Are we teaching kids to fear men?

Filed under: Big Kids, Just For Dads, Health & Safety: Babies

A while back, I wrote about men in the UK shying away from volunteer work with children for fear of being labeled as pedophiles. Based on the comments I received, this isn't an uncommon fear.

Are we, as parents, teaching our children to fear men? This public service ad in Virginia has some people worried that we are. Intended to prevent sexual abuse, the billboard shows a male adult holding a child's hand with the caption "It doesn't feel right when I seem them together."

If Ellie saw that billboard, she wouldn't understand the message. But the sign isn't there for her benefit. "This campaign isn't targeting children," says Rebecca Odor of the Virginia Department of Heath. "This campaign is targeting adults in the community to learn the warning signs about child sexual abusers and to take an action step if they suspect something is wrong." The ad points you to a website with information about the warning signs of child sexual abuse.

But Peter Stearns, a professor at George Mason University, says male sexual predators seeking out children isn't all that common and this growing fear of men is unfounded. "You are talking about singling out a large group -- almost half the population -- for stuff that in fact involves a small number of people," he says.

If you were to see my husband holding hands with Ellie, you might think something was wrong. They don't look like they belong together - he is dark-skinned and she is very fair. He has become accustomed to the suspicious looks - and sometimes questions - he gets when they are out together. There is a part of me that feels grateful to strangers who are watching out for Ellie. But another part of me feels bad for my husband, and other men, who must constantly feel defensive of their right to be holding hands with a child in public.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.