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Police Thought Dad Leaving the Mall With His Daughter Was a Kidnapper

"Society is all too ready to interpret the most innocent of gestures as a prelude to abusing a child."

KidnapRafael Ben Ari / DreamstimeThe city of Brighton, England, went into a panic last week when a witness told police about a possible child abduction at the shopping center, and closed-circuit TV footage showed a man squatting down to talk to a little girl in a pink coat.

As The Daily Mirror explains:

Police had scrambled helicopters, searched cars leaving Churchill Square shopping centre and carried out door-to-door enquiries after someone contacted them saying they thought they had [witnessed] a 'kidnapping'.

CCTV images of a man leading a child by the hand in the street was later on released by Sussex Police.

However some seven hours after the alert was first raised, at around 12.30am, Sussex Police revealed that the girl was in fact with her father—and she is safe and sound, asleep, at home.

A man contacted them shortly before midnight as a result of news and social media coverage to say that the image released by police of man and child was of him and his three-year-old daughter.

He told them she had been reluctant to go home at the time.

Officers have been to their address and confirmed the information.

Some may say it's better to be safe than sorry. But witnessing an extremely normal occurence—an adult accompanying a child—and leaping to an extraordinarily unlikely conclusion is not being safe. It's being hysterical. It's wondering, gee, what's going on there? and then jumping to the worst possible conclusion.

I was alerted to this story by Frank Furedi, author of How Fear Works, who writes in his book (which came out before this incident):

A majority of people asked to give their interpretation of a photo of a man cuddling a child responded by stating that this was the picture of a paedolphile instead of that of a loving father.

Can we agree that something is wrong when we leap to the worst possible conclusion upon seeing something that is actually nice?

"Some fathers told me that they think and look around before they kiss their kids in public," Furedi told me in an email. "Society is all too ready to interpret the most innocent of gestures as a prelude to abusing a child."

If you see an adult with a child in plain daylight, it is not irresponsible to assume they are a caregiver. Remember the stat from David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, who has never encountered a single case of a child kidnapped from his parents in public and sold into sex slaver. We are wired to think the movie Taken is unfolding before our eyes, when we're actually watching a more boring film called regular life.

Photo Credit: Rafael Ben Ari / Dreamstime

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Yeah, he's in the system now.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    On garbage island.

  • sarcasmic||

    Some may say it's better to be safe than sorry.

    Calling the cops is never safe.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    He's just lucky this happened in England where the cops aren't armed. Probably would have been shot here.

  • Longtobefree||

    This will continue to degrade until the false accusers face legal consequences.
    No anonymous tips.

    (yeah, I know, England)

  • Kivlor||

    ^^^This. Problem is that if you try to get that passed, the cops, CPS and the busybodies will be out smearing every single politician and activist in favor of it as advancing child abuse, neglect, and sexual assault.

    I keep in contact with several of my state reps, and all of them realize how wrong the system of anonymous accusations is. And none are willing to do something about it for the reasons I listed.

  • Griffin3||

    He seemed like a man of reasonable firmness.

  • Munch||

    This is partially due to the new "All men are potential predators" belief that is sweeping the country. I feel sorry for men who are active and involved parents to their children, they are constantly suspect. At the park, at the mall, at the school, someone is likely to call the police on them.

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    Let me really blow your mind. This demoization of men as probable child-abusers is heteronormatively biased. That is to say, people are more likely to assume this worst case scenario when the man is with a young girl than they are if he is with a young boy.

  • Rich||

    Can we agree that something is wrong when we leap to the worst possible conclusion upon seeing something that is actually nice?

    Hey, what if the kid were abusing the man? Did you ever think of *that*?

  • Rebel Scum||

    images of a man leading a child by the hand

    Classic kidnapper move.

  • GryFalcon||

    Does anyone recall the man who witnessed a toddler who had wandered off from her family several years ago? He was concerned for her safety but was also afraid that he would be accused of being a kidnapper. So, he never laid a finger on her, but followed her, and when she wandered into the street, he rushed into the street to stop traffic.

  • GryFalcon||

    It is by far more likely that that kind of danger to a little girl's safety will come from someone that the child encounters among her circle of friends and family -- not some stranger in a mall. What this woman did could have placed that girl in terrible danger from an encounter with a very confused police officer. I'm really glad the police did not show up and "helpfully" shoot her father in front of her eyes.

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals."
    C. S. Lewis

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I'm really glad the police did not show up and "helpfully" shoot her father in front of her eyes.

    Luckily for him British cops don't carry guns. Could have been beaten down with a billy club though if he hadn't left the mall before they got there.

  • Jerryskids||

    They got child protective services in England don't they? I'm shocked that - as far as I can tell - the child hasn't been removed from the home. How the hell can the government countenance leaving this poor child in the custody of a suspected kidnapper/child molester?

  • GryFalcon||

    It is by far more likely that that kind of danger to a little girl's safety will come from someone that the child encounters among her circle of friends and family -- not some stranger in a mall. What this woman did could have placed that girl in terrible danger from an encounter with a very confused police officer. I'm really glad the police did not show up and "helpfully" shoot her father in front of her eyes.

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals."
    C. S. Lewis

  • Fancylad||

    Lewis was pretty prophetic there.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Excellent quote thank you; if her were alive today Lewis would undoubtedly be pilloried along with Jordan Peterson et al.

  • Eric L||

    "But witnessing an extremely normal occurence...and leaping to an extraordinarily unlikely conclusion is not being safe. It's being hysterical. It's wondering, gee, what's going on there? and then jumping to the worst possible conclusion."

    Just like in those olden tymes when people saw witches everywhere. Yet few today would admit that they are being just as hysterical.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    That's just the sort of a thing a witch pedo would say.

  • MikeP2||

    Welcome to the new reality, where the State assumes everyone is a criminal and responds accordingly.
    It works to further State power when citizens cower in fear.

    This won't end until people start asserting their own power. Looking at you, armed American men. Because really....almost everywhere else is already lost.

  • Seamus||

    If you see something, STFU.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    A big cup of STFU

  • Will Nonya||

    It's interesting that they went into this hysteria without a frantic mother looking for her missing child. Shouldn't that be a per-requisite for ordering a helicopter?

    Did they think the real parents were just too busy to notice their kid was missing for hours?

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    There has to be a crime here somewhere. I'm sure that father's closeness was inappropriate. They are just not trying hard enough.

  • RPGuy16||

    Exactly. Did they think the 3-year old was just out at the mall shopping by herself? They didn't think it curious that no one at the mall was looking for a lost child?

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    we're actually watching a more boring film called regular life.

    Spoiler alert: when the movie ends you die.

  • Heedless||

    When you die, the movie ends.

  • wootendw||

    Busybodies, like anyone who falsely accuses someone of a crime to police (or any government organization with the power to arrest people), should be prosecuted. And the penalty should be the same as the penalty for the crime.

    That should also include drivers who use their smart phones to report other drivers they believe to be impaired.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    i just like to report drivers I believe are assholes.

  • wootendw||

    The police are not supposed arrest people for being what you consider to be an asshole. Roadside stops are risky for both the cop and the motorist.

    But thanks for the quote. I'll save it for the next cop who stops me because they've "been getting reports" - yet doesn't issue me a citation.

  • Curly4||

    YOU don't have time to drive then. You must also be rich to have a driver to drive you and give you the time to do all that reporting.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    That's one of the fun things about being a man these days. If you are nice to children you're a pedo; if you shun them to avoid trouble you're a child-hating dickhead, all full of toxic masculinity and whatnot.

  • Kivlor||

    The proper response is to not live in fear that someone will think ill of you for doing right. If they do, it says more about their own depravity and disordered thought processes. If they act against you, act against them proportionally and with practicality.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Certainly so. But it's ridiculous that it should even be a concern.

  • Kivlor||

    It is ridiculous, but unfortunately we live in clown world, where up is right and left is down.

    I've actually been on the receiving end of this kind of madness. As a father of 3, I can attest it will drive you insane if you let it.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Busybodies sincerely believe they are doing "the right thing" by nibbing into whatever they imagine you are up to. The endless exoneration to "see something say something" is of course escalating this. The quote from CS Lewis above seems to explain them pretty well. As well as S. Johnson's road to hell being good intentions.

  • Curly4||

    In this liberal society man cannot nor will ever be a winner. Man will soon be replaced by cloning to the liberal man hater's delight!

  • IceTrey||

    Has Skenazy not heard about the rape gangs in the UK?

  • RPGuy16||

    I guess they figured this 3-year old was just out at the mall shopping by herself when a random stranger walked off with her. They didn't think it was curious that there was no parent or guardian looking for her at the mall or reporting a lost child?

  • MaleMatters||

    Well said. I think the assumption about the worst in men makes many people overlook your point.

  • Spookk||

    Working as intended. Fear-mongering by cops who see the drug war gravy train screeching to a halt.

  • MaleMatters||

    See:

    "In movies, dads not treated as equal to moms" http://malemattersusa.wordpres.....s-to-moms/

    "Eek! A Male!" http://malemattersusa.wordpres.....ek-a-male/

  • MaleMatters||

    See also:

    "Segregating Children From Men" http://malemattersusa.wordpres.....-from-men/

  • Olga||

    A young man wrote about babysitting his girlfriend's daughter. They were at Chuck-E-Cheese. When they were leaving, the working asked the daughter about "her daddy" and she honestly said, "He is not my daddy." It led to the long explanation that he was dating her mother and the mother had to leave work and break him and the daughter out of "Check-E-Cheese" jail. All because a 4 year old was telling the truth. As others said, the people most likely to abuse a child are their parents, caretakers, teachers, coaches, tutor's and parent's friends.

    Should the woman have called the police? Not sure. However, actually introducing yourself to the Dad and child would probably have made it clear they were related and she was just not wanting to go home yet. However, people are too quick to call the police and too slow to just start a conversation with the person in question.

  • Curly4||

    This state of fear is brought about by the 24/7 news cycle. But it is not just the news cycle but because the news writes or rewrites these news reports to present the worst possible twist on the event. Even though people in large like the good feeling events that get reported occasionally but it is not the "good feeling" reporting that sells news nor brings clicks to the online news. The worse the event, the more gory the event, the more tragic the event the greater the audience (and sales) will be.
    Just as bad is on the 24/7 news channels the worse the news is the more often it is reported. Oh how I remember the radio and early tv news reports usually at 0600 or 0700 then at 1200 and then at 1700 or 1800 with a final rap up at 2200. Most of these reports was somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes with certain news reports of 30 minutes and each of these reports also had the weather report leaving not much time to push the bad news.

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