the lost children of rockdale county
Claire Sterk: Professor, Emory University School of Public Health and a member of the team which investigated the syphilis outbreak
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How did you get involved in Rockdale County?

claire sterk The Rockdale County Health Department contacted the state because they had a syphilis outbreak, primarily among young women and young adolescents. And they were very surprised because traditionally all over the country when we think about STDs we think about young African American males and followed by African American females. And so here we were dealing with a group that was challenging ... what the data had been showing us so far. So that raised all kinds of concerns about what's going on here? Was this unique? Is this larger than this group of girls that we have identified so far? So we got called in to provide some consultation and to help them understand what is happening in Rockdale County ... .

Initially I wasn't too eager per se to devote my time and energy on this but as [State Director of Public Health Kathleen Toomey] started telling me more about the circumstances, the fact that this was happening in an area that was considered to be middle class, that was outside of the typical urban areas in which we normally identify STDs, that we were dealing with young girls, that they were dating guys from different racial backgrounds, in this case being African American and white guys. It just started sounding like a very intriguing situation. Like here was this small town in the larger metro area where one would not expect something like that to happen. And so she got me curious enough to want to explore the situation more. ...

My role was to be the social scientist who snoops around and tries to get an understanding of what's happening in this city. Who are these girls? Why are they doing what they're doing? What exactly is going on? I think one of the things that typically social scientists deal with is the fact that what people tell you is not always what they do. And one of the things that was striking was that, at least from Dr. Toomey, I got the impression that overall the sense was that teenagers in in this particular area were not very sexually active and here was evidence showing that they were very sexually active. ...

What were you hearing personally from the girls that you talked to about the sexual activity that was going on?

The girls that I initially met in the health department clinic looked like what I would call sweethearts, without meaning that in any negative sense. They had soft faces, soft expressions, their voices were very soft. They acted insecure. Had shy smiles. At times would blush if they were talking about the things that had been happening. The way they dressed was basically like mainstream teenagers all over the country do. And the way they talked in some ways revealed that were they felt uncomfortable talking about just the whole topic of sexuality. And so here you had the tension between the way they looked and the kinds of things that had been happening in their lives.

And what did they tell you had been happening in their lives?

Their stories almost evolved over time. ... The initial stories were very similar to the kinds of things that they had told people in the clinic, which was that they might have been sexually active or they were sexually active but it really was not what they wanted. That the last thing they wanted was get an STD. In other words they were building up this image of 'poor innocent girls, we got sucked into a situation that we had no control over and we're so happy that you are here to help me get out of this situation. '

The girls would talk about going to these sex parties as if they were going to the movies, or going to meet and have pizza together some place. However, the probing then revealed that they really were not as innocent. And that they did take some action themselves. That it wasn't something they were totally pushed into by the outside but that some internal forces, if you want to call them that, had driven them to become involved in sex as well. So they would become more open about the sexual activity that actually took place. They also began providing some more explanations of why they were doing what they were doing. And one of the themes that came up a lot was the fact that they felt that their parents wanted to tell them so much what to do and wanted to have so much control over them that they felt a desire to revolt against that--and let me just point out that that's obviously not something that's unique to these teens but that's common for adolescents in general. ...

So they began talking more and more about the fact that they did play a role in all this. And that they did make decisions about who they were going to invite to come to an event where sex was going to take place. How they would stage meeting with one group of boys and then meet with another group of young men, I probably should call them. ... As we continued to talk over time they began taking more and more responsibility for the situation but also acknowledging that they felt they did not have the skills to maintain the situation at a level where they felt comfortable with it.

So the girls were running things?

The girls certainly were running things from their point of view. I pointed out that to some extent they were running things because they wanted to revolt against their parents. To some extent they were running things because they were bored. They would talk their lives in the sense that they would go to school. They would come home. Most of them would come home to a place where either both parents or one of the parents was working. Or if they had siblings, would meet with their siblings. But there wasn't much to do at home. There wasn't much to do in the community. There were no after school programs or the programs that there were, they didn't like because they didn't really provide what they wanted to have. So there was a general sense of boredom as well. And to some extent that boredom became a trigger to start hanging out with their friends and doing things with their friends, including having sex with their friends. ...

What were some of the stories that you heard from some of those girls about the kind of sexual activity that was going on?

The kinds of stories that the girls told me about the sexual activity that was taking place really varied a lot. And I think some of that had to do with the level of comfort in terms of telling me what actually was taking place. ... And also it's very easy to sensationalize these kinds of activities. You could pick out one event and say "oh let me tell you" and "listen what these girls did." So I want to be very careful and state very clearly that these are incidents. And I also should note that in the description of the incidents some of the young people were willing to acknowledge that this took place whereas other denied it. So I'm still left with not knowing exactly what happened since I wasn't there.

The sexual activity basically ranged from having oral sex to having vaginal sex. Initially, it seemed that they would try to provide some privacy for the people who were engaging in sex but in most times since it all took place in one room there was very little room for privacy. So people would be sexually active while others would watch. This would then subsequently result in some of the young men asking one or more women to engage in sex with each other when they would watch. And even situations where people were engaging in sex but you would have probably the most extreme situation: a scenario where one girl and three boys were having sex all at the same time altogether. ... It was basically a very wide variety of sexual activities that they were engaging in.

And how old were these girls?

The girls raged ranged in age probably from 13 to 16. ... One of the aspects that I think is really important to point out here is that there wasn't a situation where the older kids were forcing the younger kids to engage in something. In many ways it was seen as a special status to be invited to these events. And I think that in many ways we could compare this to just teenagers making plans for what they're going to do tonight and you could be the teenager who was sitting at the phone waiting eagerly for a phone call hoping that you're going to be invited that night ... Now, this situation is unique in terms of the fact that there was some sexual activity that took place. So in that sense it was not the sense of being invited to come over to my house to watch a video tonight that that were rented.

But that's the way the kids viewed it.

That's the way they viewed it. And initially a lot of the kids didn't view the sexual activity that was taking place ... as being absurd or something they really did not want. What they did not like was the fact that they might engage in activities after they had been drinking alcohol and had less control over what was going on. Or once they were in a situation where they really wanted to say no. But here they were with their best friends and it's really hard to say no when everybody who keeps your life going is there and is acting as if you should say yes. So at that point in time some of the girls started losing control because they wanted to say no but did not feel that they had the power to say no or even if they did, saying no for many of them, at least from their perspective, meant losing all their friends. ...

We start with girls who wanna make a stamp, who view sex as a way of really asserting themselves and you end up in a place where they've lost control. What happened? How did they get from A to B?

The groups would get together, engage in sex, have a good time together. Initially that was seen as a marker of independence, of having authority, in control over their own lives. As things moved on there was really no person around who had the authority nor fulfilled a role to put a hold on all this and say 'enough is enough' or 'let's reflect and see where we're going here.'

So they ended up feeling completely out of control.

They ended up feeling out of control, feeling lonely, and feeling powerless.

One wonders what happened to that old fashioned idea of love and sex. Based on what you heard from these girls, is that completely gone?

The notion of love and sex is not gone. This started as sex and not as love. Now for some of the girls who were involved with one of the male adolescents in a intimate relationship there were moments of struggle where they saw that this whole group sex phenomena was standing in the way of their intimate relationship that they had. So in many ways the parties were taking away from the love-based relationship. It never happened the other way around where the group party atmosphere led to love and made people fall in love. It just wasn't set up for that to take. They all made a very clear distinction between love and sex and sex was totally unassociated with love.

What you're describing sounds to me is that these girls were very confused. That on the one hand they have a message, some kind of message from society, from the feminist movement, about asserting themselves, about being strong and independent. On the other hand they're acting out a very traditional female role of being a kind of subordinate relationship to to boys. Were these, did you sense that these girls were very confused about that? That they were taking different messages and mixing them all together?

One of the reasons I think that the girls really struggled with this whole situation looking back was because they were very confused about the tension between on one hand having shown that they could stand up for themselves and really engineer this whole event and at the same time they were the traditional women who once they wanted to say no could not find a way to get that message across.

Can you take us inside that health department and tell us about one instance of you and a girl--one story that that girl told you that surprised you or opened your eyes to what was going on.

I would like to share an example with you of a situation where I was talking with one of the girls. This is still at the clinic at that point in time so it's very early for me in this whole scenario in trying to understand what exactly is happening.

So just envision yourself being in a clinic room that's a pretty sterile environment where the same girl has already been and been tested and been told that she has syphilis. So for her, this is an environment that doesn't have the most positive association. Picture me as the person who is trying to say 'trust me'. I'm just interested in learning what is happening here. Why this is going on? And what we can do about this. Because at the same time it seemed like a lot of the girls were sad about where this whole event was going as well.

... When I first asked her to tell me a little bit about what was going on, her initial reaction was what I would call typical for a teenager. Just staring up at the ceiling and saying 'well nothing.' And I tried to come up with lots and lots of questions and every time she would say 'yes, no--well I don't know.' So we weren't going very far. At that point in time I basically sat sat back and said, 'well I guess we're not going anywhere. You don't wanna tell me anything. I don't know what else to ask you. So we're stuck.'And I still didn't understand why this happened but it happened consistently with a lot of the kids. That somehow they decided at some point in time that maybe it was okay to tell their story.

And I think by not lecturing them about staring at the ceiling or looking down at the floor made them feel that 'well maybe there was something different about this.' By not having a chart in my hand and and a medical file maybe this person is different. And she would talk about what had happened to her. How she had become involved in this. How this was her life.

What was this life for her?

Going to the parties, having sex. Once in a while drinking alcohol. Being with her friends. That was the highlight of her life. There wasn't much going on at home. School was okay. So this was really the central focus of her life. She talked about the fact that initially she was very intrigued by being sexually active. She not being sexually active before. And so her initiation into sex really took place in a group context. Not together with a boy who she was in love with and who she was dating and that this was a part of a larger group where she first became really sexually active. And with that I mean go beyond kissing and hugging but having actual sex.

She talked about the fact that it made her feel special. It made her feel like she had status among her friends. But at the same time as she would go back she felt forced to be sexually active as well. That it no longer was something that she necessarily wanted. That she was losing control over whom she was having sex with and when she was having sex. And what type of sex she was engaging in. So she started translating this into almost feeling forced to do things. ... She also talked about the fact that at times she would go home and be nervous that her parents would ask about what was going on. But none of that ever happened. That as she felt that control was slipping and things might be escalating in terms of the sexual activity, she really couldn't talk about it at home. That her parents would ask, "Did you have a nice evening tonight, honey?" And she would say, "yes" and go to her room, and that was all the communication that takes place. So in this particular case--but in general--a lot of the girls started feeling very lonely over time. They were in over their head. They didn't know what to do. And there was nobody to talk to. The only people they could talk to were people who were involved in the same situation.

Was group sex going on?

It was not uncommon when all the young people would get together to engage in group sex. ... There was group sex going on in terms of one of the guys and one of the women having sex with each other and then multiple couples at the same time. There might be switching of partners that took place. There was group sex going on in terms of one guy having sex with one of the girls and then the next guy having sex with the same girl. There was group sex going on in terms of one girl having sex with multiple male partners at the same time. Multiple females having sex with each other at the same time. I would say the only type of group sex that I did not hear about in this overall context was group sex between just guys.

What is a sandwich? We heard that term.

... In some ways the sandwich was the point of escalation. It was the point when a number of them became really, really scared. What I understand sandwich to be is one girl having oral sex with one of the men. Having vaginal sex with another man and having anal sex with a third man. So she literally is smushed in between three guys and the only way that I've heard it described by some of the teens is a sandwich.

But that was the breaking point. That was enough. That was the point of escalation as you put it.

I would say that for those who did talk about the sandwich, who felt comfortable enough to bring that up and who were there that the moment they reflected on what that meant and what really was going on, particularly the girls felt that that was a position they should not be in and that became the breaking point. It was less being identified as having syphilis from my point of view at least. But it was having ended up in a position where you have no control over what's going on. Where you have one woman and three guys--that that closed the door for them where they basically 'enough is a enough' and really began struggling with the fact how now to express that enough was enough.

Was there lesbian activity going on among these girls?

There was some level of lesbian activity going on and one of the things that I think is really interesting and in many ways shows that the girls were trying to be mature about this, is that some of the young women decided that one way to regain control over what was happening sexually was to have sex with another woman. Because if they had sex with another woman, they together had total control over what was taking place. What kind of sex acts they would engage in. How long to perform. What exactly they were going to do with whom. ... So engaging in lesbian sex in some ways became a protective strategy against forced sexual activity with some of the other young men. ... The girls didn't use the words of saying that they were engaging in lesbian sex to protect themselves against forced heterosexual sex by the boys. However, if you listen to their stories, without using those words, that's what they were saying.

When they would sit there and tell you these stories about what had happened to them, what was their demeanor?

When the girls were telling their story, some would become really sad and break down and acknowledge that this was something that had totally escalated, that had gotten out of hand, that probably was going to impact them for the rest of their lives and they didn't know what to do with it. So there were lots of emotions of sadness, crying. Others would respond with anger. And be angry at everybody basically, including themselves. Including their friends. Including their parents. Including the other adults in their lives. And feel that here they were pushed into a situation where nobody was willing to listen to them. When nobody was willing give them a chance to explain what had taken place and try to work with them to come up with constructive solutions. And I think those probably were the most common reactions. It was either sadness and feelings of distraught on one hand or being angry on the other hand. There were very few who were in between and had very little emotion.

Did they talk as if the sexual experiences had been traumatic for them?

Some of the girls would talk about the sexual experiences as impacting them forever. Some of the girls were very afraid that ten years from now they would be dating somebody and their partner would ask them about their sexual past. And then they would have to talk about this. ... And that that might be the cause of their partner at that point in time breaking off the relationship. They were afraid that they never again would really enjoy sex and that that would cause problems in their future relationships. So there was a lot of concern about the long-term impact of this. Other girls on the other hand, would treat it as adolescence and kind of shake their shoulders and say, "Well you know this happened, lots of things happen, it's part of growing up, I'll move on, it's not a big deal."

Did they describe the sex as pleasurable?

Initially they described the sex as pleasurable. And pleasurable in terms of it being physically pleasurable but also psychologically. Like this was a an initiation into the next step of their life. It was part of of their development that was taking place. Over time, however, very few of the girls talked about the sex in terms of it being pleasurable at all. It became something that was painful that in some cases they couldn't even remember what they did any more. So it became very negative.

Did you talk to the boys as well?

I talked with very few of the boys. I don't know exactly why that is. But the few boys that I talked with in many ways voiced similar concerns as the girls. Where this was something that had gotten out of control. They did not share the girls' concerns in terms of the long-term impact of this, of it being traumatic. And in general, their attitude was that if this was something the girls didn't want then it would of been very easy for them to say that it was something they didn't want. And again I think that resembles being adolescence where the guys were saying 'well if they didn't want it why didn't they just say it.' And the girls thinking, 'well if we would say we don't want it they're gonna get on our case or we won't have any friends left anymore.' So they never talked with each other about this. There was a lot of decision-making based on perceptions that the girls had of the boys and that the boys had of the girls ... . But in general, I would say that the young men saw this as less intrusive and less of an issue that had led to escalation than the young women did.

What was your impression of who these girls were socio-economically?

If I had to describe the girls from a socio-economic point of view I would say they were middle class girls with parents who had very high ambitions for them for their futures. Who wanted them to be successful in school. Have wonderful careers. Earn a substantial income. And that was one of the reasons why a number of the parents moved out there so that they could provide an environment that would stimulate those kinds of options for their children. One of the mistakes that we don't want to make is to think about these girls as just a unique group of girls who got lost, who had no social support, who came from families that didn't care. In many ways, and I think that's why it, to me, was so important to gain an understanding of what was going on is that these girls were part of general mainstream, middle class America. And that the options that they had in life were wide open. That the environment that their parents provided really supported the kind of ambitions that they had for them. ...

So in other words, this is basically a cross-section of the kids of Rockdale County?

I would say that this is a cross-section of the kids in Rockdale County. I actually would even want to consider pushing it further and say this is a cross-section of adolescence in the United States in the 1990s. That even although we might be really shocked to hear some of the things that took place in many ways the dynamics that surrounded all this are common for adolescence all over. What we don't know is to what extent sex plays a role. In this case we only discovered that because some of the girls had developed syphilis and ended up walking into a health department. Had that not happened we would not have discovered it. And I think that one of the issues we all need to keep in mind is that we only know about those kinds of things that we ask about or that we find evidence for. If we don't look for the evidence, if we don't ask about it, then we won't discover it.

You say we won't discover it. Where were the parents?

The parents at a different level had as much difficulty with the whole situation as the adolescents did. These were parents who in general, and I'm generalizing now, could not accept the fact that their teenagers were sexually active. Who, even although their teenager had an STD would much rather say, "Well, that must have happened some other way than through sexual activity." Who were maybe willing to accept that their teenager daughter had been sexually active but it must have been a one time incident. And probably was a one time incident where she really did not want to do it. But it happened.

One of the things that has been very striking to me is to see how so many of the parents did not want to talk with their adolescents about this. Now I mainly got the adolescent perspective, but from their point of view they felt that their parents didn't necessarily open the door for them to talk about this. That they felt uncomfortable bringing up sexual activity with their parents. ... And there was a pretty substantial gap between the reality of the adolescents and the reality of the adults. The adults in many ways reacted that what they were hearing about their children was not only having a negative impact on their childrens' lives but also shattering their own dreams and hopes.

Where was this physically taking place, this sexual activity?

The sexual activity took place at a number of places. And probably the two most common places for sexual activity to take place were either at the home of one of the adolescents. A lot of the adolescents had parents who worked, were at home alone, had parents who put in 40, 60, 80 hour work weeks...

So it would take place at one of the childrens' home. Sometimes a parent would drop off their own children at a home where sexual activity one of these sex parties was going to take place but the notion was "this looks like a nice house, these must be nice people so nothing is going to happen that I would not approve of." As it became a little bit more clear that some of the adults were picking up on the fact that some activity was taking place that they would not approve of, and I'm not sure that at that point in time one was thinking as much about sex and probably was more thinking about alcohol or drugs. At that point in time the teens would have some of their parties in hotel rooms at nearby local hotels and motels.

So if the parents didn't know what was happening, it stands to reason the parents just must not have been around, physically?

The parents didn't know what was happening because they very often physically were not around. When physically around very often were tired, were dealing with their own struggles of every day life and at times felt uncomfortable talking with their teenagers about sexuality in general forget about talking about maybe some sexual activity that their own children were engaging in.

What were your personal feelings as this story was unfolded to you?

As I heard the stories I started feeling powerless in the sense that you wanted to give the girls advice. But I was an outsider coming in. I also started feeling that just by doing very little I was doing a lot. Just by letting them tell their stories and not be judgmental about it ... . In some ways just by being able to tell the story they became creative to think about ways in which they could prevent this from happening in the future.

What about towards their parents?

I don't think that any of this has brought the girls closer to their parents. Some are the exception and the parents and the adolescents have gotten closer and are more comfortable talking about topics such as sexuality. In most cases they felt that their parents did not understand them, were angry with them, started treating them as bad young women, which was the last thing that they wanted--which was what they were afraid of to begin with.

Some of the parents stepped in and asked for children to go live with relatives, moved them to different schools. So while they already were very confused about what was going on, they did not always perceive their parents' actions to be necessarily supportive of their own situation. And this one girl I think captured this very very well. She said, "My parents are more worried about protecting their own reputation than they are about protecting me." And I think to some extent she captured what some of the other adolescents were feeling. ...

The sex that you heard about, the way that the girls were using the sex and what had happened--what does it say about what happened to girlhood as we traditionally picture it?

These girls were at a very difficult point in their lives. On one hand they looked like little children. Their parents, and their teachers and most adults whom they encountered treated them as little children. At the same time they started feeling like they were adults. They had reached a point in their life where they felt competent to make their own decisions about what was good for them, what was not good for them. They felt competent to decide how they wanted to spend their time. At the same time they were living in an environment that was boring from their point of view. There wasn't much going on in terms of activities. There wasn't much room to do things that went beyond be good at school and being sweet at home. So they were really trying to find a niche to prove themselves, probably more to themselves than to their other friends [or] than they were trying to prove themselves to adults. And in this whole process they ended up being in a situation where they thought they were more capable to make their own choices than they ended up being. ...

Is it your impression that adolescence is the same today as it was 20 years ago, as it was 40 years ago?

I think adolescence has changed a lot over the last few decades. We expect a lot more from adolescence nowadays provide them with a lot less social support. We provide them probably with a lot more material support. But there was a real tension that we have to deal with here where even although you provide your adolescent with all the material support that they wish to have there still is an incredible need for emotional support. And by so many parents struggling to acquire the resources to provide them material support, they themselves have little room left for their own emotional support and it also reflects on the relationship that they have with their adolescents. I think in general we also expect adolescents to be more able to take care of themselves. And we want them to be adults at a lot lot younger age than we used to. At the same time we give them a very mixed message because if they do things as adolescents that we do not approve of we tell them that now you are a child again and not the adult that I wanted you to be.

Does this lack of safety, security, impact girls disproportionately? Are girls more at risk in some senses?

I would say that the lack of safety impacts girls more because the sexual dynamics between men and women in general have not changed. And particularly if you talk with adolescent men you will find that they still very much believe in the traditional stereotype of "I am the man, I am in charge." And we have not socialized those young men yet into understanding the whole notion of equality and what does 'no' from a woman mean or not mean. They still believe a lot in the traditional stereotypes. From the girls' point of view, they have grown up into a society where they're expected to be able to make their own choices and draw their own lines. But we haven't provided them with the skills to do that. We actually are taking out less time to provide them with those skills than we used to. ...

What was the reaction of the community to the uncovering of this of this epidemic?

I think the community was shocked ... . They were shocked because of what was happening to the adolescents in the community. The community also was shocked about what this would do to the reputation of the community. That now they would be profiled to the outside as a community of sex, drugs, STDs, teen pregnancy, all the social problems that we wish not to be associated with. Some people were worried about what it would do to the value of their houses. So this went pretty deep in terms of the perception of the community and the impact that it would have on that.

But the concern it doesn't sound like it was for the kids. It sounds like it was for anything but the kids.

Among the parents I would say that there was a genuine concern for the kids even if they didn't always respond in ways that the adolescents wished from their point of view that they would have. From the rest of the community the concern seemed to be more focused on the image of the community than it was on the adolescents.

Now as you've described it, the 15 girls, many of them were involved with the Black older boys. How do you explain this? What do you think was the dynamic here? What was going on?

This is a community that's located in the southern United States where despite multiple efforts to improve race relations and despite actual improvements that have taken place over time, race continues to be a very sensitive topic. I think it became an even more sensitive topic for Rockdale County because we're talking about sex and white teenagers being sexually active. There was a taboo that has not disappeared regarding sexual activity between African American men and white women. Here we're talking about white adolescents. So in many ways what was happening here was that the girls not only were challenging community norms by being sexually active, but were challenging those even further by engaging, at least part of the time, in sexual activity with African American males.

The ultimate rebellion.

In many ways from their point of view it was the ultimate rebellion. It also was the intrigue. Many of them had not spent much time around African Americans period. They had grown up in largely white communities. Most of their friends were white. So here was exposure to the unknown from their point of view.

This is a very sad story. This whole thing strikes me as a very sad story. Does it strike you that way?

It's very sad. ... I would say it's very sad because of so many lessons we could of learned from this. And part of me feels that we're not picking up on all those lessons and still leave adolescents hanging there forcing them to take care of themselves when we know that they're not always able to do that. ...

I think in many ways the county needs to be complimented for having brought this out in the open. For having contacted the state health department and said we think we have a serious issue here. ... One of the things that we need to keep in mind is that this is not unique to Rockdale County in any sense. That the way in which the adolescents act here they act all over the United States, probably all over the world. That if we don't provide adolescents with ways to talk about what they are experiencing, what they are feeling, ways in which they can't protect themselves from being pulled into a situation where escalation may occur, if we don't do that, then we're letting this happen in other places. ...

I think that many of the adults who were the parents of the children involved in the outbreak, but even the parents of the children in general, resemble a substantial proportion of people in the United States. People like to be part of the middle class, preferably of the upper middle class. One of the ways in which you achieve that goal is by working hard, by making long hours, by investing all your time and energy and insuring that you can buy a house that is in a neighborhood that you think is safe.

... As a consequence of all that very little time is left over for emotions. It's almost like material aspects have begun running people's lives. ... One of the mistakes that all adults are prone to make is to provide adolescents with material goods, be it a special CD player, be it special clothes. Whatever it is. And say, "This is my sign of love to you." And the adolescents are very happy with that. They'll take any kind of presents that you give 'em. What they don't tell you, because it's not cool to tell you as an adolescent is, "I'd like a hug. I'd like to just sit next to you for five minutes and not talk about anything." If you talk with an 8 or 9 year old they'll snuggle up, they'll sit next to you, they still feel comfortable expressing those emotions. Once you are a teenager you don't express it anymore but you still need that. And somehow by becoming so focused on where we are in terms of our class in society as adults we forget that we then need to take the initiative to provide that kind of emotional support to our teenagers.

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