Giving Men the Benefit of the (Predator) Doubt

Readers — I love this article from The Daily Telegraph by radio broadcaster Jason Morrison and hope that it’ll clear something up: While it is good to be aware of the possibility of horrors like abuse and kidnapping, it is sickening (and statistically ridiculous) to jump to these assumptions IMMEDIATELY upon simply seeing a man with a child. In this particular case, Jason took his son to the playground:

…Charlie had a great time, laughing and playing with the other kids. I was inside the fence that surrounded the play equipment keeping watch.

But that was apparently my crime. I hadn’t noticed at the time but a group of women had become suspicious of my presence. One of them, quite assertively, walked over. “Are you here with one of the children?” she asked. The look on her face suggested this was not small talk.

I was lost for words and nervously laughed, pointing at my 22-month-old. That wasn’t enough. She needed proof. Demandingly she asked, “Which one?”.

In the shock of it all, I can’t remember how I responded other than walking over and grabbing my son to convince her. Thankfully he responded.

I could feel the embarrassment building and so could she as she insisted, “I was just checking ‘cos it just seemed strange”.

I will be delighted once it seems strange to assume a man is a predator until proven otherwise. In a Facebook chat about this story, many of the comments were great. But then there’s:

 Why are most people getting a bruised ego over this?
Seriously…it’s not about sexism, it’s not about labels and it’s certainly isn’t about adults.
It it about safeguarding children…

How is distrusting half the population safeguarding anyone? Really — how? L.

Oh no! Is that what I THINK it is?

Oh no! Is that what I THINK it is?

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56 Responses to Giving Men the Benefit of the (Predator) Doubt

  1. SOA February 5, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

    That is ridiculous and insulting! If I was that man I would not have given her the satisfaction. I would have said, I don’t have to answer to you. This is a free country and a public park and I am doing nothing wrong. Let her call the cops and then get yelled at for making a false and wasteful report.

    I never think predator for a man at a playground for just hanging around. I assume he is a Dad. Now if he was doing something super suspicious, I might pay more attention and just keep an eye on him but I would do the same to anyone acting super odd even a woman. But even then I would not go up and confront someone. Just keep an eye out.

  2. hineata February 6, 2014 at 12:02 am #

    Now, if he was the kind of Jason that wears a hockey mask, the worry might have been appropriate, but, really…..?

    The Daily Telegraph is a UK paper, isn’t it? A shame, really, because this is the sort of crazy person you’d feel like waving a handgun under the nose of….

  3. Greg Allan February 6, 2014 at 12:08 am #

    Every child on the planet is safer in the company of that man than they would be in the company of the woman who accosted him.

  4. Ben Trafford February 6, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    I’ve had many similar experiences. It’s disheartening to have strangers demand to see your ID so that you can prove you’re a father and not a random pedophile.

  5. Andy February 6, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    @Ben Trafford Strangers have no right to demand your ID. Feel free to complain to cops on them :).

  6. Lola February 6, 2014 at 3:33 am #

    That lady will only realize the absurdity of her reaction when somebody treats her husband that way.

  7. Bostonian February 6, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    Every stay at home dad in the country can tell you the same story. It’s happened to me more than once.

    The only thing to do is throw it right back at them. ‘My boy’s right there. How about you? You got a kid here or are you just looking?’

    PWM is not a crime.

  8. Claudia February 6, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    And actually why shouldn’t a man be permitted to enjoy watching children having fun? A lot of people, especially older people, like to (or would like to) *totally innocently and not in any sexual way* enjoy the sight of happy, laughing children. Because ‘some people are sick?’ Yes, those people who convert any adult gaze on to children not their own, or presumed not to be their own, into a perversion!

  9. Katie G February 6, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    Greg and Lola, you’re spot-on.

    Bostonian, I’d go further than SAHDs. Dads in general, and uncles, and big brothers, and cousins, and grandfathers- they all have perfect rights to be with children- or even hanging around a park enjoying the day and watching kids be kids.
    I have to worry a bit for my nephews. They’re eleven years apart. When the older one is well into his teens and the younger is school-age, I can reasonably assume the older will be looking after the younger quite often. What happens then?
    I think part of the solution is that FR-minded families need to make it more normal for dads (et al) to be out and about with children. Ladies, encourage your husbands (et al) to do these things!

  10. Really Bad Mum February 6, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    It happened in Australia I watch the interview on a morning show this morning, it happened in Sydney NSW, the kid had everyone laughing he was cute ( except for the nose picking) the father was an older father so it got me thinking, my partner was 19 when our daughter was born and has never had a problem no matter where he took her, maybe it’s a bit of ageism where people think young man and child- acceptable, father and child, but older man and child- unacceptable, kid should be grown up why he hanging out here… Rather then older father or grandfather taking child out. Or it could be that they play rugby in NSW and call it football, or the ones that do follow afl follow the Sydney Swan.. ;p GO DOCKERS! Lol

  11. QuicoT February 6, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Honestly, I would’ve used the Louis C.K. strategy and just randomly messed with her mind…

    “Are you here with one of the children?”
    “No…you know, I just like to look at ’em really…it gives me that special tingly feeling…”

    Then when his kid is tired out, walk home calmly with him…

  12. sue February 6, 2014 at 7:00 am #

    the hysterics can’t have it both ways.. they can’t say that kids need a strong father figure[they certainly do!] in one breathe and in the next say every male is a potential pediphile. or does their version of a strong father figure translate only into a sperm donor and atm machine. how are THEIR darling sons to learn about fathering if they don’t see any doing it. or at age 18 do they also turn into pediphiles to be driven out of the home? just wondering

  13. Paul February 6, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    Welcome to my life.

    As a widowed parent of three kids, I see this every day. Mothers acting like a school of fish at every playground, instinctively taking steps towards their kids when they see a single man approaching.

    Last year I was on the sidewalk taking photos of my kids elementary school for the parent newsletter (I was the PTA president), when three police cars pull up. Apparently some “concerned mother” called the cops on me, saying there was “some creepy guy” taking photos of kids.

    The police wouldn’t listen, and I wasn’t backing down. Taking photos of a public building from a public sidewalk isn’t a crime. Luckily the school principal came out to see what the problem was and vouched for me.

  14. Donna February 6, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    @Ben Tafford – How exactly does your ID prove that your a parent? Did I fail to go get my “parent” stamp put on my driver’s license or is this just a man requirement? And you should never provide your ID to a regular person.

    @Lola – I doubt she will ever realize the error of her ways. Most likely her husband never takes their children anywhere by himself (by his own choice or because she never lets him), so it will never happen to him. Or she thinks that it is okay for even her nice husband to be questioned because most men are scum and you can never be too careful.

  15. Jennifer February 6, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    I find it sad that the people who will assume a man in a playground is a pedophile are the same ones who complain of deadbeat dads and “useless” husbands. So which is it?

    I hate to break it to you but those “involved” dads are going to, GASP, take their kids to the park. It would probably help to make them feel welcome there.


  16. TaraK February 6, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    When my kids were little bitty my husband used to wonder how he could prove that they were his if someone accused him of kidnapping them.

  17. Donna February 6, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    I have honestly never seen a woman even look twice at a man at a park where I live, and yet, men here say it happens to them all the time. It makes me wonder if it is simply expectations.

    While our view of women has changed greatly, our view of men really hasn’t changed much since Leave it to Beaver. Women can work or stay home, but a responsible male works outside the home from 9-5. Many still refer to men spending time alone with their children as “babysitting.” If you live in an area that has those more traditional views, it would be somewhat uncommon to see men out with children and some people just can’t process things outside their own little world. They can’t think beyond a man works 9-5 and watches sportball on the weekend and that is it and anyone else is clearly up to no good.

    Contrast that to my area where there are a large number of college students, university professors, artists, musicians and other non-traditional careers that don’t call for 9-5 work. It is expected that you will see men out with children during the traditional workday because it is pretty routine here. As a result, there seems to be less questioning of men at playgrounds.

    Maybe men just need a good ol’ men’s movement, burning jockstraps and all.

  18. Warren February 6, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    Simple two word phrase that starts with F and ends with F. And leave it at that. Do not engage them any further. Do not give them any satisfaction what so ever. Let the busybody stand their in, let her go back to her friends that most likely encouraged her to come over.

    If she insists on making more of it, take out your cell, dial 911, and report the woman for harassment, and causing a disturbance in the park.

  19. MRL February 6, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    @Claudia – PERFECT! I’m a dad. I take my 4 year old to the park all the time without my wife. But that’s rather beside the point.

    I shouldn’t have to point to a kid to “prove” that I’m not a pedophile. Not only that, but EVEN ASSUMING THAT I WAS A PEDOPHILE, there is nothing illegal about going to parks where kids play (assuming, I guess, that I’m not a CONVICTED pedophile).

    Point being, regardless of whether this guy in the story was a dad with a kid there, this woman’s behavior was appalling and reflects a larger problem in our society — which Lenore points out.

    The idea that a man at a park is PRESUMED to be a threat of being a pedophile / child abductor is absurd and insulting.

    PWM is the new DWB, I suppose.

  20. marie February 6, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    This fear is not caused by child abductions or child sexual abuse by strangers–because those are rare occurrences. It is caused by the LABEL. When we have a list of people and everyone on the list has the same Sex Offender label no matter what his or her offense was, it is easy to gin up fear of sex offenders. People think we have the registry because those people pose a danger to the community, even when the vast majority of SOs pose no danger at all.

    A few people on the registry may be there for violent crimes and some probably ought to frighten people. The registry makes it easy for that fear to slide over onto all of the others on the registry because they ALL are called sex offenders.

    Without a registry that labels 750,000 people as sex offenders, we might go back to looking at individual circumstances. This guy was a rapist, this woman looked at child porn, this guy had sex with his underage girlfriend. All distinct offenses.

    I’ve said it before: The sex offender registry is a list of people unlikely to commit a sex offense.

  21. marie February 6, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    MRL said:
    I shouldn’t have to point to a kid to “prove” that I’m not a pedophile. Not only that, but EVEN ASSUMING THAT I WAS A PEDOPHILE, there is nothing illegal about going to parks where kids play (assuming, I guess, that I’m not a CONVICTED pedophile).

    Agreed, with one quibble: no one is convicted of being a pedophile. Pedophilia is not a crime.

    It is illegal for sex offenders to go to the park in many cities, even if they are accompanying their own children or grandchildren and even if the sex offense had absolutely nothing to do with children (or parks!). That’s crazy.

  22. Chris Moewes February 6, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    +1 to the “it has happened to me” tally.

    Wasn’t there a move to actually ban adults from playgrounds in New York if they weren’t there with a kid? I thought I remember some buzz in the news about that recently.

    My wife works evenings so I am frequently in-solo-parentus and often have to correct my friends when they say I am stuck baby-sitting.

  23. Gary February 6, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    “Wasn’t there a move to actually ban adults from playgrounds in New York if they weren’t there with a kid? I thought I remember some buzz in the news about that recently.”

    Yes, St. Louis has something in the works albeit for different reasons it seems.

    Let’s see, tattooed, bald, bearded…

    I cannot wait to bring my two to the playground by myself.

  24. Gary February 6, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    And if they dare ask me which ones are mine I will tell them the they are the ones with the tell talk shimmer…

  25. ankle February 6, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    If it’s not about labels or sexism, let’s imagine what might happen if I (a white male father of five children and licensed foster parent) saw you in a grocery store with your baby, and demanded I be allowed to inspect the contents of your diaper bag, to be assured they met with my approval? It’s a public park, and until I start actually doing something wrong, I can be there if I want to, even without proper child supervision.

    One of the unfortunate difficulties of freedom is that you don’t get to punish me or restrict my actions until I actually do something wrong.

  26. lollipoplover February 6, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    “Now, if he was the kind of Jason that wears a hockey mask, the worry might have been appropriate”
    Hineata, you win the internet.

    I would have given it right back to Sanctomommy.
    Me: “Is this park like Chuck E Cheese? Are you in charge of the invisible stamps on our hands?”
    Sanctomommy: “I was just checking ‘cos it just seemed strange”.
    Me: “You know what’s strange? Your paranoia. You should get that checked by a professional. Questioning all parents and constantly being suspicious of everyone in your community is an anxiety disorder. Please get some help and good luck to you.”

  27. John February 6, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    After the lady said, “I was just checking ‘cos it just seemed strange” I would have put her on the spot and asked “What seems strange”? I’d be very curious to know what her response to that question would be. “Oh, because you’re a man and I usually see mothers here with their kids.” to which I would have replied, “So? Why would it be unusual for a father to be here with his kids”? Or she could have said, “Well I’ve never seen you here before so I was just checking” to which I would have replied “Well, neither have I ever seen YOU here before”! It would have been interesting to see her squirm.

  28. samberjack February 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    This happened to my family once. We were traveling and met a group of fellow homeschoolers at a park day (of which we only knew a couple of families of the dozen or so). My husband took advantage of the time to catch up on phone calls at a picnic table while watching our kids play and I stayed closer in, talking with the moms and watching the kids from another angle. At one point, a mom I didn’t know asked, “Who is that weird guy over there?” For the record, there’s nothing weird about him. He just happens to be a dad and not a mom. SMH.

  29. Stacey February 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    I have come to understand that in a majority of cases, when someone rants and raves about what people should or should not do, “For the children’s sake…” it is merely a convenient way to mask their own fears and prejudices in an attempt to pass themselves off as righteous protectors, rather than the dreadful tyrants that they truly are.

  30. Stacie February 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    My husband has never had this experience, thank goodness. I can’t imagine that he’d put up with Sanctomommy if she had approached him. He’s got long long hair (midway down his back) and a big beard–so obviously a predator! Of course, if you were to see him and our son together, there’s no question that they love each other and want to be together. Unless Sanctomommy catches him putting our son in a time out, then she’d probably call Child Services, LOL

  31. Shireen P February 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Oh, my husband would have set that woman straight for sure. Thankfully, he’s never had that happen, and he’s taken our 4-yo daughter to the park without me several times. And since someone mentioned age, he was almost 45 when she was born so he’s pushing 50 (though he does look closer to 40).

  32. Ben February 6, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    I continue to be shocked by these stories. I always took my daughter to the playground, in multiple towns, and never had anyone question me or give me that accusing stare. In this case, I would have pointed and said that one’s mine, which one is yours.

  33. Kay February 6, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Paul, I wonder if you’d have considered writing a letter to the editor in your local paper regarding your incident, especially because the police also maintained their stance. At least a commentary on how our local community has deteriorated and it’s like the Salem Witch Trials.

    Again, I think it’s good to be armed with what to say, I like some of the suggestions here. Something that would teach as well as what business is it of yours.

    “Do you always go around asking men for ID in public places?”

    “How well do you sleep at night since you have these types of fears?”

    “What does your doctor say about your fears of men and habits of asking men to ID their children?”

  34. J.T. Wenting February 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    given that most child abuse happens inside the parental home, with the parents being the perpetrators, it would make (by the logic of “it’s for the children”) to take ALL children away from their parents at birth (and to be doubly safe, lock up the mothers in a hospital bed the moment they are diagnosed as pregnant, you never know what they’ll do to cause a handicapped child to be born) and raise them all in individual padded cells in a government facility, where they’re fed nut free, gluten free, apple free, fat free, sugar free, food through direct injection into their stomach (so they can’t choke) until they reach adulthood.

  35. Violet February 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    He should have assumed that she was trying to hit on him and just told her that he is married, but that he is flattered by her interest.

  36. C. S. P. Schofield February 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    @ Lola “That lady will only realize the absurdity of her reaction when somebody treats her husband that way.” I am willing to give odds that SHE treats her husband that way.

  37. Cedric Satterfield February 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    Great. Some do-gooding biddy with an ax to grind. I have several male friends that are SAHD’s and they had to form a support/advocacy group to identify themselves because apparently men staying home with their children is such an outlier. This is why I hesitate to help any child, anywhere. I can’t afford the repercussions of helping.

  38. Reziac February 6, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    And why the hell would a ‘predator’ with even half a brain hang around a very public place like a playground anyway? With dozens of kids and usually several adults as witnesses??! How stupid are these ‘predators’, anyway? what are they going to do, molest the kids right there in front of everyone?

    Just goes to show how it makes NO sense.

  39. Allamagoosa February 6, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Ugh, I can’t imagine what’s going to happen when my husband I finally have kids and he dares take them anywhere. We already get enough stares because of our age difference. We carry ID pretty much all the time just in case someone decides to get “concerned”.

  40. Ben Trafford February 6, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    To those of you who replied to my earlier post — no, I didn’t show the Sanctomommy my ID. However, neither did I bother to bluster at her. Like the fellow who needed a school principal to vouch for him, I’m well-aware that being a male in our society means that if someone calls the police and says you’re hanging our kids, they often detain first and ask questions later.

    All I usually do is call my son over, which is enough to satisfy most of them. I carry his birth certificate and family photos of the two of us in my wallet when I go out with him, largely because this has happened so many times, and I’m actually concerned that one day, some woman (because it’s -always- been women, sadly) will get on the phone and call the police on me for daring to be a parent.

  41. Ben Trafford February 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    Er, hanging -around- kids, rather. I don’t hang kids, as a general rule. 😉

  42. Bob Davis February 6, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    Back in 1970, I took my daughters (ages 8 and 10 at the time) on an overnight train ride from San Bernardino to San Francisco. We stayed overnight in a downtown hotel on Powell St. (they had never been in a hotel with elevators before, and they got a big kick out of watching the cable cars go by), and I took them to the cable car power house and gave them rides on the electric streetcar system. Their mom (my first wife) probably welcomed a weekend of peace and quiet, and picked us up afterwards. I suppose if a dad tried to do this nowadays, he need a notarized affidavit from the mother, birth certificates and goodness knows what else in the way of documentation.

  43. Victoria Kammerer February 7, 2014 at 12:07 am #

    My brother told me of a time, while he was stationed in Germany. My parents were visiting, and while my brother was at work, my father would take his grandchildren (boy and girl) to the park. They called him Nono, and in the habit of kids everywhere, other kids began calling him Nono, and enjoying his presence. My father always had a soft spot for children, guess it had to do with being Italian. It seems that some of the military parents became concerned about this strange man named Nono, making friends with their kids at the park. When told he was with Anthony and Amanda, they contacted my brother…who was an MP at the time. When he heard the issue, he laughed, and told the parents that it was ‘his’ father who the kids were calling Nono, which is Italian for Grandfather…

  44. Kay February 7, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    If Ben T.’s testimony is a sign of a very sick society.

  45. Kay February 7, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    Scratch that “if”.

  46. Sarah February 7, 2014 at 6:18 am #

    When our son was about 18 months old, my husband took him to the playground (on a weekday, because he took the day off – shocker!). The playground was closed for renovations, so they sat next to it, under a tree, playing in the dirt.

    It was next door to a school, and they were playing over the [unmarked] boundary. School security made him come in and show ID to prove he wasn’t a sex offender / kidnapper. (Although how a driver’s license would prove our son was his, I don’t understand.)

    It really soured him on our neighborhood school!

  47. Laurie February 7, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    Hi. I have a Facebook page dedicated to trying to get the next generation to let their kids get back outside to play. I wanted you to see it.

  48. Natalie February 7, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    @ Donna-
    There is a men’s movement. Unfortunately, it’s horrible. They have some valid points, but those issues get overshadowed by bigotry. Look up “the spearhead” or “a voice for men”. Men need a better men’s movement.

    Fathers4justice is trying to change the conversation about men parenting. That’s an organization to support.

  49. Captain America February 7, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    This happens all the time, let’s face it.

  50. JJ February 7, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    Horrible bigotry no better than questioning a person of color about what he’s doing at a country club event or questioning a woman about what she’s doing at a medical convention.

  51. QB February 7, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    I am a few days behind here, but we had an incident that just pissed me off thoroughly. My husband and son were flying back from a family vacation. Because of miles, etc my daughter and I were on a different flight from a different airport. My husband and son, who is 8 years old, were going through security when a TSA agent pulled them aside. He asked my son who he was traveling with. My son isn’t normally shy, but got scared because he didn’t know what to say. My husband said nothing because “this is how you get treated as a man traveling with a child”. He also didn’t want to inflame the situation. The TSA agent asked my son repeatedly what my husband’s name was and he just didn’t know what to say and was really scared. Finally he said “Dad”, but he didn’t know if he was supposed to say my husband’s name or what. I was furious when I heard this, but my husband seems resigned to that is how it is. Why would a father traveling with his son be treated like a criminal? Women are just as likely to kidnap (in a custody battle)a child.

  52. J.T. Wenting February 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    “Why would a father traveling with his son be treated like a criminal? Women are just as likely to kidnap (in a custody battle)a child.”

    Because the TSA treats ALL men like criminals, unless you’re a Muslim, black, Indian, or Mexican of course because treating those with anything but the deepest reverence would be racist.
    Treating women like they treat men would be sexist, can’t do that either…

    And they’ve learned well from British Airways, who have a policy that a man traveling without his wife is not allowed to sit next to a child, any child, even if that child is their own.

  53. Greg Allan February 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    Natalie said…

    @ Donna-
    There is a men’s movement. Unfortunately, it’s horrible. They have some valid points, but those issues get overshadowed by bigotry. Look up “the spearhead” or “a voice for men”. Men need a better men’s movement.

    Fathers4justice is trying to change the conversation about men parenting. That’s an organization to support.

    Unfortunately decades of politeness only resulted in more abuse. I’d suggest you get used to it because there’s much more on the way.

  54. SOA February 8, 2014 at 3:08 am #

    Wait so if my son flew with my husband alone he would not be allowed to sit next to him? So then who is going to take care of my son during the flight? I would love to see my autistic son take care of himself on a flight.

  55. Brooks February 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    I would have given a short, two word response.

  56. Tina Louise February 9, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    What exactly could he have done to any of the kids in broad daylight in front of all those over protective Moms even if he was a predator?