Recently, I’ve been thinking about an anecdote relayed to me by a female friend. She told me that she’d once been followed home by a ‘weirdo’ stalker who posted things through her letterbox.
Scary. Shocking. Downright disturbing.
As it turned out, this event occurred when the teller of the story was 14 years old and the thing posted through the letterbox was a note from the ‘weirdo stalker’ (a 14 year old boy in her year group) clumsily apologising for the fact that he’d followed her home. What was initially relayed to me as a story about the sinister actions of a warped individual, actually turned out to be a story about the rather awkward, quite temporary, actions of a 14 year old boy too scared to approach the object of his teenage crush. Little did he know that his attempt to apologise for his awkward behaviour would later be used as further evidence of his dangerous creepiness.
As a teacher, I’ve heard myriad misnomers used to describe boys’ entering the world of relationships. A boy who ‘goes out’ with a girl in the year below is denounced as a ‘paedo’; boys who can’t help but stare at the girls they harbour affections for are derided as ‘pervs’; boys who message girls on social media are automatically deemed to be ‘stalkers.’
I’m not saying that girls don’t need to be vigilant and that there aren’t issues surrounding the inappropriate sexual behaviour of both boys and girls towards one another. These things happen in schools all the time and they need to be firmly dealt with. However, if we, as adults and parents and teachers, allow terms such as ‘paedo’, ‘perv’ and ‘stalker’ to be bandied around inaccurately, the real perpetrators of deplorable crimes such as paedophilia, stalking, and abuse of positions of trust are at risk of not being taken seriously enough. And that is something that should scare us all very much.