Sunday, 6 September 2009

Look before you leap

Over-zealous, interfering busybodies who get the wrong end of the stick can cause so much trouble for their unfortunate victims. Especially if it's the red-hot issue of child abuse.

A couple sitting on the beach at Fortaleza in north west Brazil decided that a middle-aged Italian tourist was acting inappropriately by being "over-affectionate" to a young girl.

Mindful of the strict new anti-paedophilia laws, they promptly reported him to the police. He was arrested, kept in custody and now faces 15 years in jail for child molestation.

Except that the situation wasn't quite as it seemed to the vigilante couple. The girl was actually the man's eight year old daughter and he was giving her an affectionate kiss, as he has doubtless done hundreds of times before.

His daughter and his Brazilian wife both insisted vigorously that he'd done nothing wrong and that the arrest was ridiculous, but the police were unmoved. His wife said the allegations could destroy her family.

The story doesn't tell us if the over-reacting couple were informed of what was actually happening, and if so whether they were apologetic. But they certainly turned someone's pleasant holiday into a sudden nightmare.

And ironically, the child they were trying to protect must have been distressed and worried by her father's disappearance.

It's all too easy to jump into a situation with the best of motives but completely misunderstanding what's going on. Especially when the global hysteria about child abuse is making people absurdly over-sensitive to quite normal behaviour.

Look before you leap is a very wise old saying.

PS: According to the BBC, a fresh attempt to release the man failed at the weekend and a new attempt will be made on Tuesday. Apparently child sex abuse is a big problem in Brazil, particularly in the north east, which may be why the Brazilian couple were so quick to report the incident. Another report said the little girl told the police that parents often kiss their children on the lips in Italy.

According to the Guardian on Tuesday, the man has now been rushed to hospital with high blood pressure and is under police guard. The initial police inquiry should be completed by Thursday.

21 comments:

Rummuser said...

phew!

Leah said...

oy.

Nick said...

Phew? Oy? Is this some new code you've invented? And did you realise Brazil is larger than Australia? No, I didn't think you did.

Grannymar said...

The girl in the photo is not a young child, but I know what you mean.

I know of two situations that were totally misread by onlookers, far too long to go into in a comment. One was funny, but the other could have been like the situ above and very upsetting for the person wronged.

Nick said...

Grannymar - I couldn't find a suitable pic with a young child, so used that one. It's so important to check out our instant assumptions before we make accusations about somebody. Like assumptions of stealing.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

That is ghastly. I hope the man's lawyers are able to get the case thrown out, but in the climate of new laws the courts are eager to uphold, it doesn't look good for him - or his family.

Leah said...

Ha! "Oy" is Jewish for "Oh dear God no" as you may have guessed. Although it can mean many other things.

It's incredible how pithy I was today!

Nick said...

Leah - I had no idea, my knowledge of Jewish/Hebrew is as puny as my knowledge of 8 year olds! I imagine "Oh dear God no" is more or less what the three of them said when he was arrested.

Having just looked up oy, I see it's an abbreviation of oy vey, which I'm indeed aware of. But I didn't know it could mean "chagrin, dismay, exasperation or pain".

Baino said...

I don't know Nick but there must be more to this. People aren't convicted over such a simple misunderstanding surely? Although the 'paranoia' felt by busy bodies is unjustified. My photography tutor is often 'tut tutted' and berated if a child wonders into his shot. He's a photographer not a paedophile!

Nick said...

Baino - Well, that's what I thought, can he really be facing jail because of a stupid misunderstanding? It seems so. But I'm scanning the papers for any further information....

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm not too sure about all of this, Nick. I'm sure, if he's innocent, he'll be exonerated in court.
This stuff tends to trigger me having been a victim. My daughter and I watched in disbelief in a restaurant last week as a mother and her approximately 8 year old son behaved completed inappropriately with each other. The father, sitting across from them, made a point of not watching them. I felt like reporting it but didn't. I'm still at a loss.
XO
WWW

Cinnamon said...

I suppose that the education campaign about paedophilia must be working. I hope that if this man is innocent, he will be released- but on the other hand there are many, many children across the world who are in the hands of paedophiles and are helpless.

it is indeed a wise old saying !

Nick said...

www - Yes, hopefully he'll be cleared by the court, but not after a great deal of unnecessary anguish. I guess you should have reported the restaurant incident - genuinely inappropriate behaviour needs to be stopped.

Cinnamon - Indeed, there are tens of thousands of children who are being abused and maltreated all over the globe and it's an uphill struggle trying to prevent it and repair the psychic damage.

Liz said...

But so sad when it goes crazy. When the boys were young Husband ran the church football team and thought nothing of putting an arm of comfort around a boy who'd fallen or hurt himself. Now he'd be a fool to do it.

Nick said...

Liz - Exactly, now we're all terrified of touching strange children, a very sad situation. I was reading though that Michelle Obama touches children all the time to make them more relaxed in her presence. The First Lady must be specially exempt from the new etiquette....

conortje said...

tough one I suppose - weighing up the idea of protecting those that need it the most and a parents right to parent as they see fit. I can only hope that justice will win through!

Nick said...

Conor - It IS a tough one, reconciling the different interests. Particularly as child abuse is a very serious problem in many countries. I'm following the outcome of the case with great interest.

Megan said...

Wow. I kiss my son on the lips all the time. And my dad, too.

I guess we should start shaking hands, instead, just to be safe?

Please do keep us posted on this poor guy. I hope he gets released.

Nick said...

Megan - I think it's terrible that perfectly innocent signs of affection are now becoming taboo because of this child abuse paranoia. I shall certainly keep you posted.

Los Angelista said...

How awful for this family. I know the statistics for abuse are out of control but not everyone who kisses their child is doing it. So sad.

Nick said...

Liz - Exactly, something is seriously amiss when kisses are automatically equated with child abuse. Whatever happened to ordinary parental affection?