The strangest thing happened this weekend.
Mr LikesIt and I woke up Sunday to find an anonymous letter taped to our front door. It had clearly been printed on a home computer and all of our neighbors seemed to have the same thing on their doors.
The letter started off with the catchy header: THERE IS A CHILD MOLESTER IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. Whoa. It went on to detail the story of one of our neighbors attempting to convince one of the children on the street to "go with him" somewhere. The boy told their parents, who then confronted the neighbor, who said nothing happened and "dared" them to do something about it. Per the letter, the accused implied that he had done this before, but there was nothing they could do about it. The letter listed his name, address, phone number, and asked us to band together as a community so that the accuser could come forward in confidence that justice would be served.
Holy crap, people. I felt like we were being filmed for a "What Would You Do?" episode of Dateline or something.
Here's the deal. Child molestation is a very, very serious accusation. If this person is in fact a pedophile of any sort, there needs to be action taken, I have no doubt about that. However, I do not think that sedition and anonymous vigilantism is really the best course of action. Whether it's true or not, an accusation like this could incite serious and dangerous actions against this person without giving them a chance to defend themselves or prove their innocence.
One's initial reaction is nothing less than outrage. How dare they! Not in our neighborhood! Unacceptable!
But then you stop and think - What if he didn't do it? Then what? How dare they! Not in our neighborhood! Unacceptable!
After talking about it at length, Mr LikesIt and I decided to call the non-emergecny number of the local police. He was transfered to the sex offender desk and left a message to be called back. He got that call today and they will be looking into what happened.
If this situation happened as described, law enforcement needs to know. We live less than two miles from an early childhood education center and that needs to be taken under consideration. If it did not happen, you cannot condemn, slander, or publicly humiliate someone for an uncommitted crime - and law enforcement needs to know about that, too. The fact of the matter is that we have an inflammatory, anonymous letter depicting a potentially heinous attempt at taking a child a block from our home. If it is true, then we did the right thing by calling the police. If for any reason it is not true - if this is an exaggeration, a result of a neighborly feud, or hell, even a kid exagerrating something to get out of some sort of trouble - then this sort of harassment and accusation is despicable too. This sort of crime would tear apart someone's life. And so could this sort of accusation.
I don't personally understand why the neighboorhood needs to "band together" to get recourse for this sort of thing. Why does it need to be anonymous? Why are we condemning someone for a crime that we don't even know happened, much less happened as described? Child abuse is unacceptable. Defamation is not the answer. There are other methods of recourse beyond this. And what does the accused do now, especially if it's untrue? I put odds on a "for sale" sign appearing in their yard before the end of the year. Would you want to live near people that would accuse you of one of the most disgusting crimes imaginable - but not even have the nerve of accusing you to your face?
This is a lose-lose, no matter what. Either way, something is terrible wrong on our street. It left both of us feeling disconcerted and gross about the whole thing. You hear about things like this on the news, but how are you supposed to react when it happens literally in your backyard? Law officials assured Mr LikesIt that they are going to look into it, so hopefully we will get to the bottom of what really happened (if we will even find out). I do feel better knowing it's at least in the proper hands now.
So let's discuss, shall we? Did we do the right thing? What would you have done if a letter like this showed up at your house? Would your answer change if you had children at home?