Why It’s Okay To Treat Me Like A ‘Paedo’

Why It’s Okay To Treat Me Like A ‘Paedo’

The other day, my four-year old daughter threw a temper-tantrum in a supermarket. (If you’re an average parent, you will know this is not an unusual occurrence.) After spending the better part of twenty minutes reasoning with and cajoling her, enough was enough: I threw her over my shoulder and marched her out of the goddamn store.

To the nearby bystander, this would have presented something of a dilemma: they saw a man dragging a screaming child away from witnesses and into the unknown. Nobody did anything. “It’s probably her dad”, they doubtlessly reasoned. But what if it wasn’t? What if the guy doing the dragging hadn’t been me?

Here’s an unusual stance to ponder: I’m cool with you disregarding my feelings when it comes to my kids. I want you to be a suspicious, busy-body arsehole who always assumes the worst. Because one day, it might be somebody else dragging my kid from that store.

The likelihood of your child being kidnapped by a stranger is incredibly low. According to official ABS figures, victims of kidnapping/abduction has fallen to a six-year low of 2.2 victims per 100,000.

Bear in mind that this number includes adult victims and cases where the child abductee was known to the perpetrator. On average, child victims account for just 20 percent of abductions in any given year and at least half of those are committed by non-strangers.

In other words, every parent’s fear of the “strange white van” is well out of proportion to the actual threat.

This has given rise to a spate of news stories and “think pieces” about wrongly accused parents whose only crime was playing with their kids in public. Usually, the subject of the article is a dad who is furious that a member of the public projected their irrational fear onto him and his child. (Recent examples include the hotel that contacted police after mistaking a father for a paedophile and the airline that detained a dad for resting his hand near his son’s lap while sleeping on a flight.)

But here’s the thing: what if these guys weren’t the fathers? Just because a crime is statistically low doesn’t mean we should’t practice due vigilance – especially for crimes as heinous as these. As the hotel chain in the aforementioned police case stated: “we take our responsibilities towards protecting children and vulnerable young people extremely seriously.”

It’s worth noting that hotel and hospitality staff are often specifically trained to identify children who could be at risk. They’re not trying to ruin your day or besmirch your character on a whim. They are trying to protect your kid.

Members of the general public are usually less educated when they choose to intervene, but again: your child’s safety is at the top of their mind. Surely making an innocent parent feel angry and insulted is worth this added layer of protection?

I know first-hand how embittered this particular brand of unfounded suspicion can make you feel. I was once pointedly asked by a stranger what I was doing in a public pool reserved for children. I calmly informed him I was there to observe my child’s swimming lesson, along with all the other parents in the pool – but inside I was seething. Way to ruin my day, jerkwad.

And yet, it is often these “helicopter” citizens who save children at risk. They are the ones who contact police when they see something suspicious, however small. It is their cold, unyielding stares that cause would-be abductors to slink away from the park.

999,999 times out of a million, their actions will be hysterical and unfounded. But it is that other one time we should all focus on and be thankful for.


  • Attitudes like this is why I never interact with children. I don’t need people judging me, a one in a million chance that someone is doing harm, that doesn’t give anyone the right to assume I’m some kind of monster.

    If you still feel the need to judge all men (and even women!) like this, don’t be surprised when you see articles about difficulties attracting child care workers and teachers. Don’t be surprised when daycare centres charge exorbitant amounts and have 10 year waiting lists. If you accuse people of being monsters just for interacting with children, people will just stop interacting with them.

    • I don’t interact with kids whose parents don’t know me, or in a situation where I’m an unknown to the child’s parents. So kid I don’t know at my niece or nephew’s birthday party, fine, same kid down the park, not fine. Context is the difference.

      There’s also a difference in the body language of a parent and child in the situation Chris outlines, and a stranger doing the same thing to that child. Tantrums and self preservation might contain similar actions, but the intensity of those actions during the latter is likely to be higher. THAT is when you should intervene.

      I’m also a massive advocate for people learning some form of self defense. After years studying the martial arts I learned the best form of defense is being aware of your surroundings. To quote Mr. Miyagi, the best block, no be there. We took kids as young as five, taught them how to break holds then run, and where to run to for help. Supermarket? Service desk. Shopping mall? Any shop, they all have panic buttons. On the street? In the direction of the nearest group of people.

    • Totally agree. Hyper paranoia is a great way to ensure nobody interacts with anybody outside their social circle..and even then your odds of being an abuser “rise”.

  • I am a large scary man.
    Dropping my kids off to school causes a visceral reaction in the other parents, I frighten them.
    I do not frighten the kids. To them I am a mythical beast.
    But it is my job to be less threatening, they can be scared if they like, who cares?
    If you get offended you are putting your feelings above someones very real concerns and fears.
    If you take the time to get to know them and they _still_ do it, then, yes, get offended, but society ONLY works if they are allowed to have this opinion by default.

  • I’m sorry Chris but this is a ridiculous and unfounded attitude to have. It’s also woefully hypocritical.

    Early on in your piece you mention just how rare kidnapping is. Then you use an anecdotal situation, such as you dragging your kid out of a store, to create a self-perception that because that “looks weird” that people should have called you on it. Then later on you say you got upset because someone asked you why you were at a kids pool. In none of these situations you were doing anything wrong, and in millions of situations daily, Dads are doing these things, as they should.

    The fear of the stranger kidnapper is one of the absolute worst myths in western society and is perpetuated by awful articles like this. It is, as you actually stated, such a rare occurrence that it actually happened more often when many of us were younger and parents were not so concerned of their minute by minute whereabouts. In most cases, kids are actually kidnapped or abused by members of their own family or friends of the family, rather than some dude sitting at a park waiting for the right time to strike.

    • “it actually happened more often when many of us were younger and parents were not so concerned of their minute by minute whereabouts”

      Doesn’t this prove my point? If widespread paranoia prevents even one child abduction, isn’t it worth the aggravation?

      • Is it really worth making such assumptions around half the population to stop a 2 in 100,000 occurrence?

      • If widespread paranoia prevents even one child abduction, isn’t it worth the aggravation

        exactly this is why we should watch all muslims like hawks especially if they go near a jaycar

        i don’t have to explain how stupid my sentence is and how it directly relates to yours do i.

      • How many children are subjected to other dangers because an adult was afraid to help and walked past instead of stopping? I’d never let a child die in front of me but I’m so afraid of being accused of being a child molester that I’d hang back and probably try and find a woman to help. I’m sure a lot of people would keep walking.
        A lost child is never far from danger but I can’t help without being accused of being the one in a million child molester randomly grabbing kids off the streets.

        It’s so much easier when it’s a lost dog…

      • What would stop a kidnapper from just lying and saying “she’s mine, she is just having a tantrum because daddy won’t buy her the toy she wants” and keeps walking? Should you then attempt to detain the person if you don’t believe them? Isn’t that false imprisonment?

        I don’t want to sound all Men’s Rights Activist or anything but you sound like you are internalising the often exaggerated risk men pose to children.

      • Doesn’t this prove my point? If widespread paranoia prevents even one child abduction, isn’t it worth the aggravation?

        Do you even understand what paranoia is—let alone the widespread kind? Do you really believe a world in which everyone is constantly suspicious and deathly afraid of strangers might do is a world you’d want to live in, let alone want your child to grow up in? I seriously hope not.

        Sure it might’ve made sense at the time—with the event still fresh in your mind and your imagination and parental instincts all afire—that a kicking and screaming child being carried out by an adult is cause for immediate action, but where would you have the line be drawn? What if you had somehow managed to calm her down and simply walked quietly out hand in hand? Maybe you gave her a lolly? Maybe a toy? Do we then act on every instance of a man walking out with a child? What about a woman? Are these not also just as likely abduction scenarios?

        It simply seems as though you took an innocuous everyday occurrence and turned it into a worst-case scenario, and that to me sounds a lot like what actual paranoid people do. Maybe it was just for the sake of content, in which case I’d say maybe go back to the drawing board.

      • training everyone to be paranoid and distrustful isn’t worth it to save one child, you’re harming everyone to save a statistical error. drive more carefully and teach your kids to eat healthy and you’ll save an actually statistically significant amount of children.

      • I do have to wonder, given the extreme unlikelihood of a witnessed abduction, whether increased paranoia would allow some niche and unlikely cases where suspicion over a genuine father or mother would cause true harmful and lasting grievances to that person or family and which is more unlikely.

      • Like Kinesia, I’m a large scary looking man (so my wife tells me), and would be the ideal target for this type of uncontrolled hysteria, every single time I’ve taken my daughter, kicking and screaming (her, not me) out of the shop, whilst she’s bellowing for her Mum/chocolate/help from above.

        But here’s the reality.
        Although I’ve had plenty of foul looks and pointed comments, not one person stopped me from taking that child out of the mall, and putting her into my car. Not even security guards.
        If I can stop people in their tracks with a cold, hard stare, how difficult is it for a paedophile ?

        So to suggest that community overwatch and grassroots vigilantism will deter actual paedophiles is absolute bullshit. In fact, there is even a symptom named after this mental malaise, called the Bystander Effect.
        Happily, such an event is so rare, it makes the news for years when it does happen – ala Madeleine McCann.

        You’re an intelligent man, Chris, so I can’t possibly entertain the notion that you’re serious with what you’re suggesting in this article.
        It’s either a conversation starter, or someone else has posted in your name.

  • And people wonder why so few fathers spend personal time with their own children and why they are so distant with them.
    I can’t say hello to a child in public without second guessing if the parents or passersby are thinking that I am a pedophile.
    Your saying i should be perfectly ok with living my life constantly being viewed as a disgusting monster any time I want to interact with my own children and never feel comfortable with even taking my children to the park without my wife?

  • I did the same thing: over-the-shoulder extraction of my tantrumming 3 yr old daughter from Aldi, leaving her mum to complete the shop. As I took her kicking and screaming back to my car, an older concerned looking lady asked “Is that your child?”, to which I replied “Yes, but you can have her if you like.” She didn’t see the funny side and stayed watching me sat in my car with daughter strapped reluctantly into her seat until my wife reappeared. I had mixed feelings at the time. But in the end I’m glad the lady probably wrote down my number plate just in case.

    • I laughed a lot at this… they are so frustrating at 3!

      I have never been asked if it’s my kid but the thing that kills me the most is the look… The horrible look from other people and parents. My thoughts are if you want to look at me in a horrible way say something otherwise piss off and judge someone else. Most of the time I just ignore my daughter until she stops or rapidly repeats “daddy” 1000000 times.

  • I like your angle on the topic, Chris. I’m glad that you’ve given me a reason to have a positive reaction rather than be affronted if the same thing happens to me. Living in regional Australia, most adults tend to look at me with pity when I have to drag one of my screaming little cherubs out of a store.

    • Yeah I get the guilty/dodgey feeling when I have my DSLR and long lens on getting some photos of my kids at the park for the overseas relatives. I am happy to show people the photos I have taken if they want to check with me but most (ALL) of the time I just get ugly looks and fingers pointed.

  • This reminds me of the story of a lifeguard who was off duty, and saw a child drowning in a river. They wanted to act, but didn’t want to risk going to jail from some over the top parent accusing them of a range of vile acts. So the child drowned.

  • Chris, you and I fit a demographic which is more prone to child abuse issues.
    It isn’t fair that we should be suspected as a result, but we live in a world where it is *necessary* that we be suspected as a result.

    The appropriate level of profiling is debatable, but its necessity is not.

    The argument ‘its not fair’ is easily demolished by ‘your fantasy-world can’t exist’.

    I must be profiled, and that Muslim shopping at Jaycar must also be profiled, because we live in an actual physical reality.

    • I don’t know what reality you live in, but that’s pretty far from the reality the rest of Australia lives in. There is absolutely no need to profile anyone in Australia. We don’t have terrorists attacking us every day, we don’t have pedos pinching kids off the streets. It doesn’t happen. Any suggestion of profiling is just a fascist reaction to a problem that doesn’t exist.

      • Are Police immoral when they use a proven tool (profiling) to assist in solving cases?

        • How is it proven?

          If the police actually cared about profiling, they’d use it on real crimes that happen, not these media beat-ups we see. We’d be profiling husbands prone to domestic violence. Profile people with addictions and substance abuse histories. But we don’t do that, because it doesn’t work.

          Profiling people is just a bigoted way of putting on an appearance of caring about a problem. If you think it’s justified, perhaps you would feel safer in countries like North Korea or Saudi Arabia, where it’s acceptable to take away people’s civil liberties in the name of whatever excuse the ruling governments can conjure up at the time.

          • If I demonstrate that criminal profiling helps solve crimes, will you accept that police should use profiling to help solve crimes?

          • Only if we use it for real crimes that happen, not make believe things that get the media all excited. Sure, let the police (not the public) use it against domestic violence, that’s a real problem we face. Using it against muslims to combat terrorism, or men in general to combat pedophiles, that belongs in the pages of tabloids only, those aren’t significant problems we face as a country.

          • So, to be clear:
            You’re a supervising officer investigating a suicide bombing.
            You know that in 2015 99.5% of suicide bombers were Muslims.
            But, you shouldn’t send someone down to the local Mosque to ask if anyone thinks they can offer a suspect, because that would be profiling?

          • Actually, Australia does generate suicide bombers, and lose people to them.

            But most planned Australian bombings are interdicted by your excellent intelligence services.
            Would you like me to show you how profiling is part of that prevention effort?

          • Jake Bilardi
            Zynab Al Harbiya
            Gayle Airlie
            Belinda Allen
            Renae Anderson
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            Christina Betmilik
            Matthew Bolwerk
            Abbey Borgia
            Debbie Borgia
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          • Maybe you should go start your own article, because your topic has absolutely nothing to with this article.

          • So, your argument is:
            -Australian Jihadists don’t count if they go overseas to kill.
            -Australian corpses don’t count if they happen on holiday.

            Enough, I’m going to go chat with some humans.

  • Are the statistics of women doing the abducting of children substantially lower than men, i’m sure i’ve heard of multiple cases where a woman is an accomplice. So ideally any kind of distress like that should be treated the same regardless of the gender of the parent.

    Although I do tend to agree with Chris on this, I’d rather be quizzed about extricating my daughter(s) mid tantrum instead of some low life taking them (after all i’m sure i can easily prove i’m the father by providing 4,000 photos on my phone of them over the last 3 years) or by simply asking the child. I doubt the average citizen would step in if it got rough though if they are taking a kid they wont be above causing serious harm to anyone in their way.

    I was at the shops the other day and my 3yo was proclaiming loudly “i want mum, i don’t want dad” i was wondering if i was going to get approached by anyone.

  • Accusing someone of being a pedophile without proof is defamatory. If anyone ever does it to me, they can look forward to a call from my lawyer.

  • Counterpoint: one smart-but-awful kid I know, mid-tantrum, with her dad at his wits’ end, started to yell “help! this man isn’t my daddy! Help!” when he picked her up to take her to the car.

    Happily, she backed down when he said “fine; you can stay here, then; I’m off” and started to walk away.

  • Terrible article Chris, maybe one of your most blantant pieces of clickbait.

    There really is no need for this ouvert paranoia, and you do the community and your child a disservice with it.

    By showing your child that this attitude is ok, that it is acceptable for strangers to approach you in anger and cast such disgusting aspertions, will teach her to fear men. She will think that men go around making the worst accusations possible against her father. It will end up making her nuerotic.

    Chris, This is wrong, and you should reconsider your attitude.

    • “showing your child that … it is acceptable for strangers to approach you in anger and cast such disgusting aspertions”

      That didn’t happen.
      You owe an apology.

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