Readers — Here’s an experiment carried out in London:
A TV station had two little girls, 5 and 7, take turns looking lost in a large shopping center. Only one retiree stopped to ask if the child was okay.
Now, I don’t think that means every human who passed by the kids was and heartless OR afraid of being mistaken for a pedophile. I easily might have passed by, too, if I was in a hurry and barely noticed the child, or if she looked like she was playing a game, or if I assumed a parent was probably nearby. Nonetheless, I love this column by Carol Sarler, “The Price of Paedophile Hysteria,” on the fear that probably stopped at least some adults from intervening:
…The over-imaginative minds of adult Britain are in literally hysterical thrall to paedophilia, to the idea that danger lurks in the soul of every passing stranger, while the truth – you know, facts and suchlike – is rejected without reason.
I have lost count of the times that I have written that the number of abductions and deaths of children at the hands of strangers has remained constant since the Fifties (six or seven a year). Or pointed out that, given that our population has grown, this is effectively a reduction.
Or forcefully reiterated the dreadful reality that the physical risk to children is infinitely more likely to lie within their own homes. Nobody wants to know. They’ve got their bogeyman fixed firmly in their heads….
It is impossible to believe that in a civilised, compassionate society there weren’t many passers-by who wanted to help – yet too great was their fear of being thought to be a ‘kiddie-fiddler’, either by other passers-by or indeed by the little girl herself.
Pernicious as this fear is, it is growing apace. I have a friend who organises large festivals where, inevitably, children get lost.
Yet instructions to staff have become super-stern in recent years: if you see such a child, no matter how great their distress, you may not approach – and you certainly may not touch, so the instinctive cuddle you ache to offer is a no-no.
Instead, they have to radio the location of the child to a central control, who will dispatch an ‘accredited’ member of staff to the scene. And if that means the child screams and panics for another 20 minutes? So be it.
Read her whole column here (it’s under the story of the experiment). And ponder whether we are making kids more safe or less with our predator obsession. – L