Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Gamekeeper turned poacher

This article from CNET appeared in my news aggregator this morning. It's a worrying thing that people who are actively involved in investigating crimes against children sometimes seem to get drawn in themselves. I wish I could remember where it was that I recently read of someone found to have an incredible number of child porn images on his computer (I mean thousands upon thousands) - having been himself responsible for tracking down and bringing such voyeurs to justice. The morbid fascination aspect appears to overcome the inherent revulsion over time, perhaps they become desensitised by constant exposure.

I know that I caught myself watching a news story about some horrific event recently while eating my dinner... and I can't even remember what the event was. Just a few years ago, coverage of the genocide in Rwanda put me off my food altogether and had me simultaneously sobbing and retching on and off for days. Seeing the plight of those newly widowed women with starving, dying children made me take positive action within the community I was in a position to reach. I was passionate, dedicated, committed. And I made a difference - albeit a small one. But now? I write out the occasional cheque as a salve to my seared conscience and get on with my incredibly busy life.

I know the two situations are very different, but is the principle of desensitisation not a constant? I am less affected by the plight of the people I see on television, because I have seen so many of them over the years. I am not about to take up weapons and participate in the violent slaughter of innocents, but what is the Edward Burke saying? ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.

In case it sounds as if I'm coming out in favour of initiatives like DOPA, let me hasten to say that this is not the case. What I am saying is that we need to teach our children to be safe, because it seems that the difference between protector and predator is in some cases, simply a matter of time. When the gamekeeper turns poacher, the prey had better be equipped to protect itself. And just in case people think that online is the only context in which this sort of thing happens, let's just remember that we constantly hear about yet another person who was abused by his/her priest or teacher in childhood.

Online safety is one of Vicki Davis's hot topics, and she has posted some brilliant suggestions to help parents and teachers here, she also pointed to some excellent clips on this subject recently. We need more of this, and it needs to be posted everywhere where the kids are! I know I have invoked parental authority and forced my kids to view every one of the clips, in spite of their protestations that, "we already know all this stuff, Mom!" (ah yes, my boys: I remember being invulnerable and immortal - it wasn't as long ago as you might think). I don't want to scare them with horror stories, but these clips get the pitch just about right, I reckon.

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