Transatlantic predator panic

It kind of surprised me seeing this coming out of Britain, that "the specter of the predatory pedophile is everywhere." I thought it was everywhere only here in the US, where we've had a predator panic going for some time and it has subsided somewhat (see "Predator panic," which I wrote back in May 2006). It doesn't surprise me, however, that this good question is coming out of the UK (in the same BBC blog post): "Have we got our response to child sex abuse in proportion? Or … are we in danger of destroying the very thing we aim to protect – a trusting relationship between adults and children?" I wish blogger Mark Easton had answered or at least expanded on that theme. Instead, he makes a different but related valid point about the sheer numbers of child abusers ("The NSPCC [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children] estimates that at any one time, 1 million children are suffering sexual abuse") and how most are people the children know (and still more are never found out). But I do think that question about society's response deserves serious consideration on both sides of the Atlantic. Heightened fears lead to strong reactions, often overreaction, which reduces trust and communication between parents and children. When parents act out of fear and get categorical, teens tend to seek even more distance from them than normal adolescent development would call for and go "underground," where – not necessarily but possibly – they could be at greater risk. I think working through the risks and adult fears together, openly and calmly, is a more effective approach at both the household and societal levels.

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