If anyone needs me, I’ll be down at the end of the garden with a shovel and pickaxe building an anti-paedophile bunker.
I’ve got it all planned out: there will be a whole wall containing instruments of torture (Elnett and lighters, fishing wire, vinegar, a JML Ped-Egg, the entire Bob Dylan back catalogue…) and a shitload of home comforts (tunnel to the kitchen, Sky Fibre Optic, Duran Duran’s greatest hits, every conceivable kind of charger and every conceivable kind of device, a lifetime supply of PomBears & chocolate raisins that will last two and a half weeks and a wine tap, natch). Then my family and I will bed safely down behind the very fetching reinforced steel hatch and wait for the UK to sort it’s fucking lunacy out without us.
It’s reached the point where I’m scared to open a fucking filing cabinet, hoover behind the sideboard or open the fucking chest freezer lest a predatory paedophile leaps out. The evil fuckers appear to be and have been EVERYWHERE. From the wide open tippiest top of the government, religion and other *cough* notable organisations, right down to the darkest depths of the murkiest internet. The whole of the UK is eyeballing the whole of the UK with a doubtful and questioning ‘are YOU….?’. It’s at the point where people are scrutinising their entire childhoods in case there were any creepy relatives, parents friends or minor celebrities that might have been remotely inappropriate during that holiday in Camber Sands in 1982.
Don’t mistake my humour for denial. And I’m certainly not making light of the issue, far from it. It’s utterly fucking TERRIFYING that we are seeing a deluge of historical and current child sex abuse cases. The details of which become less vague and more disturbing with every new court case. It would be neglectful of us not to acknowledge the risks. My husband and I talk to our daughter in an open and frank way that we hope will ensure that she feels entirely comfortable talking to us about anything. She knows about Stranger Danger and what to do if she is lost or feels vulnerable. We attempt to arm her with everything she needs to stay safe. It’s our job as parents to do so.
But it’s also our job to give her a sense of balance and good judgement. To teach her to see the good in the world while exercising necessary, but not excessive caution. For every perceived pervert there is a genuine smiling person who just thinks that kids are daft and cute and funny and delightful. Happy, trustworthy people who want to help lost children, push swings and play endless games of snap for no other reason than it’s A Nice Thing To Do.
Kids are brilliant, after all. Spending time in their company can drive you completely batshit bonkers (fuck you, inventor of Lego. My poor feet may never recover. And Polly Pocket can get to fuck too, with its stupid fucking teeny weeny accessories that stick in the Dyson and nestle in the toes of shoes), but equally you discover little worlds with their own secret languages, how leaves double up as cups, plates, hair accessories and animal baskets, questions that you’d never even contemplated (“mum, do germs think that a drop of water is a pond or a lake?”) and the secretly therapeutic joys of rainbow looming. And a little hand that reaches up to hold yours because it makes them feel safer to be connected to you is the perfect normal trust that exists between adult and child. “Safety first, mummy!” as my tiny daughter cheerfully pipes when I change the hand she’s gripping to make sure she’s on the inside of the pavement. Instinctively.
Human beings care and protect. We love, even though in essence we are all a bunch of grumpy shits with hangovers, overdrafts and many and varying discontents. Our capacity for kindness and care is an overarching part of our collective humanity. You only have to look at the thousands upon millions of reams of beautiful things that we produce as a species to see that we’re not all bad. And the glorious way we come together in times of need. From the tiniest gesture to the grandest declaration of love, we’re actually pretty cool.
Take heed of the dangers, but don’t submit to them. For every pickpocket there’s someone who will hand your wallet in. For every person who might do us harm, there are more who want to make the world better. Be aware, but don’t lose sight. And in the worst case scenario, remember that there is literally no force more terrifying than a ferocious parent let loose with a JML Ped-Egg, fishing wire and vinegar.