August 18, 2012

Scary men?

Its been just on a year since I had my first piece of writing published. It was this one about the resolution (in some ways) of the disappearance of a little boy from a family Ive known for a long time.

A few months on I sent the editor a reflection of that piece as my writing had generated a handful of radio interviews about kids, their safety and how we best look after them. I pitched the piece as asking the question whether or not we really need to fear the white van? Seriously about 10 radio producers asked me about its existence. About the idea that it lurks on street corners ready to snatch our kids when we look away for a moment, when we untie the apron strings and let their little wings flap freely. Within a few hours the audience started to focus in more on the child abduction stats, when my intention had been the opposite. The space between fear and hysteria is a hard road to tread. Its a space not many of us are willing to take a chance on and the people that commented found it difficult to explore the possibility that we might not all be at as much risk as we think we will be.

The media has been awash lately with stories of adults being moved away from unaccompanied children on flights. Men primarily because it fits in with the myth that they can only be perpetrators of heinous crimes. In the weekend’s Herald this article caught my interest – about the need to reclaim a space of safety for men when they are around children because lets face it most of our kids have Dads and Uncles and Friends who are men and not all of them are unsafe.

Its an interesting debate. I, more than most people, know that bad stuff happens to good people. That taking risks where we can be risk aversive is probably a path that most of us would take if given the chance but a shift in culture, a shift of seeing the good in people rather than the bad is a hard one to action. Policies are in place to protect people from the things most likely not to happen to them. If they werent there then we’d probably jump up and down when something does.

Its the white vans, in our heads they’re everywhere.

Would you want your child moved away from an unknown male if they were travelling alone?

Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. I don’t think that I would have a problem with it as long as the flight attendants are checking on the kids regularly. I think that things can happen anywhere and at any time but if the airlines have decided to have a policy on not allowing males to sit next to kids who are traveling alone I think it isn’t a bad thing. It seems a little extreme but the good thing about it is that it not only protects the kids but it protects the men from any false accusations. Most guys I know would prefer to be moved than to have anyone think that they were acting inappropriately towards a child.

    • Lisa…isnt that sad that we have men that would prefer to sit away for fear of being seen as something that they are not. In the letters to the editor section of SMH a woman wrote in about how we should be more focussed on issues closer to home than fear of strangers. Its a difficult topic to digest – thanks so much for offering your opinion… Sarah x

  2. Like you, I see the worst of the worst happen to people everyday and we clearly need to protect kids from as much as we can and I think it is right that policies like this exist to minimise risk. But more importantly, we need to remember that the people who are the owners of those metaphorical (spelling??) white vans aren’t hiding round the corner, they are ususally parked in plain sight out on the street. More than 90% of kids are harmed by someone they know.

    • The metaphorical white van would be a good topic for a crime/media campaign Mandy….looking in rather than out is something that never really gets explored when these topics pop up.

  3. Embarrassingly, I was watching Home Alone 2 last night. There was a scene in it where the MacCauley Culkin goes to church (on his own, of course) and an old man comes and sits next to him (the church is empty except for the choir practicing) and has a great chat with him. What struck me was:

    1. I immediately thought ‘this guy is a Paedophile’
    …not a decent bloke who was just being friendly
    2. You would never see a scene in a movie like that, these days

    Too many white vans in my mind…I’m working hard to challenge the
    thought that the world is one big white van…thanks for your article.

    • You watched it to allow you to comment on conversations like this Monnie!

      I remember that scene (watching it purely for research of course) and I was also thinking about your comment when I was at the park with my kids today. They were walking ahead of me and a man stopped so they could pat his dog. I immediately became suspicious of him but didnt rush in because I want the kids to work out what feels Ok and what doesnt. Its odd to see how quickly the community changes as we focus more and more on removing risk. The figures of abuse and neglect dont though??

      Thanks for commenting, Sarah

  4. I don’t believe that moving males away from children in flights is necessary or even useful. That said I also think that there should be more males in child care. Which I’m sure many people would disagree with.

    I understand the fear of the white van and sometimes I think I’m overprotective. But seriously, all men aren’t scary…. the ones who are – you probably already know them.


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