Finland – or the online part of it – is agog with paedophiles at the moment. One, in particular: the office of the Finnish Police posted a picture of an alleged paedophile on their Facebook page. The photo, obviously, spread like a wildfire, often with comments as you can only imagine. Quick to follow was a blog post – also widely shared and re-shared – which disapproved and condemned the whole issue. There are several sides to the issue…
The situation, I understand, was this: a 10-year old girl was travelling on a long-distance bus by herself (not common, but regular enough*); this guy sat across the isle from her, and masturbated frequently throughout the journey. The police posted a security camera picture of the man, stating he is suspected of paedophilia, explaining the case succinctly and asked for information on the identity of the man. In the comments, the police further explained that this was a carefully considered move, and no different from releasing photos (to the press) of kiosk robbers etc.
The Significant Otter said something to the effect that ‘she could just have moved’. (And added that he’s not on their side!) The blogger who denounced the police’s decision to share the photo, calling it sheer injustice and a call to lynch-mob the guy, who was identified as a suspect, not a (proven) criminal as in the kiosk robber analogy. Comments all over range from calls to acts of violence to what the blogger said. I’m torn in between.
My first reaction to the counter reaction was ”Why should paedophiles have more protection from the public eye than kiosk robbers?” Perhaps I’m also naive, but I still have some faith in the Finnish police force, and in the fact that they would know what it would mean to allege paedophilia without strong evidence. Some people, such as my boyfriend, had the gut reaction that there was really no crime, since no one was touched. I can understand this, too, but the law of the letter is that even exposing genitalia to a minor is a criminal offence (a quick search didn’t reveal the actual law, but this is what the police quoted in the comments). Also, she is ten years old. As some commenter said, she was probably terrified – similar things happen to most of us (women) at some point of our childhood, and its fair few who have the guts to call him out or to take action. And again, why would she, a child, be expected to take responsibility of the situation? Sure, she could have whispered to someone about what was happening, but maybe she was scared.
And to return to my first re-reaction – why is the identity of a sexual-harasser-of-children be more sacred than that of a robber of any description?
Yes: paedophilia causes an immediate emotional reaction which even the kinds of the Norwegian mass murderer Breivik could not arouse. But just as those who would get up in arms and hunt Breivik down, those who would kick the living shit out of this guy, who didn’t do any physical harm to anyone would be taking the law into their own hands and would be responsible for the consequences. I don’t know. It is hard to detach emotionally; even as a grown up who has survived numerous events what would fall under paedophilia, I can still seethe at the idea that grown men can get away with this kind of things just because no one was hurt.
It boils down to gender roles, I think. On some level we still think there’s nothing weird with adults asking pre-teens for sex (hey, it doesn’t hurt anyone to ask) or to comment on their pubescent looks (check out those boobs!!) or just make semi-sexual remarks (tits or gtfo). And then there’s this thing (and yes, I generalise, but not as much as I’d like): it’s men who do this. For one thing, most women aren’t interested in seeing someone’s penis (let’s face it: it really isn’t very impressive), because who the hell cares? Secondly… There is no secondly.
Anyway, I don’t know what my point is, because I’ve also been going to sauna with my whole family and seen most of my childhood neighbours and their uncles naked, and there’s nothing to it. I’m not saying we should scream paedophilia for any small reason, because it is a heavy charge to make. But what this guy did – and I’m sure he did, because I believe police wouldn’t have posted his image for shits and giggles – shouldn’t go uncontested. I see no reason to not show this guy’s face and I don’t think he’s the victim of anything but his own stupidity.
Edit: related links (both in Finnish)
Blog response from Suvi Auvinen at Voima website (independent newspaper with green/left flavour)