Monday, June 25, 2007

More thoughts of Madeleine

*frustrated*
Let's say that you're on vacay with the fam'. You're walking in a marketplace,...maybe you're having an iced frappacino and munching on local cuisine. Maybe you're trying to find that special souvenir for your mother-in-law. As you're taking in the ambiance of the place you're visiting, you look up and see a child that looks familiar. He/She looks familiar because you've seen a picture of a child who resembles the child you are looking at in the crowded marketplace. That picture was on the news, a milk carton, and the front page of every newspaper in the free world. What do you do??
Do you...
A) Think to yourself, "Wow...he/she really looks like that missing kid." and go on shopping/eating/drinking?
B) Note where you are and decide that, when you get back to your room, you'll call the police and report your sighting?
C) Decide that you can't possibly be seeing "that missing kid" and forget his/her face as soon as you look back at your goodies?
D) Call out the missing child's name? Or, suavely move in for a closer look and maybe a "How old is your little girl/boy?" chat with the caregiver?

I vote "D"!
If you think that child looks like the kid from the milk carton AND the child turns around when you yell, "MADELEINE!", then odds are... you have just received confirmation that it's time to whip out your cell phone and dial emergency services. If the child doesn't respond, then pretend that you were calling out to someone who "looked familiar." No harm. No foul.
If you think you see a child who might look like Madeleine, or any other missing child, move in for a closer look. Most parents love to get compliments about their children. If you see a little girl who's eerily silent or obedient, say something to the adult with the child. "My...she's a patient little one. How old is she?" If the person wigs out and hustles the kid away, CALL THE AUTHORITIES. If the person says, "Gee, thank you for noticing. She's four.",...again, no harm, no foul.

I just don't understand the number of people who are saying, "Well....I think I might have seen Madeleine, but I didn't want to intervene." Or, "I'm 99% sure I saw Madeleine. I'm positive.", but then wait an hour or so to tell someone who might actually be able to do something.

20 comments:

Fiery Ewok said...

Please, from one mommy to another, tell me you have made up those comments about Madeleine. Please tell me that people would intervene and rather look like an ass because a child is more important than temporary embarassment.

You're not going to ... are you? They really didn't call. They didn't want to get involved. Until it was safe and all they had to do was get gussied up for the camera and look good for the interview.

That is appalling! Shame on them. Shame Shame Shame!

Aerik said...

You titled the post "More thoughts of Madeline" -- where's the first thoughts of Madeline?

Aerik said...

Nevermind. I googled "site:possummomma.blogspot.com madeline" and found it. This is a followup of the Maddy Mcain story, right?

The Music Won't Stop said...

That's very sad, and disheartening. And frightening. To think if one of my children went missing, there's a good chance no one would speak up if they were spotted. Have people always been such pansies? Who cares if you're wrong! That's not an excuse. It's worth the risk, because if you're right, you could help bring a little girl back to her family. Instead, she slips farther away and who knows when (or if) she'll ever be seen again.

Xzanron said...

As a bloke, in today's witch-hunt society I'm far too afraid to go anywhere near a child just in case someone screams paedo and I get lynched.

If I see a young child on the street, alone, my instinct would be to see if I could help her, ask where her parents are.

Then my self-preservation sense kicks in. The mum might look out from a shop and see "a strange man 'interested' in her daughter".

So I walk past... hating myself for my cowardice and worrying about if the child will be ok.

(Before you ask I did once try to ask someone else, a woman, try to help me locate the mother, but she just gave me the cold shoulder and walked away)

Atheist in a mini van. said...

As a bloke, in today's witch-hunt society I'm far too afraid to go anywhere near a child just in case someone screams paedo and I get lynched.
Good point. I guess I didn't think about that potential outcome. :( *sigh* And, I'm sure you're right. I'm sure there are a few whack jobs who would take the gesture the wrong way and try to penalize you for giving a damn.

Then my self-preservation sense kicks in. The mum might look out from a shop and see "a strange man 'interested' in her daughter".

So I walk past... hating myself for my cowardice and worrying about if the child will be ok.

This makes me so sad - and frustrated. Not frustrated with you, but frustrated with the way the world is. I might be part of the problem, though, having read this... a couple of years ago, this smarmy guy approached my daughter at a public fountain/playground area. I have to admit that I bristled because his approach was unexpected. Turns out, he was just returning a hair clip that had fallen from her hair and he walked back to his family. But, all I saw was a "strange guy." Wow. Thanks for jogging that humbling memory.

Fiery Ewok said...

In those cases it probably would be easier for a woman than a man to approach a child.

There have been a few instances where I saw a child, library and shopping, who was crying for his/her mommy and no adult to be seen. I didn't exactly approach the kid, but walked nearish to him/her and started craning by neck looking for a concerned adult. Both times it didn't take me long to observe worried Mom or big sister coming to the rescue.

Either way, if the kid had been at all standoffish with the adult who ended up "rescuing them" I would have said something and gotten involved.

If anyone ever approached me and said, "Your child looks like the face on a missing child poster" while startled I would cooperate fully to let them know, yes the child is mine, yes you can talk to her/him, no you're not taking him/her out of the room to do it.

Better to answer a few odd questions than for the real missing child to go missing.

Really, what parent would be horrified at the prospect of reassuring someone that yes that really is their child?

ShadesOfGrey said...

Some very thought-provoking comments. I completely understand xzanron's perspective, because I, too, have been suspicious of strange men who ended up being helpful.

On a slightly (or maybe not) lighter note, I am one of those people who occasionally does not recognize her own children, let alone a stranger's face on a milk carton (or Amber Alerts). For me, the joke about all Asians looking the same (uh, I'm Asian, so don't give me flack) applies to people of all colors.

darrell said...

As a bloke, in today's witch-hunt society I'm far too afraid to go anywhere near a child just in case someone screams paedo and I get lynched.

I'm not sure if you're from the UK, but you used the word "bloke" so being the ignorant American I am I'll just assume you are for a sec. I read a startling article over at BBC News the other week about how there's a massive shortage of male mentors or "Big Brothers" in the UK for at-risk youth because the men are afraid of being seen as sexual predators. This is so sad and disheartening.

I'm currently living and teaching in Japan and I have to say I was shocked by the vast numbers of male elementary school teachers when I first arrived. I'm not going to lie, the first thing I thought was "Wow, that's brave, if we were in America these men would be seen as perverts." However that's a stupid prejudice, and the truth is that the myth of the "sexual predator" is one that has been irresponsibly reported by the media for ages. The plain fact is that the vast majority of sexual predators are not strangers with candy or people who come up to kids on the street (or even in chatrooms), the majority are actually parents, relatives, etc. This Maddy case, as horrible as it is, is very much a rare occurance. Children are infinitely more likely to be abused at home or very near the home...not by strange men in public places. Yet we can't seem to shake the image of the skeevy pervert because he's such a great scapegoat. No one wants to think of their average Joe next-door neighbor as a pedophile, but the numbers don't lie.

PS- PMomma, I haven't commented on the blog in awhile but I'm definitely still reading. I love it as always. Sorry this post was such a downer...

Chakolate said...

I think calling out the child's (suspected) name is a mistake, unless you're physically able to restrain the kidnapper. A kidnapper who hears you call the child will vamoose.

Your second suggestion, chatting up the adult, is a much better one.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

There is a psychological effect that could be at play here, can't remeber what its called.

The more people around the more likely no one will help, because someone else can/should do it.

I echo xzanron's concerns but then, maybe its a risk we should be willing to take. You going up to the child might prevent a predator from striking. You could always criticise the parent too

Parent: "What are looking at pervert?"

Me: "Excuse me, You're lucky I am not a pervert. I was merely concerned for your childs safety maybe you should keep closer tabs on them.

Maybe we should practise a verbal response to being accused( I do a similar thing in conflict scenarios for Martial Arts training).

Xzanron said...

Thanks for your comments PMOMMA. I hate what society is doing to us. Every black man a danger, very "hoodie" teenager a criminal, every immigrant a thief, every bloke a paedo.

I'm still trying to figure out how to fight it without getting trampled.

Darrell

I'm not sure if you're from the UK, but you used the word "bloke" so being the ignorant American I am I'll just assume you are for a sec

Not sufficiently ignorant to fail to spot the clues. "mum" is another clue :). I'll try to make use of the words colour and honour next time.

I'm not going to lie, the first thing I thought was "Wow, that's brave, if we were in America these men would be seen as perverts."

Yes, and that's the frightening thing. We are being conditioned by the media to think what they want us to think. It's a modern analogue to traditional religious indoctrination. Repeat something often enough and people will believe it, the media also have the added advantage of plausability which religion lacks, and they don't tend to report untruths... they just misplace the emphasis.

Sean

Me: "Excuse me, You're lucky I am not a pervert. I was merely concerned for your childs safety maybe you should keep closer tabs on them.

It's a good idea, but unfortunately people will automatically side with the woman and the child. While my scepticism and cynicism should make it harder, I suspect my first reaction confronted with a scene like that would be to side with woman and child.

Vest said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Atheist in a mini van. said...

Vest left an exceedingly long commentary which can be viewed on his own blog, here.
http://dailygaggle.blogspot.com/

I'm not sure who he intended the reader to be, or if it was just spam... but, it was a lengthy cut/paste of his latest journal entry.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Bloke and Mum are both in wide usage in Australia as well.

Robert said...

I have to say that as a male I feel a little uncomfortable trying to help out children. The label of sexual predator can be completely life destroying, and it's getting easier and easier to label someone that way.

I want to help, but our society makes me afraid to. Everyone is immediately suspiscious of the helpful 20-30 something male. So I just stay out of it, and feel guilty.

My Little Princess Boutique said...

I don't understand how anyone could walk away and I'm sure it happens all the time.

Betsy said...

My FIL is a sexual predator, so I am very wary of strange men, even though I only have boys. (Far as I know my FIL only liked girls.) However, if my kids somehow wandered off from me, I would be very grateful to whoever helped them find me again, male or female. I freak out if my boys are five feet away in a supermarket, and when I do help lost children, I always feel like the mothers are thinking, "You crazy meddling bitch, he/she was fine!" even though the kid is in tears, not old enough to do more than say his or her name and obviously very frightened. This has happened to me several times, so I do take care to involve a store employee and don't take the child past the registers so if the mother does see me, she at least sees a person with some "authority" there as well and I'm not heading for a door.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I feel duty bound to provide assistance and am willing to accept the risk if it prevents a child from being snatched. If the worst is that the mother calls me a perv then so be it.

Getting store representatives or security guards to help is another method.

I just couldn't live with myself knowing that I could have prevented the abduction/abuse/murder of a young child.

Zoe said...

Sean the Blogonaut said:

There is a psychological effect that could be at play here, can't remeber what its called.

I teach Sociology, and we discussed this on Monday. It is diffusion of responsibility. The more people are around, the easier it is to figure someone else will do something and also our social concern that others will peg us as idiots keeps us from acting.

Try a little experiment sometime to test this out:
Drop something, a book, a bag of groceries when you are overloaded, a water bottle, whatever. If you do this when only one other person is present (maybe let it slip out from under your arm as you are walking, and don't acknowledge it), the other person is likely to pick it up, call out to you, etc. If you do it around a group, they are likely to sort of look nonchalantly at the item, and go back to what they are doing. If someone does help, it is likely to be a woman, regardless of the sex of the intrepid item-dropper. The exception to this seems to be when it is a couple and a couple only. Then, often, the male (given a mixed-sex couple) will stop to pick it up so that he comes off as a nice, caring guy in from of the girl. Doesn't work if, again, the couple is just a random, anonymous part of a random, anonymous group.

Excellent point on the stepping in thing. Diffusion of responsibility definitely comes into play in these situations. Damn social animals, us humans, thinking about what other people think rather than what is the 'right' thing to do. And thereby socially constructing 'right' into 'ignore, ignore, ignore'. Ack.