The Public’s Perception on ‘Stranger Danger’: Is ‘Stranger Danger’ the Real Threat?

Topics: Sexual abuse, Child abuse, Child sexual abuse Pages: 13 (4671 words) Published: April 11, 2013
As a student on the Criminology and Criminal Justice Foundation Degree, this report has been conducted for the use of the School of Law, Justice and Community Studies Department to analyze the emergence and effects of the ‘Stranger Danger’ campaign. Criminal behaviour has predominantly been associated with random acts of deviancy perpetrated by strangers; portrayed to the public through the media’s eyes and further instilled into primary school children during safety week. Children are taught to identify any member of the public whom they are not associated with, as a threat; and are further provided with safety measures such as how to avoid unsafe situations and abate strangers when approached by them, noting events and car registration plates, alongside reporting detailed accounts of the occurrence. Furthermore, parents are provided with pamphlets on the key “how to’s” in teaching their child about stranger danger. However, nor the school curriculum or the parents are encouraged to address the issues of safety within the home, or risks of harm among acquaintances; how to identify these and report them. The stranger danger pandemic created by the media has blind-sighted the more common threats that lies within the family unit, preventing sufferers to report the abuse and those around the victimization, to acknowledge the signs and intervene. This report aims to provide awareness towards the common risks of harm faced through factors such as domestic violence and child abuse; erasing the fear of strangers which has been instilled into the public through the moral panic of ‘stranger danger’. The key question asked here is “is ‘stranger danger’ the real threat?”; in order to answer this successfully, there shall be an insight on the public’s perception of stranger danger through a series of questions, alongside a survey which shall require participants to answer their views on what they believe the statistics of crime are; and upon acknowledging the true statistics, their response. Alongside this, the report shall primarily provide a literature review which will support the findings of the questionnaires and assess the history of the campaign, its effects and evaluate if abuse within the home should be the actual target to tackle.


The earliest citation of the term (stranger danger) that could be found in print is from The Austin Daily Herald, February 1963: The annual policemen's ball, held to raise funds for the Austin Police Benefit Association … Funds from the ticket sale will be used to help finance association activities including a baseball team... and the Stranger Danger picture (child molestion [sic] warning picture for elementary students) The Independent Daily (2012: 14)

According to the BBC (2009), stranger danger became apparent in the 1960s as a result of the Brady and Hindley murders. The term ‘stranger danger’ became the slogan for many of the campaigns that ran across the USA in the 1960s to promote child safety; later spreading across the world. The BBC has reported that the “British children’s play has been transformed in the last 100 years (where children were free to play unsupervised outdoors) ... Sadly this world of independent child's play has today largely vanished. One of the important reasons for this decline is the inexorable rise of stranger danger and child abduction in modern Britain.” The article points out that there was a lack of evidential statistics to endorse the notion of an increase in stranger danger and child abduction; however the greater threat faced by children was connected to a lack of road safety. The article goes on to read that “in the television age these fears have been fuelled by intense media coverage of stories of child sexual abuse, abduction and murder. The James Bulger case in 1993, the abduction and murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham village in 2002, and the Madeleine McCann disappearance in 2007 are...
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