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01Jan19b Paranoia

[Author & Source unknown] 7th December 2000

How Our Paranoia About Paedophilia Is Compromising Bonds Of Trust

Obsession that now blights every man's love for a child.

I HAD my Christmas present early this year. I call it a Christmas present because I can't think of any thing I'd rather have for Christmas. I was at a friend's house on a Saturday evening, chatting. Her six year-old daughter was wandering around bleary-eyed and should have been in bed but before anyone could take her up, she climbed on my lap, curled up and went to sleep.

This may not sound a big deal to you but I was a cat with two tails. Apart from the fact that I love this little girl, I was swamped by an overwhelming sense of trust. You see, this is a child who keeps outsiders at a polite distance, and has done from birth. While other kids can be won over with a joke or a game, after which they throw themselves bodily at you, she's strictly hands off. A cool customer, which probably makes her more interesting.

I've been wooing her for years. I'm aware of that going out of my way to amuse her but careful never to force anything. Gradually she has come round to me. When she chose to curl up on me that night I was aware I had passed some sort of test in her mind. She was bestowing her favour on me. I was sitting at the Queen's table.

But now my delight is compromised by questions I have been forced to ask myself since having a conversation with two colleagues. What do other people think? Do they doubt my good intentions? Do they think I have a hidden motive? I'm 48 and have three children myself. Call me naive but such questions had never occurred to me before.

One of these colleagues, a man, had been talking about a dinner party. The point of his story was how difficult it sometimes is to think up an excuse on the spur of the moment. He said his hostess had left the room to put her four-year-old daughter to bed but came down a few minutes later saying: "Well, you're the lucky one. She wants you to read to her." "Of course I said no," he said, "but I couldn't think of a polite excuse." Of course I said no? I was astounded. I had no interest in his excuse. Reading to children is one of the best activities life has to offer.

"You're crazy," I said. "That's like rejecting a lottery prize." Then my other colleague, also a man, chipped in. "He's absolutely right," he said. I wouldn't have done it either. It could compromise you." Now I look around me I see this caution everywhere. I see men holding back when they might have picked a child up, rejecting hugs, making excuses.

I see parents, too, reining their children in, over nannying them, shutting them away. This generation of children will go through their teenage years without their parents bringing out bath-time pictures to embarrass them in front of their girlfriends and boyfriends, they're too scared to take bath-time pictures in case people (the developers? the police?) misconstrue them.

The reason for this caution is our obsession with paedophilia and it is an obsession, make no mistake.

We have no evidence of a higher incidence of paedophilia now than there ever was yet we are more frightened than we have ever been. We 'see' paedophiles at every street corner, by every school gate.

The media has enthusiastically joined the witch-hunt, often extremely irresponsibly. The NSPCC conducts campaigns actually to eradicate cruelty to children within a decade, an unrealistic expectation if ever there was one.

Celebrities, who we know logically can be no more moral or honourable than the average man or woman, have been roped in as figureheads and one day this year we were all urged to wear a Full Stop badge to demonstrate how much we are against it.

Well who, apart from the small minority of paedophiles in this country, isn't against it? Such campaigns are like huge paedophilia advertisements (15 years ago few people had heard of the word and most dictionaries haven't caught up with it yet). And you can be sure that the first action of any paedophile with a brain (sadly, some do have them) will be to get a badge for himself. [...]



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