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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Stranger Danger" Aversion

     Liberals think that anyone owning a gun is a potential killer; every man with reproductive organs is a potential rapist or molester; and so on. The media plays this up, exaggerating the danger to children to such an extent that children now hardly go outside to play, and certainly not without an adult to watch over them. Thus, the obesity epidemic, and the lack of trick-or-treating at Halloween. But, I digress. 

     The Daily Mail reports on an experiment to see how many people in a shopping mall would stop to help a "lost" child:
Hidden cameras recorded Uma, seven, and Maya, five, who took it in turns to look lost.
Astonishingly, over the whole hour only one person, a grandmother, took a moment to find out if there was a problem. All of the 616 other passers-by completely ignored the girls.
 
Heartbreakingly for the mother of the sisters – who was watching from a hiding place nearby – passing couples even split apart to walk around either side of the 'lost' girls and people wheeling suitcases took evasive action to avoid Maya and Uma, not thinking to check if they needed help.
... Experts said the reluctance of the passers-by was partly explained by people being busy, and partly a fear – especially among men – of any help they offer a child being misinterpreted. 
But the NSPCC said a child's welfare was more important than worrying about being labelled a 'stranger danger'. 
A spokesman said: 'We have got to get a message out to adults that they have a responsibility to protect children and that must supersede any concern you have for other people's perception of why you are reaching out to help that child.'
Two points: First, these comments are from the same people that are largely responsible for creating the fear in the first place, and can be discounted for that reason. Second, at least under general common law principles, you don't have a legal responsibility to help or protect another person's child unless you assume the responsibility. Simply observing them to be in danger does not create a duty. And, in this case, the children were not even obviously in any sort of danger.

     An attached commentary to the story observes:
Shaming? I'll say these pictures are shaming. But the shame goes far beyond the 616 people who ignored these girls. 
The shame belongs to an entire nation that, within two generations, has turned on its head the golden rule that was drummed into me as a child: when in trouble, ask a grown-up. 
Today, the child does not dare to ask – and the grown-up does not dare to answer. ...

... 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.
     When my oldest son was younger, I volunteered to help coach his football team. It wasn't a matter of just showing up to help at the practices. I had to go to the police station to be fingerprinted and issued a special pass that I had to wear at all times I was assisting with coaching. And my role? Well, the coach wasn't allowed to interact with the children unless another adult was present, so I was just there to be that "extra" adult.

     When I was assigned by my church leader to help in Cub Scouts, the first thing I had to do was go through training that taught scout leaders to never be alone with a child (unless it was our own) for any reason (plus a whole lot of other prohibited matters), and to report any leader or volunteer that did so. All leaders had to submit their names for a background check as well. This training and background check were a yearly requirement. And I was just an administrator, not someone that worked directly with children.

     At my church, although a woman can teach a class of children by herself, a man can only teach a class of children if another adult is in the room with him.

     This is the society we live in. Men are presumed to be predators. It is demeaning and insulting to men. Yet, it also creates exaggerated caution when dealing with children. So, I agree with Dr. Helen Smith on this one--you can't teach men to stay away from other children, then suddenly expect them to change their behavior based on less than adequate information on whether a child needs help. I can't blame the people--especially the men--that passed these children by without helping them.

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