Real abuse is to ignore a lost child in need of help

Monday 31 March 2014

As a social experiment, the TV show filmed for an hour the reactions of crowds of shoppers in a busy London shopping mall to the sight of a little girl of seven, standing clutching her doll, clearly lost and alone. Later her five-year old sister posed sitting down. None of the adults stopped; hundreds walked past without pause until at last a grandmother (tellingly, not a grandfather) turns around and asks the younger girl if she is all right.

What Channel 5 devastatingly demonstrated was that as a society, we are now so scared of being accused of sexual deviancy that our ancient human instincts to protect a lost child have all but disappeared. It’s a frightening thought but frankly it’s been on the cards for decades.

Many years ago when my youngest children were very small there was a huge paedophile-ring scare in Cleveland. Suddenly, so-called “experts” were telling us that one in 10 adults were paedophiles. We were all astonished and suddenly terrified that any normal affection displayed to a child not our own could be seen as grooming or abuse.

Even normal domestic moments such as putting suntan lotion on a little girl in the garden became a worry. I vividly remember a lightbulb moment at our old Manchester house when I suddenly thought I ought to stop Richard applying suncream to Jessica, then our six-year-old daughter’s best friend. Instead I took over.

Ridiculous of course but the number of people who came under suspicion of paedophilia back then seemed endless. And so it went on. And as the years have gone by, our idea of ourselves as benevolent adults, programmed to love children and protect them from harm, has somehow become distorted and poisoned; as if every loving instinct in fact masks a horrible perversion.

Read the rest of Richard and Judy's Daily Express column here.
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  • I agree with you about people being frightened to approach the little girl for the reasons you say, but i think as a society we have changed so much too. We are not the close knit community we all used to be. Lots of people in London have moved because it has changed beyond recognition and the neighbours we used to talk to are no longer there people who have filled the houses and flats of the people who have moved out of London are foreign to us and therefore there is no relation or friend around the corner or people you trust that is a lot to do with it. You could knock on any door and get help Now i would not do that? Why didnt any of the women stop? I would have.