Changing the World with the Power of Our Stories with Emily Perry and Nate Lien
Speaker 1: (singing).
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: This is Write Your Own Story: Three Keys to Rise and Thrive in Life and Business. I'm your host, Rebecca Fleetwood Hession. I know you're not supposed to have favorite kids or favorite clients, but I'm going to tell you that today's episode might be my favorite so far. Today, we're going to hear from Detective Nate Lien from the Danville Police Department in Indiana, and Emily Perry, the executive director of Susie's Place Child Advocacy Center, and this episode has a dual message in it. One is we never really know the ripple effect of our stories or our impact. We can say something and it gets carried to so many people that we never often get to witness that or understand our impact. But today, you're going to hear how Emily's story had a significant impact on Detective Nate Lien and his family, and it just lights my heart on fire. I can't wait for you to hear it. But the other thing that you'll hear in this episode, and we're just coming off of April, which was Child Abuse Prevention Month, and every day is a good day for child abuse prevention, so you're going to hear from these two just some really good reminders and practical, tactical things that we can do as parents, as good humans, as corporate leaders that can help in this fight to make sure that every single child is safe. Here we go. I'm so excited to bring this episode to you today because it picks up where the last line of my book leaves off. It says, " We won't change the world with data, facts, and control, but we will change the world with the power of our stories," and today's episode is a very special one where we get to learn what happens sometimes with our stories when we are courageous enough and vulnerable enough to share them. So I want to welcome to the show my good, good friend Emily Perry from season two of Rise and Thrive, and her friend, detective Nate. Nate, how do you pronounce your last name? I forgot to ask before we hit record.
Nate Lien: It's Lien, just like a lien on a property.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: You've said that more than a hundred times in your life, I'm sure at this point.
Nate Lien: Every time I say my last name, I say that
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I'm glad we could just bring that to our listeners today too. Thanks for being here. So every year, I host event called Stand Tall in Your Story, which is the result of a seven- month experience called Rise and Thrive. And Emily, you were in season two.
Emily Perry: I was.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And so that was two years ago.
Emily Perry: Yes.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: You stood on stage and told your story. Tell our listeners just kind of the highlight reel of your story and the experience of allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to tell it, and then I'll include a link in the show notes so that people can actually go back and watch the actual story. But just set us up a little bit with what was the story that you told two years ago on stage?
Emily Perry: Yeah. So my story really was about my experience growing up in the eighties with a really shitty haircut and being an overweight kid and struggling with what that meant for me and kind of the traumas that came along with that, along with some other things that were happening in my life at the time. I also told kind of a revealing story about being a pre- teen and a real bad three- way call situation that just kind of defined that time of my life. And it was really tough stuff, and I just really struggled with liking the person that I was back then and struggling with what that meant for my relationships, and so how I took that pain and hurt and dug in to build the life that I have now. And so in my talk that I did on stage with you, I talked a little bit about how I had used those hurts and kind of buried them away, put my life into action, and really was striving for success and to build this organization and had experienced a lot of that success as an adult, but what it really came back around to was learning how to love that little girl and not shying away from who she was. And even now as I talk about it, it was just two years ago I did this talk, and I can still feel some of those emotions bubbling up as we talk about it. So still obviously, it's super real stuff, it rears its little head, and what was so interesting was I thought that experience was done after that talk ended on stage that night. I was like, " Okay, close the book on that. I've ticked it off the list. My vulnerability is over." And to my surprise, that is not what has happened.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And so because we do this event every year, the stories get shared again, the site that we use, StandTallinYourStory. live goes out again. And this time... and we shared it broadly two years ago and we got lots of amazing feedback and it was a beautiful experience. But this time when you shared it out on social media, I also noticed that you got a lot of comments, and you got a lot of people that were watching your story again, and one of those was your friend and business partner, Nate. So do you want to introduce how you work with Nate, Emily, and then we'll hear from him about what happened next?
Emily Perry: Yeah, absolutely. So I mentioned real briefly the organization that I started, which is Susie's Place Child Advocacy Centers. And at Susie's Place, we investigate and intervene in cases involving crimes against children. So in that role, we get to partner with and work alongside lots of different law enforcement agencies, and Danville Police Department is one of the agencies that we work with on a very regular basis and have just a great partnership with. And Nate Lien is one of the detectives that we've worked alongside for the last several years in his job of investigating these crimes against children, and so we have known each other through that capacity. And then the sharing of this story through my social media, because obviously we're Facebook friends as well, prompted a cool conversation.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: First of all, I want to thank you for the work that you both do because it is life changing, world changing, and this is a circumstance where social media has served us really well. I know there's always that dark side, and you all know that dark side better than anybody. And before we wrap up today, I want to talk a little bit about that education piece, but sometimes there is light that happens out there on Facebook and social media, and this is one of those situations. So Nate, you saw the story, and what happened next?
Nate Lien: I'm off duty, I'm scrolling through my Facebook, I see a post from Emily. I was just kind of like, " Oh, this is interesting. What kind of speech did she give?" Working with Emily, I'm very interested in the work that they do. I think that Susie's place does great things. And so anyways, I click on this link, and I start listening to this story. And before I even got the rest of my family involved and my daughters or anything, I'm listening to this story, and I was like, " Wow, I did not know this about Emily." The vulnerability listening to the story, I felt like it captivated me. And for some reason, I just was... one, I was proud of Emily for telling that story. But two, as I started thinking about it, I was like, " This is a really good story for my daughters." I have eight year old twin daughters. And just listening to everything that she was telling about in the story, I was like, " This is really some stuff that they could hear now, one, from the loving yourself side," but two, the side of what does that impact have if they chose to bully somebody. And so I felt like the speech that she gave, it encompassed a whole bunch of thoughts. So I told Emily because I had a case at Susie's Place after I watched it, what I did was I watched the whole thing myself, I showed it to my wife, she loved it, and then I just sat down with my daughters and said, " Hey, you need to watch this," and it prompted a lot of discussion.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Oh my gosh. Okay. I want to dig into a few things about this. I'm teary. First, when you watched that, Nate, what I heard was you were proud of Emily. And Emily, when you were processing the idea of telling this on stage, it was so difficult for you to think about standing up there and sharing that story. I mean, there were tears, there were questioning everything. Nate, do you think less or more of Emily now that you've heard that vulnerable story?
Emily Perry: So much more. I mean, I loved Emily before, but it's one of those things that working together, going to Susie's Place in that professional manner, we don't really hear these stories. And so for some of that stuff, it was just I didn't know that side of Emily. I didn't know that that happened. And watching that video and her presentation of it was... I told her, I said, " That was perfect the way you presented that." I said, " How many times did you practice that? It was perfect."
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And I want to use this example, this real life example, to illustrate to people that when we know the human side of our stories, even in a business relationship, it creates a tighter bond, more trust. It's the way that we further our business. It's not something that should be separate from our business. No, I'm not suggesting that you show up to every business meeting and tell a really deep, vulnerable story, but mostly I don't want us to be afraid to share the human side of our stories because they are the way that we encourage and support each other, so this couldn't be a better example of why it's important to do so. So Nate, when you shared it with your wife and ultimately your daughters, you say it sparked a lot of conversation. First of all, I want to say thank you, praise God for amazing husbands and fathers out in the world that didn't just listen to it and be impacted by it, but said, " Hey, there is a ripple effect that I can use this for," and actually took action on it. So thank you. Ugh, we need more of that in the world too. Tell us a little bit about the conversations that it started.
Nate Lien: Well, everybody knows in today's age, young girls, young boy, everybody, there's a lot of pressure in schools, there's a lot of pressures in sports and relationships and everything. And as my daughters are getting older, they're getting more friendships, and this girl plays with this girl more than me. They're coming into themselves more and trying to figure life out. And I think that the discussions that we had were just based off of body positivity and being a good friend to somebody, and your comments, the things that you say and the things that you do, the impact they can have on people, not just in the moment but well into the rest of their lives.
Emily Perry: Forever.
Nate Lien: And so forever just being a good person and a genuine good person, not just because that day it could affect them, but again, we just talked about the working relationships that I have with Emily and her past and just trying to make sure that they're being good people, that they're thinking about what they say to other people, they're being positive about their life, positive about their bodies and their friends and their relationships.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I love that. And what we forget as parents sometimes is that our children's worlds are pretty small, but this smallness is only in comparison to our bigness of the world and what we've learned about it. And when we can step into their world and realize that their friends and their school and their activities and their parents, that is their world. And we can dismiss it and say, " Oh, it's not a big deal. They'll grow out of it. It won't matter. Seventh grade won't matter when they're 40." That's not true. Seventh grade still follows us around when we're 20, 30, 40, 50, and so you opened up such a beautiful opportunity to illustrate that with a real person, not just somebody that they didn't know or trust. So I think that's so important. Okay. I want to take this conversation to the work that you all do. And you mentioned that they're online, they're seeing things, they're having conversations with their friends online, and there's also a lot of darkness that's happening in our social media. I would love for you both to take this opportunity to share and help our listeners know how to open up conversations to help our kids if they might be getting into trouble online. Emily, you want to share a little bit about the context of this part of the darkness of social media?
Emily Perry: Sure. Before we step too far into that, I want to highlight something that Nate did that I preach to parents all the time, and I think it marries right up to where we're going with this social media conversation is that we always say that as a parent, your relationship with your child is the best prevention from any abuse out there. And so by Nate having these kind of open, thoughtful, engaging conversations with his daughters, one of the ripple effects is actually prevention of abuse when he's doing that. Not just them being good people to others, but it also helps them know that when they feel unsafe, when they feel like they've gotten in over their head, when they're introduced to something online that is too much for them or scary or overwhelming or embarrassing or whatever that is, that by Nate and his wife having those conversations with their daughters that actually helps protect them. And people ask me all the time about what's like spyware that I can put on my kid's phone or their computers, and how do I track all of this stuff? And I'm not telling people not to do that because, you know what, we have technology and it can be really helpful to protect our kids, but that technology will never ever ever replace the relationship of a parent and their child or a caregiver and their child. That will go so much further than anything else.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I'm so glad you said that. And we around here always talk about business being human, and there are two aspects to business. On the business side, we always need to control, measure, and optimize our goals and our systems and our processes. And we as career professionals have really steeped ourselves into that being the secret to success, but the human side is that we are all personal, emotional, and social. And unfortunately over time, this huge move to be successful and to do the things in our business that are helpful, we've started to believe that we need to control, measure, and optimize our personal lives, and that's why we immediately go to, what's the software, I'm going to take away the phone. It's always something outside that we can use to control it. And what we say is that it's more about the connection we have as humans that's going to be more powerful to our business, to our families, to our outcomes than anything that we're controlling from the outside. So I am thrilled that you brought that up. It's a huge part of this conversation is building high trust relationships at a very young age. And I don't know about y'all, I'm much older than both of you, but we didn't have emotional, open conversations when I was growing up as a child, and I always thought it was because I was raised on a farm with all boys, and it was get to work and teasing each other was love. And I just thought it was the way that I was raised, but what I'm learning as a coach and being out in the world is that that's pretty common no matter where you were raised that in our generation as kids, we didn't have these emotional conversations that people are having now like you did Nate with your kids. So I think that's an important message of today as well.
Nate Lien: Well, I think that building on that with what Emily said, I think one thing that I've seen in my work as a detective and with some of the crimes that we investigate and stuff, thankfully my kids are about to be eight, and they're not on social media at all, and they won't be for several years, but I think laying the groundwork like she talked about before, so they know what social media is, they know the problems that can come along with social media, the crimes that can come along with social media, the people that are out there on social media so that they can make decisions later on in life when they are going to be on there so they know what it is. Because I think a lot of kids go into social media and maybe some adults not really understanding what is all out there in the world. And so when they're hit with some of these messages and different things that are on there, they respond to them, so just the education aspect of that I think can really help with any online presence.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And I certainly don't want to spark tremendous fear in my children about everything in the world because there's so much beautiful, goodness in the world, but yet there has to be a balanced message about it. I would talk to my kids who are now 21 and 25 at very young ages, and I would say, " You know that funny feeling you get in your belly when something just doesn't feel right," and they do kids know instinct and gut reactions better than adults because they're not so busy with all the other things, and they feel that energy shift. And I would say, " You know when you feel that funny feeling," I used God because that's how our family is, but I would say, " that's God speaking to you, that maybe something's not right, and you always listen to your belly when it feels funny." And so then I would say, " Okay, so if you're going to sleepover," because those first sleepover days, those are scary parents, and I would say, " Look, if at any point your belly feels funny, and you can't even understand why, all you have to say to their parents is my belly hurts, and I need to call my mom," and I will come get you. And that's true. Your belly feels funny. It doesn't need to mean that you're going to be actually physically sick. If you feel funny, your belly always knows the truth. And I tell you what, that simple message of trusting your gut and your instinct has served my kids so well. And I didn't realize how profound... it wasn't like I was like, " Oh, I'm super parent," it just was the only way I could think of to describe what I wanted them to understand. And do you know when my daughter was 18 years old, she stopped at the gas station on the way home from school to get a coke or something, and there was a van parked really close to her driver's side door, and her belly felt funny, and she, instead of trying to get in on the driver's side door, she went in on the passenger side door, crawled across the seat and got the hell out of there. And she came home, and she was shaking and she said, " Mom, this happened." And I said, " What made you get into the other side?" She said, " I just didn't feel right," and I just sobbed because she trusted me to tell her what she needed to hear as a little one, and it stayed with her then as an adult. And so these conversations that you're talking about, Emily and Nate, that you had with your daughters is the start of prevention of anything, like you said, more than controls or technology.
Emily Perry: And exactly what you taught your daughter is what we now teach in our body safety prevention education program to 40, 000 plus kids because that is such an indication that something is off when you get that icky feeling in your tummy. And we start teaching that in kindergarten, and we stay consistent with that all the way through 12th grade because that never changes. It is always such a good indication of when something's off, when something's not safe, when something makes us feel uncomfortable in some way. And just like you said, 30, 40 years ago, we didn't always talk about the stuff. We weren't tuned into it. Even if it was there and it happened, we were trying to turn the volume down on that message. And now what we're telling kids is turn that volume up, listen to what your body is telling you because it's trying to help keep you safe. And so it's interesting how that's just kind of woven its way into what's now considered best practices for body safety and prevention education.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: We've had it all along. We've been carrying this around with us all along. Now, we're just learning how to use it. That's beautiful. Yeah, that's beautiful. So what are some of the other things that parents need to know to keep our kids safe and some of the things that you both are doing to educate and help in that?
Nate Lien: Well, I think that the work that... if we go in relation to what Emily and I do, crimes against children, different stuff like that, I think that that education aspect is very important again. So Emily and her crew do body safety stuff in the schools, getting parents to actually read some of the pamphlets that get sent home, actually paying attention to some of these... not so much the signs and stuff that are going on, which they do need to do that, but the information that's sent out. I know the social media pages, we were talking about interacting on social media and some of the bad things that are out there, but the good things are pages like Susie's Place and the Danville Metropolitan Police Department page where we put out social media campaigns to let people know to report things. If it doesn't feel right or if it doesn't seem right, tell somebody about it, report it to local law enforcement, report it to the Department of Child Services, talk to somebody at Susie's Place or a teacher. Just getting that education out there to the kids that they can talk to somebody, that there's trusted adults out there, knowing who those trusted adults are.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Another option for this, because I know my kids are 21 and 25, and I do not miss this backpacks or the school information. There's not one second in my life where I want to go back to that. So it is overwhelming at times. And so we can look for other ways to help spread that awareness. Most of the people that listen to this podcast are business professionals, leaders. If you get a piece of information in your kids' backpack and you think, " Oh, wow, that's important," it could be you take that into your next leadership meeting or wherever you're meeting with other parents and just say, " Hey, I got this from my kid's school, and I think it's worth sharing this information." We don't have to limit ourselves in how that information gets shared, so I just wanted to maybe inspire people to take some of that information on your website and share it in places that maybe they hadn't thought about.
Emily Perry: The other thing that is a real option... I have some tips and then I have an option for you. I'll do the option first. In the workforce, the vast majority of adults out in the workforce either have children or are connected to children in some way. And so we have been getting invited into businesses and organizations more and more and more often now to do our Stewards of Children training, which is an adult prevention education training so that adults are better equipped to identify risky situations for kids, minimize the risks of children becoming victims, and also how to react and respond in a trauma informed responsible manner when kids do outcry about abuse or if abuse is suspected. So whereas historically we've done that in mostly churches, youth serving organizations, sports organizations, we're now seeing those invitations coming from bigger corporate organizations that are saying, " Hey, this is affecting the people that work for me." Because when a parent has a child that's going through trauma and abuse, that's real hard to be at work. And so if we can support those folks on how to navigate this, how to prevent this, how to support their kids and get the support that they need as well, that's just going to make for a better environment for everybody.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Oh, I didn't realize that. We didn't even set that up. That was so that's great. I love that.
Emily Perry: Yeah. And so what we're seeing is we're getting these invitations and doing these kind of engagements in these organizations, and then all of these adults that are hearing this are coming back to us saying, " Oh, well, my child's involved in this sports organization, and I think they need to hear about it, or how do we do background checks and set up a child abuse policy around contacting our youth group at church?" And so we're seeing the beginning of that conversation happening in bigger corporations and organizations and then that ripple effect out.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Oh, I love that. I've always said that commerce is the best format for community if we use it well.
Emily Perry: Yes. And you know what? You know, worked all day, you get home, you don't want to look through all this stuff in your kid's backpack, you get 20 emails already from the school, you don't want to watch that extra five minute video, but if we're building that into the lunch and learn at work, it kind of works a little better.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: A hundred percent.
Emily Perry: So that's just an option I'm going to put out there. In terms of tips, this is what I would say. With young children, and I'm talking mostly about childhood sexual abuse here, other abuses it's applicable to, but this is where we're going to focus, with young children, we've already talked about how important conversation and relationship is, but we need to give young children the correct words to talk about it when they need help. So we can't shy away from the word penis and vagina. These are words that we have to be comfortable with as parents. We can't confuse kids by calling a vagina a cookie or a brownie or a pocketbook or something someone like myself who's trying to help doesn't understand because your vagina's just a body part. Let's give these kids the tools to be able to talk about it when they need help, and for that parent to feel comfortable in that conversation so that, God forbid anything ever happened, but if something were to happen, you can figure out what's going on with your child. So early and often, we're talking about what's okay and not okay when it comes to touches on kids' bodies and giving them the language to talk about it if and when something has happened to them.
Nate Lien: And I'll just expand on that for a second because from the law enforcement side when we are investigating those things, and that's a great tip, there are specifics that we have to know. And so Emily knows maybe even better than I do, we run into this problem all the time where some of the kids start to describe some of the abuse with these other terms, they don't call it what it is, and so we're trying to figure out what exactly happened to you because they're using terms that if you put this up in front of a court, they may not understand what the kid's talking about because the language isn't there. So that's perfect.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Oh, that's so important. Yeah, when you get to court, there has to be very clear communication so that you can prosecute. Oh my goodness, yes. Yeah.
Emily Perry: So that's one tip. The other thing that I would say when we're stepping into this kind of social media, online risk factors, there is so much sextortion and exploitation that's happening through the internet currently with young kids, all the way through our teenagers. And what in my experience I am seeing is it's kids that are going to the internet to find connection and to find a social and emotional outlet and support creates almost a target on them to be manipulated and extorted online. They're wanting to be thrilled up, they're missing something, and they're seeking it. And so when you're seeing that change in your child and you see them going, and it's not limited to the internet, we're just seeing it a lot on there, if they're curious about things and they can't come talk to a safe adult about it, they're going to go to the internet and find this information. They're going to seek out support, they're going to seek out connection, and that's when these online predators will really quickly find them and target them and take advantage of them. And so oftentimes what parents do is they'll say like, " You're not allowed to have Snapchat," and they discover that their child has Snapchat, and so they drop the hammer, " I'm taking your phone, I'm taking all your social media, you're grounded," and not to say a consequence is not appropriate, because it is, but the first step should be understanding what was going on with that child that made them willing to go against the rules in order to have access to Snapchat. Does that make sense? Because it's figuring that piece out which helps identify the vulnerability that puts them at risk.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: It's more of the root of it. It's not really about Snapchat, it's what were you trying to solve or fill?
Emily Perry: To fill, yeah.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And if connection was the thing that they were trying to fill or to feel heard or to feel safe or feel, you're going to go out to your friend group if you don't feel it, right?
Emily Perry: Correct.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And so if you take that away, now you've further isolated the child who was so much wanting connection, so you've actually put fuel on the fire of their pain by taking away connection. Not saying, " Oh yeah, go ahead and keep your Snapchat," but just like you said, discover what they're hurting is.
Emily Perry: Yeah. And it's how you handle that because in that moment as a parent, you have the ability to either demonstrate to your child, " I am a safe adult you can come to when you need help." I'm not suggesting there's not a consequence. When my children do something they're not allowed to do, I hold them accountable for that and there's a consequence. However, I don't want to have them feel like they can't come to me if and when they get in over their head, when they've made a bad decision, when they've done something they know they're not supposed to do. I want them to know that no matter what above anything else, they are my number one priority and their safety and their protection is always my first priority and job. So I never want to burn that bridge with them, but I'm also equally responsible for holding them accountable for making bad decisions, and so it's a real delicate balance, but parents oftentimes do more harm than good in those moments because they react to what feels like a slight on their rules or something like that, and they don't understand how much they damage their relationship.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: The natural maturation of us as humans. When you're a child, you are making mistakes as a way of learning what is and what isn't. That's how we learn.
Emily Perry: Correct.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And so how we handle mistakes as a parent is how we create that safe place. And at a certain age, Nate, your girls are getting there, the nine, 10, 11, the natural maturation is that we're supposed to seek relationships outside of the family unit in testing who are our people and where are we going to ultimately be in our adulthood, so they're supposed to be stepping outside of the family unit, but we have to be the family unit that is that safe place to return if and when things don't go well. And so I always celebrated when my kids brought mistakes or brought things to me, so I was encouraging them to continue to do so. And there are two things that if I could go back and do differently, one of them, one of them I'm pretty proud of, is I would practice the safe face when they would tell me something shocking because your face and your energy says more than your words. And so when they would say something that my insides were thinking, " Holy crap," I would just work to make sure that my face said, " Okay, tell me more about that," and you do have to practice it. And the thing that I would do differently if I could go back is I would do more to regulate my own nervous system and my own stress so that I wasn't reacting to the things that they were bringing to me. Because as parents, we are so busy that when kids bring stuff to us, sometimes it's the last straw on a really rough day, and our response to that kid at 9: 00 at night is not the loving, kind one that we would choose if we could go back, and I would've done more to manage my stress so that I would've just been more open to... I mean, I even had a rule, " You can't bring me you need poster board after 8: 30 PM because I will not respond kindly," because you're exhausted and you're done for the day. And so I wish I would've managed that better just so I could have created an even more safe place for my kids.
Emily Perry: You're spot on in that our kids need a safe landing zone. They're not going to be perfect. They're going to make bonehead decisions. They're going to make themselves really vulnerable and at risk for a lot of things. And sometimes, we're going to be able to prevent it, and sometimes we have to clean it up after it happens. And again, it doesn't mean that we don't give consequences or discipline or hold kids accountable, but we have to do it in a way that allows them to always know that we've got them. Like, " I'm here for you. I'm going to protect you. I'm going to love you no matter what, and that it's always going to be okay for you to come to me and talk to me about anything that is going on in your world," and that truly is the core value when it comes to just fostering that relationship with your child. It doesn't mean you have to be best friends with your kid, but if you really want to parent them well, you create that relationship that's going to help them come to you when they need it.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I think as parents, we tie a lot of ego into our parenting sometimes too because parenting is the most uncertain job that we have. We don't know what's going to happen. We don't know if things are going to turn out, and it creates some anxiety and fear sometimes. And we have such a like we want everything to work out that we can put too much of that control instead of the connection in there, and I've seen where parents are embarrassed when bad things happen in the family and the kids do dumb stuff, and that's not helping us create the environment where kids feel safe to come and tell us. So we all have to recognize that all of our kids do dumb stuff and just agree that's just part of the deal.
Emily Perry: How true.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Nobody escapes it. Nobody gets through life with perfect kids. If you think that's the truth, then they really aren't telling you what's happening, so you should be more concerned about that.
Nate Lien: Well, and that's why I think the success stories of some of the stuff that we still investigate, but thankfully it stopped, is a kid coming forward to mom and dad and saying, " Hey, I met this friend online. I've been chatting with them for the last few days, and all of a sudden now they're asking me for a picture of me with my shirt off or a picture of me with this and that," and coming forward, " this is odd. What's going on with this?" And then the parents coming forward to us and saying, " Hey, they didn't send this photo, but this happened." Those parents opened up that communication there, and that's a success story right there that stopped it based on being a good parent that that kids can come to and them getting that gut feeling that you're talking about and going, " This doesn't seem right. I've been talking to them, and they were a good friend of mine." And I think that's when the whole thing works and it all starts to click together, is that knowledge, that education, that relationship building and all of those things that come together to where the outcome in the end is thankfully a conversation happened, it's not that the parent needs to get completely upset and say" You're never on social media ever again," but they can have those discussions, they can work through it, and then that won't happen again. Maybe those online relationships with somebody they have no idea who they are, that won't happen again.
Emily Perry: Yeah.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: That's the kid that you want to be online because you can trust them to come to you when something doesn't go well. So instead of saying, " You'll never be online again, that's the one you trust. Just say, " Thank you for being honest and sharing that."
Emily Perry: Exactly.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And that's what is called sextortion, so when someone kind of holds hostage for... explain that more to people. That was something really interesting to me that I had never heard until we talked.
Emily Perry: Yeah. It's something that's a little newer I think in the world for parents especially. We've probably known about it in crimes against children a little longer than the general population. But really what it is, someone online soliciting a child for nude or inappropriate pictures, images, videos, and then using that content to extort the child for either additional pictures, videos, content, or what we're seeing even more commonly now is financial stuff. So they're hooking a young child, I'd say probably nine to 16 is probably the zone that we're talking about. There. It could be a direct message of something as simple as, " Hey," and that child responds and is like, " Hey, what's up?" And this conversation starts, they ask for a nude picture to be sent. In that moment, the child doesn't think much about it, sends the nude, and then all of a sudden that goes from one nude picture to asking for, " If you don't send me a$ 500 gift card to this whoever location within this timeframe, then I'm going to send this nude picture to everyone in your contact list." Or, " I went online and I pulled your parents' information and I know where your mom and dad live. I'm going to come to their house and I'm going to show them this picture of you if you don't give me their banking information." So that is what sextortion is. It's taking that content and then using that information to extort more photos, videos, images, or financial resources.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Which is such a, Ugh, it just makes my stomach hurt. And the kid in fear now has a trauma response. And so if you are noticing that your child is more withdrawn or just acting not themselves in some way, that's when you start asking questions, right?
Emily Perry: Yeah. Yeah, any sort of distinct change in behavior, hiding social media, compulsively on their phone, using their phone at all hours of the night when that hasn't historically been an issue, self- harming behavior is something when these kids get in this situation and they get in over their head and they don't know how to get out, they don't know who to tell, they're embarrassed, they're ashamed, they know that they probably shouldn't have done it in the first place, and they don't know how to make it stop, and it can really spiral out of control very, very, very, very quickly. And Nate and I were both in a meeting a couple weeks ago when we were doing a case review meeting, and the whole morning we talked about the fact that we had gotten, I don't know, what was it, six or 10 cases of sextortion reports in within the last 24 hours.
Nate Lien: Yeah, it's taken off. For whatever reason, it's taken off, and these cases are extremely hard to investigate, extremely hard to track the people down that are doing it, and the amount of crimes that are occurring that are doing this for whatever reason are just exploding right now. And it's probably the social media era. It's just everybody's on social media. And again, those messages, just that simple, " Hey," starts these things, and it just spirals, like Emily said, out of control.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And out of those that were reported, how many more do you think didn't get reported? That's just a symptom of a much bigger inaudible.
Emily Perry: Absolutely. Yeah.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Yeah.
Emily Perry: Yeah. We barely scratch the tip of the iceberg on what's going on the internet. So our focus really can't be necessarily, we're never going to investigate our way out of those cases, it's never ever going to happen, so our focus really has to be in prevention and then educating families, parents, teens on how to handle it when it's happened because we're not going to get the accountability piece criminally, but we have to get the healing and recovery piece right.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Oh, that's so powerful in responding in, like you said, a loving kind way when they do bring it to us because guilt and shame never in the history of the world has proven to be a great motivator to joy and peace, and the battle of good and evil will exist in the world until the end.
Emily Perry: Forever.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And it's unreasonable for us to think that we are going to get rid of the evil that exists. Instead, we need to create the kind of safety in our families that allow us to deal with it as it comes. Where are the best places... let's give your websites where people can get more education and start to share this more broadly. Emily, your site, and what can they find there?
Emily Perry: So our website is www. SusiesPlace, which is S- U- S- I- E- Splace. org, and there they can find information about our prevention and education programs, our community outreach information, lots of just good resources and information about child abuse in general to become more informed. We'll also have hyperlinks on there to other resources and information. And then if for some reason a child or family is in need of our forensic interview services, they will find information on there about that as well. The only way to get to Susie's Place for forensic interviews is through an open criminal investigation or through the Department of Child Services, so we don't take referrals from the general public for that program, but all of our prevention information is available to anyone that they think it would be helpful for.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Awesome. Nate, anything that you would add in terms of resources for people?
Nate Lien: Ours is very easy because we steal everything from Susie's Place inaudible direct direct everybody to their website. They send us graphics, we share their messages and whatnot because they're doing a great job and we support that.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Awesome. And I just want to add that as humans, we are hardwired for generosity. And if you're looking for a place to donate of your money, your time, obviously I know Emily personally, and I can personally guarantee that your money will be used in such effective, efficient, profound ways. I know many of my friends and clients have served on the board. I've been able to come to your events where it is just so powerful to see the amount of work that you can do with people's money. And the more money that I know we get into your hands, the more impact that will happen in the world.
Nate Lien: And I want to speak on that for a second just from a law enforcement side.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Yeah, please.
Nate Lien: Because especially when you're talking about donations and what Susie's Place does, us in law enforcement, I couldn't do my job without Susie's Place. The work that they do, the interviews that they do, that is not something that you want a detective to be doing, a male detective to be sitting down with a child trying to figure out the details of something terrible that happened to them. The work that they do is, it's essential to our profession, it's essential to these investigations. We could not do our job in child sex crimes without the work of Susie's Place.
Emily Perry: Aw, thank you for saying that, Nate. I appreciate it.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: So as we wrap up, I'm going to end with the quote that I started with that" We won't change the world with data, facts and control, but we will change the world with the power of our stories," and I thank you for sharing yours today. I thank you, Emily, for sharing yours two years ago so we could still be talking about it today.
Emily Perry: Yeah.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And just your courage to come on the show today is beautiful.
Nate Lien: Thanks for having us.
Emily Perry: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Speaker 1: (singing).
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Thanks for listening to this episode. I would love it if you would leave a rating and a review on Apple Podcast and then go to WeThrive. live. The first thing you'll see is a place to drop your email and join the movement. I'll send you tools that you can use to thrive in life in business.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Hey
Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: y'all, fun fact. Did you like the music for the podcast? That is actually my son, Cameron Hession, and I would love it if you would go to Spotify and iTunes and follow him and download some of his other music. My personal favorite is TV Land.
"We won't change the world with data, facts, and control, but we will change the world with the power of our stories."
This week on Write Your Own Story, Emily Perry and Nate Lien join Rebecca in sharing tips and education on how we can best advocate for children. Emily was in season 2 of Stand Tall in Your Story and is the Executive Director of Susie's Place Child Advocacy Center. Nate is with the Danville Police Department in Indiana.
Listen as these two share how they work together to prevent child abuse and spread awareness and education to help the community keep our children safe.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- How Emily's story inspired Nate to start an important conversation with his children
- How Susie's Place and Danville Police Department work together on cases of crimes against children
- How we can keep children safe
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