We need to start thinking that most strangers will do no harm to our children.
We need to start thinking that most strangers will do no harm to our children. EpicStockMedia

Our kids are paying the price of 'stranger danger'

THIS Father's Day, Australia's dads - both current and future - need more than breakfast in bed or a shiny new impact drill. They need to be brought out of the shadows.

That shadow has hung over men for decades, since stranger danger warned my generation that unknown men hid around every corner ready to snatch us.

Tales of good men publicly shamed are lodged in the brains of men. Any one of us could face that accusation or implication, no matter how brave, heroic or helpful we are.

Big-hearted men have been shoved to the sidelines.

If you see a young boy in trouble beyond the waves, do you swim out to help even if their mother treats you with suspicion?

I caught a boy running towards a road at a tourist strip just as his family rushed around a corner. They saw me holding their son, but probably not why. I wondered if I'd be accused of something. I wasn't. The mum and dad were thankful and relieved. So was I.

For children under the age of 15, strangers are responsible for 2.8% of child abuse incidents. Mothers, fathers and step-parents by comparison represent close to 80%. (ABS statistics 2005)
For children under the age of 15, strangers are responsible for 2.8% of child abuse incidents. Mothers, fathers and step-parents by comparison represent close to 80%. (ABS statistics 2005)

Writer Clementine Ford has said that if it takes a village to raise children, men need to be part of it. She tells of almost forcing men to help out by asking them to hold her baby when she runs out of hands. The men are probably thrilled with that unquestioning trust.

Meanwhile a new idea to shift "stranger danger" to "tricky adults" is gaining traction.

Strangers are not the ones we need to fear. Child abuse is more likely to come from the hand of a mother, father, relative or acquaintance. The tricky adult idea is something I'd teach my daughter, but one line rubbed me the wrong way.

The rate of sexual abuse of children by strangers is 11.1% overall, which although higher than physical/emotional abuse, still means that all strangers are less likely to abuse your child than someone your child knows.  (ABS 2005)
The rate of sexual abuse of children by strangers is 11.1% overall, which although higher than physical/emotional abuse, still means that all strangers are less likely to abuse your child than someone your child knows. (ABS 2005)

Children are told that if they're lost, they should freeze or find "a mum with kids".

Why is it never a dad with kids? Better avoid them just to be safe.

It's time we rethought the world.

If we trust our wives and husbands, grandparents, neighbours and friends to look after our children - and we should - then we need to change how we look at strangers.

If we want to live in communities that support us, we need to start trusting people we don't know.

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