
They're having relationships and boyfriends and girlfriends and that sort of a thing. Right?
[00:03:36] Billie Tarascio: Yeah, absolutely.
So, yeah. Okay. So what for parents out there who don't have the book, where should they be starting?
[00:03:45] Katie Hastings: Simple body safety education. I recommend. If it hasn't happened already as a toddler in potty training, it's to start with teaching children, proper anatomical terms for private parts, instead of teaching [00:04:00] them peepee, we gotta teach 'em the proper word penis.
[00:04:04] Billie Tarascio: I hear this a lot, like, and it seems so obvious to me, but is this really a, a problem when it comes to children who have been abused?
[00:04:15] Katie Hastings: It is. And you being a lawyer, you probably can point. I know you're not doing like criminal defense mm-hmm , but especially if a child's been abused, they need to be able to relay back the proper anatomical terms.
So there's no gray areas.
[00:04:30] Billie Tarascio: That's true and
[00:04:30] Katie Hastings: there's no confusion,
[00:04:31] Billie Tarascio: right. It can be very confusing when a child says, you know, I saw daddy's whatever or what, you know, and we dunno what they're, what they're, what they're describing they saw, or, you know, XYZ happened. Right. And they're not describing the proper anatomical terms for what they saw or what happened.
You know, obviously sometimes. Ugh, this is gonna be really graphic and very uncomfortable for some people, but sometimes very young children describe [00:05:00] ejaculation and they, they never have the term for that. And that's not something that anyone's advocating that we teach. So what are your thoughts on that?
[00:05:10] Katie Hastings: Sure. Well, I mean, like you said, if they, if what they can do is describe proper anatomical terms of what's going on, right. And they need to know. Both genders, you know, in this world. I hope that that world word is inclusive that I'm using not trying to be exclusive at all, but they need to know both sides, not just what they have.
Right. So that they can properly describe what's going on. Cause anything like what you just said, there's gonna be no gray area then for healthcare providers that might need to be doing an exam mm-hmm cause sometimes we've got like assault, nurse, examiners, medical professors trained in that.
Or if it's that you're having to make a report to police detectives. Or if you're standing in trial, whatever that is, if the child knows proper anatomical terms of what's taken place, then there's no gray areas. And like you said, if they're trying to describe something else, like you said, [00:06:00] of an ejaculation, it makes it it makes it where there's no gray areas and what's taken place.
[00:06:06] Billie Tarascio: Sure.
[00:06:06] Katie Hastings: And a child's terms and you have most of the children, like the prime age is gonna be a toddler, a younger child who. Getting sexually abused. Yes. When you're saying, cuz that's the age where we really need to be teaching those cuz as they get older, they begin to understand the different anatomical terms and the gray area of a predator to go is a child that doesn't know how to explain that.
Doesn't know to tell that doesn't, isn't able to put into words what's taking place.
[00:06:33] Billie Tarascio: Ah, okay. One of the things that you said here is that 90% of child sex abuse is preventable through education.
[00:06:41] Katie Hastings: Yes. Okay.
So educational materials, like having something as simple as a body safety education book, something like your safe body, there's other resources out there.
It's having discussions in our home before, you know, before they're learning from peers or anybody else, [00:07:00] anything about private parts and bodies, that way that it's coming from you. It's not a one and done conversation. It needs to continually be happening as children's environment. And the people that they associate with and their growth is constant and they're adapting and that who they interact with is always changing.
And so that's kind of where it's preventable is having these discussions at home, starting them at home, and we need to be able to have a few public education systems. Well, we do know kind of disgustingly . We do know that there is a playbook for predators, and we do know that they test boundaries.
[00:07:37] Billie Tarascio: And so if our children are able to put up boundaries well in advance of being sexually abused, that's, that's one of the things that it feels like could really help keep them safe and prevent them from being victims, being able to say no, that's my body don't touch it. It's extremely clear.
Absolutely. I mean, that is gonna put a predator on [00:08:00] notice that this child is not a good target.
[00:08:03] Katie Hastings: Exactly. So shout, the first step is stop, right? Mm-hmm and if the child's able to self advocate that they know boundaries of private parts mm-hmm and they say, stop. Then they're like you said, they're not gonna be an easy target mm-hmm and they're also you know, most of most children know their sexual abuser.
And so they get in this state where they're uncomfortable, they're confused. They might feel betrayed and they're, they almost get in a freeze state, right. When sexual abuse. because this is somebody most often that they know. And so taking that element of confusion out of there, like what is going on?
Like what's happening? What do I do? Or just whatever's going on. If it's curiosity, they're trying to figure out what's happening. They just know right away, like, Hey, stop. So it kind of takes that whole freeze element outta the equation and gives them a [00:09:00] simple ordinal tool to go to and just be like, stop.
And then they know next they need to get help, right. And then it just gets the ball rolling. So it's not just like they freeze and fear and the abuser, like you said. Yeah. Just can feel like it's an easy target or whatever that looks like.
[00:09:16] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. It's, it's such a smart idea. What you're talking about is I think we know that.
If you just envision yourself in a dangerous situation before you get there and you think in advance, what would I do? It's almost, I think, as effective as practicing in other drills, like in the military or in sports, like vision envisioning, what do I do with myself in this situation is a great idea.
And so figuring out how to prepare kids for. Actual dangers, cuz this is one of them. This is not the only one. There's so many other dangers that we prepare our kids for. You know, what would you do if is it great? It's just a great idea. So I'm so, and then did you say that you've gotten this worked into the kids' schools?
[00:09:59] Katie Hastings: Well, I'm trying [00:10:00] to that's my next step. So doing seminars and teaching. Yeah, I've got a few Seminars scheduled this summer and I would like to get it in the public education system. So that's fantastic.
[00:10:11] Billie Tarascio: Just fantastic.
Because as you also said, if, if kids are experiencing this at home, they need to know where do I go?
What do I do? Who do I tell? And then the other thing that we need to be training parents on another thing that I heard just yesterday was. Predators will target kids who are, who have behavior challenges, because they're less likely to be believed so educating.
[00:10:36] Katie Hastings: Oh, absolutely.
[00:10:38] Billie Tarascio: Isn't that sad.
[00:10:39] Katie Hastings: It is sad. And also that's a big problem with special needs.
It's a huge problem. So you're right. You know, and I love what you said about like role playing, essentially giving the kids. A scenario that they might see and, you know, that's a great way to teach at home too. Yeah. Teach 'em something like shout, read a body [00:11:00] safety education. Give them scenarios they might experience.
Yeah. Children learn. So by role playing.
[00:11:06] Billie Tarascio: Role playing is a powerful, powerful training tool for children, for adults. And it's probably underutilized. So these are just. They're such great shows because they get parents thinking like, what are the potential risks to my kids and how do I start educating them?
And maybe it's at night before you go to bed and you think, you know, you just role play different bully situations, different situations they might encounter so that they have the tools. To navigate that because we can't prevent that every bad thing is gonna happen to them, but we can absolutely equip them to get out of those situations a little easier now as a pediatric nurse, what are some things that you are seeing and in terms of trends that we, as parents should be aware of?
[00:11:52] Katie Hastings: The biggest trend honestly, is that teenage age was sex trafficking and it's devastating. [00:12:00] Almost. You get a lot of who you think are maybe a runaway or drug abuse. And then you learn that they're, they're in the sex trafficking industry and that's a big trend right now. As far as like reports of what's coming in the hospitals.
But the other trend that I'm not seeing in the hospital, but I'm watching all over online, FBI's putting out reports is just the dangers online of chat rooms. Children talking with who they believe is another child mm-hmm and creating a friendship online, whether it's through video games, social media, or other outlets of that sort, where there can be a private chat.
And a lot of it is the sextortion it's pretending their child and the child trusts them and sends a nude image to the person. And then that's largely distributed. On the black web. And that's a big trend right now. I'm sure a lot of people have seen some of that, this stuff with Roblox, there was a recent case with a man [00:13:00] in LA.
He had like 80 victims. It's just, it's on the rise right now. So we need to be having these discussions that apply. You know, if the children know private parts are personal, you know, and don't let, when you're teaching what's okay. And what's not my book teaches not just touch, but also someone was wanting to take a picture mm-hmm or someone wanted to show you a mm-hmm like, it's just not, we have that talk.
Like that's not okay. Mm-hmm then we're gonna have less cases happening. Mm-hmm
[00:13:29] Billie Tarascio: yeah. I, I do feel like this is a relatively new risk, you know, relatively for this generation of children. It didn't exist when I was a kid, you know, the, the images everywhere, all the time, inundation of images and file sharing.
So. that is something that is very real, that probably all of our kids will face at some point. Somebody that they're dating, somebody that, you know, somebody is gonna ask them for an image [00:14:00] and they need to. Understand the risks that come with that and what that means and why, why that's dangerous for them and why that can be used to blackmail them.
And then if they do find themselves being blackmailed, because the, the, the pattern is you know, let's say old man poses as super sexy 16 year old's girlfriend, who then goes to develop a relationship, you know, use whatever sex you want. I've got teenage boys. So you. Girl lawyers, the event to say, you know, show me pictures of you doing blah, blah, blah.
Boys are like so excited. My first online relationship, you know, they're and then they do things and then get back blackmailed. And then the ante goes up. So what's happening is these predators are getting children to create child porn for them of your children.
[00:14:48] Katie Hastings: Yes.
[00:14:48] Billie Tarascio: In your home without anybody else there.
[00:14:51] Katie Hastings: It's, it's crazy right in your own home. That's going on? And my heart goes out to like the parents and the kids that that's happening to. Cuz obviously it's a very manipulative [00:15:00] person. It's someone, the child feels like they can trust.
Yeah. They think they're friends. They've built this friendship over time, right through private chats. Mm-hmm so it's keeping kids safe on technology. It's keeping 'em safe on their smartphones. If they've got a smartphone. that's like a whole nother discussion in itself really. But you know, it's just kind of, it's checking in regularly and you need to be having conversations with them, checking over their phone and their history.
They're your children, they're in your care. You've gotta do it. Cause some parents feel like that's a violation of trust, but mean, it it's handing them a loaded weapon is what it is. If we're not monitoring it and helping.
[00:15:38] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. I mean, we're in a, a new world where we have to educate kids about this.
You know, kids are going to, teenagers are going to want to be exploring relationships, connection, intimacy, that's normal. The fact that it's happening between the screen, you know, is what makes it so much more dangerous and so much more, not normal. [00:16:00] And. They could be inadvertently creating child pornography of themselves that is then being distributed and used to create more child pornography.
And this is a worldwide issue that they would not have the tools to navigate without a whole lot of education from parents.
[00:16:19] Katie Hastings: Absolutely. And we wanna get hit it on the preventative side, right? Yeah. But if we can head a lot of this from the preventative side, From having discussions before it happens, mm-hmm , it's gonna prevent a lot of it.
Mm-hmm prevent all of it. Cause I said, children are curious mm-hmm and if that were to happen, anyone talking on here, I always want to talk to those parents who have children who have been victims because you don't, they, I don't want any of them to feel like they did something wrong or to be in a despair, cuz it's gonna happen sometimes.
And the best thing we can do is you can still prevent after it's happened, we can get the child, the resources, they need to get help to get back to safety, and resources might look different for everybody. [00:17:00] But the biggest thing is just not to despair. Right.
[00:17:02] Billie Tarascio: I think that this is also so, so important that we talk about, like one of I've had this discussion with my kids and part of the discussion is like, if you ever feel like you've gotten yourself in over your head, you haven't, you haven't like, no matter what has happened, no matter how far down a rabbit hole, you may think you've gone.
Even if you've made terrible choices that you know, that, that now you realize you should not have made, like these are all solvable problems because what's so tragic is how many of these kids have been lured into this situation where they've inadvertently created pornography of themselves. They've sent it to someone.
They thought they trusted. Now this person's blackmailing them. And then the children there have been. Quite a few kids who have gone on to commit suicide because they feel like they can't get out.
[00:17:53] Katie Hastings: They feel like they can't get out and they feel like they can't tell, they feel like they can't get help.
Right. Right. So making that part of your [00:18:00] education, right? Like if anything were to happen yeah. You come and tell me, you
[00:18:04] Billie Tarascio: know, Right. One of the, one of the, like, things that makes me a little uncomfortable about telling kids, you know, it's, it's, it's your job to prevent sexual abuse, or you can prevent sexual abuse is putting that on them.
And, and I don't know if that's come up at all in the work you've done.
[00:18:21] Katie Hastings: You know, I, that was a thought I had personally, because the way I worded the book, I wanted to be very careful, not like you said, we're but by having it be a children's book that parents are purchasing and teaching, it's still coming from the parents, but they're self advocating or their child advocating for their children.
Like, Hey, speak up, use your voice. Say stop. Right. Mm-hmm mm-hmm when you said that when the lines in the book for the children is keeping your body safe is a big job, but you can do. you know, and just encouraging that. But it comes from all ends. That's why this book was written for parents to help them educate their children.
Yeah. [00:19:00] Mm-hmm and and that, it's something that I'm trying to get from. It comes from our community. It comes as a whole, from healthcare providers, from teachers, from parents, educating the children and arming them with knowledge. It's the same idea as like you know, I referred to like stop, drop and roll earlier.
If they find themselves in a moment when they're on fire, they need to be able stop, drop, and roll real quick, but they're not expected to handle it all. Totally. So when we're talking about letting the children learn to self-advocate we kind of, I referred to stop, drop and roll earlier. Like when a child's on fire, we need to give them a step of knowing what to do. Right. Stop, drop, and roll. It's kind of a extreme scenario. It's the same idea. If the fire is something like sexual abuse scenario, we're just giving them the first step of like, Hey stop.
Cuz we're taking that element of confusion. And then it's ordinal to help 'em know next, like help. Right? So it's not being thrown all on the child. It's like, I need to find help. And the wording I always use is from a trusted parent or adult, cuz unfortunately we do have [00:20:00] parents that sexually abuse their children.
And so it's really the way that my teaching is, is to just get that started with like a, Hey stop identifying that's unsafe behavior and getting help from a trusted parent or adult.
[00:20:17] Billie Tarascio: Absolutely. Yeah. And then removing, removing guilt and shame, you know, if you've been sexually abused it's we never ever wanna minimize that.
And at the same time you're gonna be okay, like we can get through this. It is something that is surmountable, like a, like a burn, like you can heal. And I think there's so much guilt and shame that almost makes it harder to heal from now. You would know better than anyone. Do you think that that's a component in sexual abuse in child sex abuse that makes it so difficult to deal with?
[00:20:53] Katie Hastings: Oh, absolutely. And again, like for me, what I can really remember is [00:21:00] my abuser was a family member. And like feeling like if I said something, how would that reflect on my family? You know? And shame plays a big role in children not telling. So like the last step in shout is to tell. And I think that shame plays a big, big role in mental health for victims who don't say anything and go on into adulthood.
It's something, a trend I'm seeing from people who reach out to me that have been through something that haven't made a report. And the longer kind of that time goes on of not telling the correlation. I see personally is there's it's that shame is real. Your brain is powerful. There's a lot more mental health challenges that come with that, but that solely related to, from what I see, anxiety and depression.
And so if we can take that element, like you said, of the shaming out and the sooner we can get a child help [00:22:00] or anybody who's been a victim of being able to talk about it and move forward. Then the better road we get on, you know, mm-hmm, for, like you said, that shame, but shame looks different for everybody.
It can. And it's something that we got so many resources and things available today to people. And I always advocate. What's gonna help one person's gonna look different for another, but we've got so many counseling and trauma resources and specialists in that, those different areas. Mm-hmm to get help that way.
[00:22:31] Billie Tarascio: Mm-hmm
well, thank you so much for coming on the show. How do we find your book?
[00:22:36] Katie Hastings: So it's available online. It can be bought from a website called book, baby.com or you can get it on Amazon target Barnes and noble creator retailers that sell books and you can find me. I have it all linked on my Instagram page.
You know, the little link tree and people can find their favorite retailer right there of where to get the book. And my Instagram is Katie Hastings or Katie, the mom, the nurse.[00:23:00]
[00:23:00] Billie Tarascio: Katie hastings, Katie, the mom, the nurse. If you all have enjoyed this episode, make sure you download it, share it forward it, share it with your friends, rate it, leave a review.
If you are interested in being a podcast guest, please let me know, reach out. If there's topics you want us to cover, let us know, do not wait. We would love to have you on or explore different topics that are important to you. Katie. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Hope
you have a great day.
[00:23:27] Katie Hastings: You too. Thanks Billie