The city of Brighton, England, went into a panic last week when a witness told police of a possible child abduction at the shopping center, and closed circuit TV footage showed a man squatting down to talk to a little girl in a pink coat.
As the Daily Mirror explains:
Police had scrambled helicopters, searched cars leaving Churchill Square shopping centre and carried out door-to-door enquiries after someone contacted them saying they thought they had witnesses a 'kidnapping'.
CCTV images of a man leading a child by the hand in the street was later on released by Sussex Police.
However some seven hours after the alert was first raised, at around 12.30am, Sussex Police revealed that the girl was in fact with her father - and she is safe and sound, asleep, at home.
A man contacted them shortly before midnight as a result of news and social media coverage to say that the image released by police of man and child was of him and his three-year-old daughter.
He told them she had been reluctant to go home at the time.
Officers have been to their address and confirmed the information.
Some may say it's better to be "safe than sorry." But leaping to an extremely unlikely conclusion from an extremely normal event -- seeing an adult with a child -- is not being "safe." It is being hysterical. It is filling in the blanks of, "Gee, I wonder what's going on," with, "HORROR! PERVERSION! PREDATOR! KIDNAPPING!" as if that's a likely scenario unfolding in plain view, in the afternoon, at a place where parents and kids normally go (and then leave from) together.
We were alerted to this story by Frank Furedi, author of How Fear Works, who writes in his book (which came out before this incident):
A majority of people asked to give their interpretation of a photo of a man cuddling a child responded by stating that this was the picture of a paedolphile instead of that of a loving father.
Can we agree that something is wrong when we leap to the worst possible conclusion upon seeing something that is actually nice? In an email Furedi added that now, "Some fathers told me that they think and look around before they kiss their kids in public. Society is all too ready to interpret the most innocent of gestures as a prelude to abusing a child."
So our job is to try to push the re-set button.
If you see an adult with a child in plain daylight, it is not irresponsible to assume they are caregiver and child. Remember the stat from David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. He has heard of NO CASE of a child kidnapped from its parents in public and sold into sex trafficking.
We are wired to see "Taken" when we're actually witnessing something far less exciting called Everyday Life. Let's tune in to reality. - L