It can be tough being a Dad.
It can be tough being a Dad to three sons, but spare a thought for the Melbourne father who was recently photographed by another parent at the Westfield Knox shopping centre in Melbourne's east.
This photo was subsequently shared on Facebook with a status branding him a 'creep'. As a result the post was shared thousands of times and the father of three was forced to contact police to explain he was only taking a 'selfie' in front of a Darth Vader cut out sign to send to his children.
I spent a good hour on the Internet when this news story first broke on Wednesday 6May to try and make sure this was story was valid and not some cruel hoax or joke. Sadly, this was not the case.
To give you the full story, the father-of-three said, 'As I was walking out of Target I saw a very large Darth Vader cut out for taking photographs—it said "May the 4th be with you"—and I've got three children and they love all that Comic-Con, Supernova, science fiction stuff.'
The man said he took a quick selfie and saw a number of kids sitting down nearby and lining up to get their photo taken.
'I said "I'll only be a second, I'm taking a selfie to send to my kids." There was no parent present. I then started walking out of the shop and was trying to work out how to send the photo to my three children. Obviously as I was going out this woman has stalked me and taken a photo of me.'
The next day he was in a business meeting when he received a panicked call from his partner.
'My partner rang me and said she'd been contacted by somebody interstate who had seen the post and recognised me... I was just flabbergasted at this stage that my photo is on Facebook with an allegation I've been speaking to children and taking children's photos.'
He said he immediately drove to Knox Police Station to identify himself. 'The police spoke to me at length in relation to the issue and my phone was analysed,' he said.
The woman's original Facebook post about the incident read: 'Ok people, take a look at this creep'.
She claimed the man approached her children while they were sitting watching Frozen on a screen in the children's clothing section at Target. 'He said 'hey kids' they looked up and he took a photo, then he said I'm sending this to a 16 yr old,' she wrote on Facebook.
The woman said she took a photo of the man then removed her children from the area and informed security. 'Centre management were straight onto and so are the police, hopefully he is caught [sic],' she wrote. 'Police said if he is a registered sex offender he will be charged, this happened at Knox, be safe with your kids.' (Source: Daily Mail Australia)
Granted: she has now apologised. Granted: many of the 20 000 people who shared the post have also apologised.
Is every male a potential 'creep' or paedophile about to harm your children? Are there any males you can trust with your children? Can the male teacher at your child's school be trusted?
What has this incident done to the reputation of fathers and men in the community?
I came home that night questioning my role as a father of three sons. Three sons who need their father to be the best example of a man they could ever see or live with. Three sons who need their father to be confident in his ability to raise them into the men God has called them to be. Three sons who need their father to unconditionally love his wife, to support her, to be there for her and encourage her to reach her potential. Three sons who need the unconditional love of their Dad.
I went to school the next day beginning to question my role as a Year Level Coordinator of 90 Year 9 students, both males and females. Does your child's school have many male teachers? I wonder if you have ever questioned why this might not be the case. I had a female colleague remark to me she had visited a local high school and there was one (1) male teacher amongst the teaching staff.
For too long years of abuse and neglect were ignored by church and government agencies and the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse is being told every day of the 'creeps' and paedophiles who preyed on vulnerable children and the years of torment the victims have now endured.
Can we stop the distrust of men in the community?
It is up to fathers, it is up to men, to face up to their responsibilities of being a man and show the community we will no longer be objects of distrust. We need women to feel safe around us in our workplace. We need women to feel safe around us when we go out at night. We need our women to feel safe around us when we are at home.
My football team have supported the 'One punch can kill' campaign after losing two footballing fathers to senseless violence on our streets on the Sunshine Coast.
I have stood years ago arm and arm with my Aboriginal brothers in Alice Springs as they took a stand against violence in the community.
There are very good men out there. I know you know of at least one good man. Maybe send him a message. Could you post a positive message about him on social media? Write a note to your child's male teacher and tell him what a good job he is doing.
I don't want to feel guilty when a kid a school calls me their 'school Dad'. I don't want to feel guilty when I lovingly put my arms around my sons in the shopping centre to embarrass them! I don't want to feel guilty when my sons give me a kiss goodnight. I don't want to feel guilty when a student is grieving over loss in their life and they need a pat on the back or want to give a hug, card or present at the end of the school year to say, 'thanks sir'.
I don't want men to give up.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html