The other day, as I was taking my eldest son to the bathroom at the shopping centre, I overheard something that deeply saddened me.
Something that has stayed with me for days because I’m just not sure what the answer is, or whether there really is one in this situation.
There, standing outside the parents’ room was an elderly gentleman, probably in his mid- to late-60s. With him, his wife and what looked to be a young grandson, probably about four years of age.
The child needed to use the facilities and asked granddad to take him. The man turned to his wife and said, “You better take him. If I go in there people might think I’m a paedophile.”
Excuse me? I was honestly shocked, I mean it’s not the kind of thing that you expect to hear down at Westfield on a Thursday afternoon. What is this world that we live in that makes a man say such a thing?
A world where a mature, aged man cannot take his grandchild to the bathroom without fear of being labelled a creep or a pervert by other people inside. Are parents‘ rooms really for females only because every man out there must automatically be tarred with the same perverse brush as some bottom-dwelling individuals of the same gender? Would the situation have been different if he was a woman?
No doubt, women don’t need to think twice about being viewed in such a disgusting manner (although I can assure you, child sex offenders are not just male). This man, so innocently standing with his young charge, was fearful of being labelled something so disgustingly awful simply because of his gender. I didn’t really know what to think but it did make me question how I would feel if I was in that situation. I don’t think twice about marching my kids into the parents’ room when its change time.
I asked a father-friend of mine what he thought and his response was equally as upsetting. “I feel like if I go into the mothers’ room, or parents’ room to fix her nappy, I’m being stared at sideways, like I don’t have a right, or like I should be monitored changing my own daughter’s pants, just in case I am some kind of sicko.”
Now, before you get all happy on the keyboard and shout statistics at me, just hold up. I probably know them better than anyone because I helped write the bloody things. For many years, I worked with the NSW Police and in Child Protection. Day in and day out for more than seven years, I worked with victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. I know all the facts that you can throw at me. I’ve lived them. I’ve seen the faces, I’ve heard the stories, I’ve stood beside the victims in courtrooms trying to fight for some piece of justice.