AIBU to have only just realised that when I was warned about 'strangers' in the 1980s, they were actually talking about paedophiles.

(45 Posts)
ComposHat Tue 23-Jul-13 10:05:27

And I'm 33 and used to be a social work assistant! I don't half feel thick.

My stupidity aside...

What a spectacularly useless and uniformed campaign.

We were never given any idea why we should be wary of 'a stranger' only that we shouldn't take sweets off them (I think I thought the sweets were poisoned and I'd end up like Hansel or Grettel) or that we shouldn't go and see puppies with them (I was petrified of dogs, so wouldn't have gone near, kittens mind you and I'd be off like a shot) and to run away and tell our parents.

Nothing was ever mentioned about family friends or relatives (statistically far more likely to abuse a child than a stranger snatching them from the street) or how we should tell someone if we were touched in a way we didn't like (regardless of who they were).

Meanwhile the real scandal of children being abused by those they knew, including care workers, teachers,ministers of religion and youth leaders went unchecked. These people weren't strangers to their victims, in many cases they were known and trusted by the young person and their parents, yet did them incalculable damage.

I don't like the current hysteria about paedophiles lurking on every corner, but at least today's children, seem to be better informed.

RedHelenB Tue 23-Jul-13 10:27:04

Not sure tbh. I think it sad today that kids of 7,8,9 aren't being allowed out without an adult cos of all the hysteria & telling my kids they could get grabbed by a stranger. It was the norm to be out & about by yourself when I was growing up & it was great to be able to enjoy it & not feel scared.


ComposHat Tue 23-Jul-13 10:33:26

As i say, I agree the whole paedophile hysteria has gone way to far and whatnot, but I think this is balanced by a greater appreciation that a child abuser need not be (and probably isn't) a stranger to a child.

Children also seem a lot more savvy when it comes to knowing what is inappropriate or not.

McSmoke Tue 23-Jul-13 10:34:45

As a child I was more scared of what was happening within my family than the attack of strangers.

YouTheCat Tue 23-Jul-13 10:37:55

I knew, in the 70s. I knew what they meant when they said not to go with strangers.

My friend and I got propositioned in the park. I was 9 and she was 7/8. She was all for going off with him but I told her not to.

I was a little bit feral though.

I can't be doing with any hysteria tbh. Teach kids to be sensible. Not going with strangers is a good message but I do agree about making them aware that it is their body and they can say no to inappropriate touching.

Well.yes, the actual reason was never spelled out, we were just told not to talk to strangers etc. I.think there was a Charlie Says about not going to see puppies?

Mind you, this is the era that never referred to cancer, grandmama had a "blockage", we were never expressly told about your body, "down there" was mouthed and gestured to vaguely.

Ipsissima Tue 23-Jul-13 10:42:12

What needs to be understood OP. is that pre the 70's ...nobody talked about the risks. At all. Didn't occur to people to protect their children. (and where abuse was happening, the children were often not believed) The subject just didn't feature on anyone's agenda.
Stranger danger was really the first move by a new generation of parents talking about risks for the first time, with their children. Not keeping secrets followed closely behind.
Now we know, from research, that family and friends are more likely to be at fault we are teaching more appropriately......but it has been a long evolution to reach today's level of openness.

VelvetStrider Tue 23-Jul-13 10:46:15

I don't remember being told anything about abuse by people I knew. Luckily nothing ever happened other than one lecherous old man kissing me a bit too enthusiastically on the neck <boak> but I went to so many clubs and activities and none of the leaders were crb checked. It would have been so easy for children to have been abused and nobody to find out back then.

On a completely different topic, I met the woman who knitted Compo's hat once. She said it was a challenge to knit the holes into it so it looked old and skanky. He had a scarf too, but you can't really see it much on screen. smile

Didn't occur to people to protect their children - rubbish.

Yes, general awareness was no where near the level it is today or even the 70s/80s, but that's more to do with media not reaching people in the way it does now.

Of course people warned their children about the risk.

VelvetStrider Tue 23-Jul-13 10:52:15

The new NSPCC message btw is 'Pants'

Privates are private
Always remember your body belongs to you
No means no
Talk about secrets that upset you
Speak up, someone can help

Our local police officer, PC Finch, designed the original stranger danger signs that you see in all the playparks. Even he didn't mention dangers from people you know when he came to school to talk to us.

Ipsissima Tue 23-Jul-13 10:53:05

Of course people warned their children about the risk

Not in my experience.
Or that of contemporaries with whom this subject has been discussed.
Perhaps the question needs a new thread.

No, this thread is perfectly relevant.

ComposHat Tue 23-Jul-13 10:54:56

velvet well I never! I am wildly envious of you, I kust assumed it was a very old hat.

paperclips Tue 23-Jul-13 10:55:44

When my friend's Nan was little, she was out with her friend and approached by a stranger. His Nan knew it was a bad idea, but her friend went, and was never seen again. That would've been around the 1930s. I guess people just didn't talk about it, but I wonder how much news a missing child would have made back then, or how much of a search there would've been. I don't think anybody was ever caught.

Owllady Tue 23-Jul-13 10:58:52

There are some visible 'strange men' about though. We have one at the swimming baths that the children are told to stay away from. Twice he has tried to get into the pool with my sons swimming class and has been asked to leave. I am a bit shock how brazen he is tbh

(and no he has no sen/mental health issues/lds etc - he is completely normal - just brazen)

LastTangoInDevonshire Tue 23-Jul-13 10:59:31

Of course people warned their children about the risk

Of course we were warned - just not to the scaremongering extent that one sees today.

YouTheCat Tue 23-Jul-13 11:03:18

I just always told mine not to go with anyone they didn't know or felt uncomfortable with and that their bodies were not for anyone else to touch. I never scared them, was just honest.

ComposHat Tue 23-Jul-13 11:09:12

I think the point I was trying to make upthread was that it is probably a good thing that the focus of sensible well intentioned advise (ignoring tabloid hysteria) has changed from being fearful or wary of a certain type of person (a stranger) to be worried about, to making children aware that certain forms of physical contact are inappropriate regardless of who is doing it.

Buzzardbird Tue 23-Jul-13 11:09:19

Well, I have just discovered that it is not all 'hysteria' and I for one wish I had been better informed. It is definitely more common than I thought it was last week sad

poshfrock Tue 23-Jul-13 11:11:34

My dad and his sister were flashed at in the park when they were kids in the 1950s. He didn't even bother to tell his parents. He says they probably wouldn't have been believed or it would just have been brushed off. He went to a Catholic school where he was quite seriously physically assaulted by the nuns at the age of 7/8. Again he never reported it because it was just accepted.

As a kid this bloke ( see link) lived in our village and regularly approached me and my friends in the park, the library and outside school. I told my mum but she just shrugged it off and said he was probably "lonely". This was in the early 1980s. People really were very complacent.

Poledra Tue 23-Jul-13 11:15:29

My mate's grandma could remember, when she was a child, a man getting lynched near where she lived because he had been interfering with small children. I haven't tried to verify it, but she remembered it vividly, and swore the local constabulary turned a blind eye...

Poledra Tue 23-Jul-13 11:16:03

Oh, sorry, this would have been in the late 1920s/early 1930s

Dfg15 Tue 23-Jul-13 11:16:48

my mum used to warn us about 'dirty old men' so I was always wary of tramps, or men that looked grubby. so if I'd been approached by a young, clean looking man, well I'd probably have thought he was OK! things are much more open now, and I think that's a good thing

miffybun73 Tue 23-Jul-13 11:18:06

Buzzardbird Hope you are ok.

aquashiv Tue 23-Jul-13 11:18:45

I have a very vague recollection of being told no to take sweets from strangers my early mind things it might have had something to do with drugs. There was no explanation of why.

Buzzardbird Tue 23-Jul-13 11:20:17

Thank you miffy I feel like I am in hell but thank you for asking.

ComposHat Tue 23-Jul-13 11:21:22

I also wonder if the 'stranger menace' was a hangover from the Moors Murders, it would have only been ten/fifteen years before I started school.

I remember the local copper coming in and having to sing along to this after having had the obligatory sweet and puppy warning.

I believe it was a formative influence on Amy Winehouse's Rehab.

mummytime Tue 23-Jul-13 11:25:05

My Mum once gave me quite specific advice and told me to tell her if a friend confided in me. But I'm not quite sure if this was before or after I told her about a friends Dad trying to kiss me.

I think we knew that the strangers in the park were suspect from kind of sexual reason.

FreudiansSlipper Tue 23-Jul-13 11:28:41

i think it is much better to teach children about not keeping secrets and having ownership over their body than fearing strangers

that is what many fairy stories are about along with messages about what is right and wrong, who is superior and what is expected of us

how can you explain to a young child sexual abuse when it is hard for adults to understand that some people want to sexual abuse children

thankfully we do have more of an understanding about it i was aware from a young age that some men you just stayed away from i got a vibe from them but others didn't, some we were told were odd and my creepy uncle was always watched we were never in his company alone. though i do remember my nan and aunts discussing him putting the blame on him being over friendly on his cold wife hmm but that is what was believed then if men were not getting sex they turned into sexual pests at least now a man like that would be seen as having an attraction young girls and being a predator

colafrosties Tue 23-Jul-13 11:40:40

We had a video at primary school (in the 70’s) warning us about the risks of strangers. In it, a man in the park asked a little girl to go to his house but she said No. The narrator told the girl it was very good that she had said No, because the man might have tried to do bad things, like take her clothes off.

In my innocence, I thought what a terrible thing, because the little girl would then have to stay in his house as she couldn’t possibly run out in the street if she had no clothes on. That was enough for me to get the message.

In hindsight, if the video had said about the man touching her or something, I think it would have freaked me out as I wouldn’t have understood why someone would do that.

apostropheuse Tue 23-Jul-13 11:43:53

I was definitely told not to speak to stranger or go into strangers' cars.
My mother told me that if you do that they had sweets which were poisoned and that they would give me them and I would probably die.

I specifically remember there being a talk about not going off with women or men. Previous to that it seems that my mother thought only men abducted children. I was born in 1961, so of course we had all the Moors Murders story going on. We were told about not going off with strangers at school too.

We were told that if we got lost we had to speak to a policeman or a shop assistant.

I have to say that I don't ever remember anyone speaking about danger from people you knew.

Even after all of the warnings we were given I went into a car with strangers. I was at the local shop getting something for my mother and a car with a couple stopped. The woman asked if I knew where x lived and I said oh yes she's my next door neighbour. They asked me to jump into the car and direct them to the house, which I duly did. Luckily the couple were genuinely looking for my neighbour and they run me home and gave me a shilling as a thank you. I went into the house all happy and telling my mother about this money and how I got it. She went ballistic of course and within thirty seconds was hammering on the neighbours' door telling the visitors how stupid they were.

I was of course berated and grounded - and never did anything so stupid again.

somewhereaclockisticking Tue 23-Jul-13 13:16:29

I remember the huge stranger danger message throughout school - I think that those who wanted to make children (and parents) aware of paedophiles just didn't realise that most abuse went on in families - people are more aware of it now because alot of people have spoken out about it. It was never really talked about what might happen but I remember thinking it meant being murdered as I remember stories of little girls going "missing" who then turned up dead. Of course now we are more aware that the danger basically lurks everywhere and that's why it's so easy to be paranid because you know that an abuser doesn't look like an abuser - he/she could be a perfectly respectable member of society, someone that you know and respect yourself only to later learn the awful truth - and of course we tell our children to run to someone in authority when that person in authority could be an abuser. When you consider how many people have been caught up in stings over the last few years for having child porn on their computers (including police, judges, teachers) it is worrying - both April and Tia's killers viewed on-line child porn - chances are whilst we like to say that parents are being paranoid and worrying too much - maybe the reality is we're actually not as paranoid as we want to believe.

Mind you we were traumatised already by Duck And Cover nuclear drills.

Oldraver Tue 23-Jul-13 13:18:42

I lived with my grandparents who were of the 'dont really talk about stuff' generation. I was wasn't allowed to go across the park to school as there were 'dirty old men'.

I didnt have a clue what a 'dirty old man' was

Mandy2003 Tue 23-Jul-13 13:37:38

I was going to say did it really start with the Moors murderers?

Also, not accepting sweets. Were there cases where drugged sweets were used? I remember thinking as a child that it would be hard work to make drugged sweets.

maja00 Tue 23-Jul-13 13:43:43

I also thought the "don't take sweets" thing was due to poison! I worried for ages aged about 8 when the dad of a boy in my class gave me a sweetie - I couldn't decide if he was a stranger or not, so was worried I'd poisoned myself.

Jan49 Tue 23-Jul-13 13:55:47

I grew up in the 1960s/70s and I have no memory of being told anything about stranger danger or abuse by my parents or school. I think I must have been quite vulnerable. I had a vague idea that sometimes men in cars tried to persuade children to get in but I don't think I had any idea why. I just knew there were some bad or weird men, always men not women, and you had to avoid them. I think there was also an attitude of not talking about 'rude' things. It's easy to see how children were vulnerable to Brady and Hindley (the Moors murderers) because the people you learnt to be distrustful of were lone male strangers.

When I was 18 I answered the phone to a man who made obscene suggestions. At first I replied politely as I had no idea what he was talking about. He said "hand jobs" and I thought he was looking for someone who did something like needlework. hmm Then he said something more and I understood and just put the phone down. I was terrified that he might have my address. I mentioned it to my elder sister and her friend and they just laughed.

With my own ds (now an adult), I talked of stranger dangers as someone who might hit him and hurt him. The idea of anyone hitting him was terrifying to him. I can't imagine how you could explain sexual abuse.

ComposHat Tue 23-Jul-13 13:59:53

Were there cases where drugged sweets were used?

I think the worry was that they'd use sweets to lure kids in 'I've got more back at my house' type thing.

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Tue 23-Jul-13 14:12:30

I don't remember being told anything by my own parents or school (born in 1963). I do remember playing out with my older sister and some neighbours' girls aged about five (their dad was a policeman). An old local man came past smiling with a bag of sweets and offered them to us. The others muttered something about not accepting sweets from strangers and we all ran inside; I felt guilty and upset that we must have hurt his feelings (I still don't think he was dodgy though). Don't think we told anyone.

Another time, aged nine, I was with a friend and a man called from his car, asking where a certain road was. Think he had a map on his lap. We both bent close to the window and said we didn't know, he said okay and we walked on - only then I saw my friend looked really shocked and was half-laughing; she said he'd been 'playing with himself.' I had no idea what that meant and was totally baffled as to why he'd be doing that.
Again, I said nothing but I've no idea whether she did or not. We never mentioned it to each other again, anyway, probably because it was 'rude' and you didn't talk about 'rude' things then, especially not with adults.

ImNotBloody14 Tue 23-Jul-13 14:12:45

I got really angry with my family a few years ago when one of my aunts told my cousin that the uncle she was so fond of and had spent lots of time with as a child was a peeping tom and had been caught peeping on her ( my aunt) when she was a teen and stayed with her older sister and BIL. Apparently the whole family knew this about him but didnt bother to tell any of the kids to keep away from him. My aunt casually told my cousin this at a family event when my cousin mentioned that she rarely saw uncle X anymore. Aunt sneered and said something like 'well we're better off not seeing him' and the. Explained why. Cousin was in tears- i was in shock that they all knew how fond she was of him but no-one told her he wasnt safe to be around all because you just didnt talk about that sort of thing then! Infuriating!

Tilly333 Tue 23-Jul-13 14:22:09

When we were about 15, there were murders of three young girls locally. We were always told to stay clear of strangers - then the murders happened. The murderer we found out 'flashed' at the girls first, before going on to kill.
We were not allowed to go out by ourselves afterwards.. put the fear of God into us. This was an early lesson for us I suppose, I am very wary of my daughter going anywhere by herself. Just to be sure - you never know.
It has however killed innocence and that all is good with the world.

mummytime Wed 24-Jul-13 08:46:40

Tilly333 I am seriously worried about the tone of your comment. I think you could really do with some counselling.
Children are very very unlikely to be killed or assaulted by random strangers. Those kind of crimes are far more likely to be carried out by people the child knows (and probably the closer the relationship the more likely).
Learning about "Red Flags", how to be street safe and being confident when out alone are key lessons for your daughter.

I do believe that there is a paedo on most corners I am afraid.

Until it has happened to you you can find it hard to believe. But when you find out the person least likely to be an offender is actually an abuser, you never forget.
A radar was switched on in me from the age of 12. It isn't just people that outright abuse children. Most of these sickos are far more devious in how they get their kicks.

I never trust anyone now. I can sense it a mile off and I will always make sure my children are protected by following the PANTS rule from NSPCC.
Sadly a child has no hope if it is their own parents though.

ariane5 Wed 24-Jul-13 10:28:15

I too was perplexed as to why people would entice children into their cars with the promise of seeing puppies/kittens to then kill them with poisoned sweets.

I think I was about 15 when I learnt the truth.

sweetsummerlove Wed 24-Jul-13 10:30:32

youcanringmybell you I sense stuff like this a mile off. I am highly sensitive to things like this and very ocer cautious, I trust no one and take no risks. The day I had my little girl I sobbed quietly a little that night, not because boys aren't abused, but because I realised I had a lifelong responsibility to protect my offspring from the sick world we live in. ...I get slated occasionally by some for being over protective, but id rather that then leave it to opportunists. I didn't escape it as a child and the idea history could repeat itself makes me physically sick.

I am unsure how to educate and protect her without having her fear the world. She is still v young so always in my care but I ask to change her nappy...ask to wipe her during bath time and always call it 'x's weewes' and encourage ownership of her body. When she gets older ill reinforce it being her one else should touch esp if she says no etc. x

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