I’m feeling a slightly uneasy wind blowing around the Palace of Bundance at the moment. I’m in something of a quandary.
A couple of weeks ago a child was attacked in the village next to ours. After school this 12-year-old was forced from the pavement onto the cycletrack that runs through the area. By all accounts (few of which are official) he was subjected to a nasty sexual assault before he was able to free himself and run for help.
Nasty enough. Now, part of the joy of living here is that our children can, generally, go out and about without undue risk. I also subscribe to the idea that you shouldn’t let theoretical threat from a hypothetical bogie-man get in the way of life. So while hideous people commit awful crimes, statistically, it’s not likely to happen to me and mine.
Anyhow, it was with a sigh of relief that we learned that the alleged attacker had been arrested. Phew, end of the matter, business as usual.
Now though I hear (and I must add that this is nothing more than credible gossip) that the person who was arrested is a 16-year-old youth who confessed to what he’d done. Details have emerged (or perhaps been invented) that include knives, threats and intent to commit a much worse crime. There was no misunderstanding between attacker and victim, no previous relationship and, it seems, no grey areas.
The Authorities have banned him from his family home – where there are at least two younger children.
Now, apparently, until his trial he lives with his grandmother on the next street to ours – that’s the street where Boy Three’s childminder lives, where the school bus makes a stop and where two of Boys One and Two’s friends live. It’s also well within the reasonable roaming range for the Boys and their peers.
As I write this, there’s a voice in my head saying both “NIMBY” and “he isn’t convicted in a court of law, only by the gossips”.
So what to do: should I follow my head, ignore the gossip and let the roaming continue or listen to the whispering in my heart and give the Boys get a shorter rein or even a period of house arrest? Should I even make two cases – one for Boy One whose Asperger’s leaves him vulnerable and a different one for his more astute and instinctive brother?
Ellen I'd be erring on the side of caution with this one I'm afraid.
Of course you can't place the children under virtual house arrest but I'd be making some snappy changes to their routine and imposing some pretty tough curfews there.
Don't know how many times over the years I've heard the 'I never thought it could happen to me' but it can and it does.
Experience also tells me this boy, while not yet convicted, isn't likely to repent of his sins and become a model citizen.
That's just my opinion & perhaps I would run risk of being over-cautious but I'd far rather that than something happening.
What a horrible thing to happen!
As much as I'd love to be all right on about it, I think I would also err on the side of caution and use it as an excuse to talk to the boys in an age and Aspie appropriate way. I expect the NAS have some advice about discussing stranger danger with Boy One.
What scares me about this is the boy's age. It's so feasible that a 16 year old would befriend a boy of Boy One's age, and so v. hard to explain the difference.
Like Jane, I think I'd go for caution because the bad side of caution is by far the better option than the bad side of not being cautious enough.
resewn sally says
Caution all the way! I have been in a similar situation, and it did not end well for my boys! Because people didn't err on the side of caution it went on to happen to other children. I would absolutely put curfews and new rules as to where they can go in place.
Gosh, this is a horrible one. I have to say that I agree with Jane and Jo on this one. I'd like to imagine I would be less vulnerable to the gossip factor and less anxious about something that is very unlikely to happen but, just in case, I would err on the side of caution for the time being. I think that given that it's dark in the evenings now it shouldn't be difficult to suggest to the boys that this is the time of year when being indoors is warmer and cosier. I'm not sure I'd go big on the stranger danger issue in particular because this might scare them and fuel unnecessary anxiety. There are plenty of times when you can bring up this issue in passing. I really wouldn't worry too much though as these type of attacks really are very, very rare. Saying that, it took me years after the murder of that woman on the kelvin at Maryhill before i'd even cycle the route again, let along run it. This type of random attack really scared me.
Muddling Along Mummy says
There's bogie men and then there's real risks – for me, I'd want to err on the side of caution and to increase the level of supervision / curfews / checking in
I'd also be reiterating the risks and having a fairly frank chat about what has happened and how to be safe
Ellen Arnison says
Everyone says err on the side of caution, that's interesting because I thought I was overreacting.
Jane, thankfully the clocks have changed so it's easier to keep them in.
Jo, we did talk about stranger danger, but I'm not sure he really got it.
Sally, I'm sorry to hear things didn't go well for your boys.
Fiona, I know, usually I work on the basis that these attacks are rare, but in this case these odds just went right down.
MAM, you're right, but it's such a hard one to talk about. In my kids' eyes 'strangers' are whiskery middle-aged men not 16-year-old children.
Mummy's Brain says
It's a scary world to live in when the boogy man has so many masks, Do we let allow our children live thier lives in fear watching the world from behind our petticoats or do we take the chance that our children will mostly always be OK? Unfortunately there is no balance when we are continually bombarded with new and previously unimaginable threats …. me I would have to err on the side of instinct, she is sadly all we have.
My instinct would also be to be cautious.
In these tough situations I normally ask myself if I could live with the consequences of my actions. That normally gives me the gut answer I need.
A Modern Mother says
Wow that is very scary. I would err on the side of caution too. Just keep your eyes and ears open. wide.