Jonathan Calder has written a lovely little observation on Sarah's Law this morning. I agree wholeheartedly when he says the idea that every contact between adult and child needs to be licensed or policed by the state seems to me a totalitarian fantasy.
I adore my seven-year-old daughter, I would obviously hate for her to come to harm. But to expect to monitor every movement she makes and every person she meets is clearly nothing short of ludicrous, and doesn't actually do her any favours. She's growing up and learning, and there's no lesson learned more powerfully than by direct experience. I'm gutted that kids playing out is no longer the norm. It was only 22 years ago I was her age, and had a range of a couple of streets to roam with my friends after school, and went to the corner shop for sweets on my own, as they were all within sight of my home. Nowadays if you let your seven-year-old have that much free rein you'll be getting a visit from Social Services before long for having them 'inappropriately supervised'.
Childhood in the new millennium is all about sitting indoors and getting obese, scared to set foot out of the house because the world is full of paedophiles who lurk round every corner like slavering wolves. GET A GRIP, BREEDERS. The world is no more dangerous in that sense than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. You're doing your offspring far more harm filling their heads with patriarchal sex-obsessed brainwashing from cartoons and their tummies with junk food than you would letting them have some fresh air, exercise, sound instruction from you and a bit of responsibility for themselves!
While I'm trying to get certain things through the heads of hysterical parents here -'Innocent' does not mean 'pure and holy', it means' blank canvas'. Human beings are not born as special angels who can do no harm, to then grow into worthless hooded figures of hate at around age 15. Shocker, I know! Your precious little princes and princesses are just very young people with a lot to learn, and your job as parents is to filter down as much as possible in the way of examples of reasonable behaviour and how to live a good life as you can while they're in your care, so that when they leave it as young adults, the world will be a better place for having them in it. The world is not going to be a better place for your children, and your childrens' children, if we're all raising this generation to think that everyone who isn't government approved is a rapist-in-waiting. By the time a child is in junior school, you can explain to them perfectly straightforwardly in an age-appropriate manner what sex is, why adults do it, and how puberty comes about and why it's not a good idea for them to be involved in sex before their bodies and minds are ready. If your experience as a parent is anything like mine, you'll need to as images of sex are everywhere, and your kids will be drawing their own conclusions if you don't give them an explanation. Information is power. Limiting the information your kids have is leaving them powerless.
I am so sick to death of the hysteria. Serial rapists? Not as bad as paedophiles. People who maim, torture, commit arson, murder, armed robbery, abuse of the elderly? Not as bad as paedophiles. Let's decide that every other criminal, regardless of their propensity for reoffending, is considered to have paid their debt to society once they get out of prison, and left anonymous to give them a chance to make a good life for themselves. Not anyone who has touched a child though. They're different. Because children aren't resilient, they can't cope with the wind blowing on them. They're to be kept immune from bad things happening to them, unlike grown men and women.
Guess what else? Sarah's Law won't even guarantee your child doesn't ever meet a child abuser. All it will do is make you aware of all the poor bastards in your neighbourhood who ever got convicted. The ones who haven't ever been caught and convicted are safe from your fearful, hateful attitude. They might even be people you've known and trusted for years. They might even be living in your house. After all, in 2007, one or both parents were responsible for 69.9 percent of child abuse or neglect fatalities [source].
So, Sarah's Law is warped from my point of view, because it feeds into this growing culture where children are taught to mistrust and fear everyone they don't know well. This sad, sick culture where men are afraid to make eye contact and smile at children. The country I live in is one where everyone is considered a guiding light and a precious angel until they go through puberty, at which point they become second class citizens.
What is even more warped though, is the idea that party colleagues of mine are part of a government whose Home Office will put out an official supporting statement when they roll out Sarah's Law, which is repeated on the BBC evening news and even in the broadsheet press, saying "more than 60 children were protected from abuse during the pilot scheme which started in four areas of the UK in September 2008". I'm sorry, what kind of farcical NONSENSE is that? Can you name these 60 children that would have surely have been abused had there not been a register of previous child abuse offenders available for parents to view? I don't think you can. I think that's a fucked up thing to say, in that case.