When I was younger, my mom ran a daycare from our home. This was during the mid '70's through the early '80's. When we started keeping the kids, there was no common social paranoia about child molestation.
I can remember when things shifted somewhat though. I don't recall if it was a local or national story, but there was a daycare provider that became the center of a huge scandal in which many of the kids started reporting sexual abuse.
This was in the news for months as more and more children came forth and the couple who ran the daycare were vilified and torn apart by the press.
It turns out later that it's likely that nothing ever happened.
But the damage was done and even in our own daycare, we could sense a shift in public perception. We all became more guarded and careful about our interactions with the children. I was a kid myself, but even I started feeling afraid of being accused of something untoward.
And you know, I still carry a bit of that paranoia with me.
I hate that, like with everything else that was once good, a few bad apples take our society one more notch backward.
I find it really sad that most people are no longer comfortable giving children physical reassurance or helping a distressed or endangered child without fear of their help being seen as inappropriate.
Just a few weeks ago, here in town, a three year old boy was seen wandering down along a busy main road with a dog. And instead of feeling comfortable getting the boy off the road and riding him home, a concerned driver instead, had to put on her hazard lights and drive slowly alongside the boy until the police could get there.
Something similar also happened a few months back, when two extremely young kids were found playing on some train tracks. The driver who found them used his truck to block traffic until the police could arrive, but felt too paranoid to get out of his car and approach the kids.
So which way will public perception swing when a child ends up getting hurt because of "hands-off" approach?
One memory I have that means a lot to me to this day is that of my fourth grade teacher holding me on her lap while I sobbed about a problem I was having. At that moment I needed to be listened to and cared for by someone to which I looked up and respected. I'd hate to think that doesn't happen anymore.