Naomi Fryers shares words of support for a Melbourne man falsely accused of being a creep and smeared on social media.
Editor’s Note: For those of you not familiar with the incident addressed in this post, a man in Melbourne, Australia took a photo of himself in front of a Star Wars display to send to his children. A woman who believed he was photographing her children shamed him on social media and accused him of being a pedophile. When the man found out, he went to the police and cleared his name.
To the man at the centre of the Melbourne shopping centre selfie saga,
It was (in your own words) a ‘daggy dad joke’ but no one could have anticipated how such a simple act could turn out so horribly wrong and that so much trauma would ensue. With no ill intent you took a photo to send to your children, posing with a Star Wars sign in a popular Melbourne shopping centre. Subsequently, your face was smeared across a very public Facebook noticeboard and shared widely with a ‘creep’ label and something akin to a danger warning. It was a misunderstanding by a frantic mother that believed you had greeted and taken photos of her children. But it was posted online halfway across Australia before it could have been corrected by police or appropriate authorities. A vigilante campaign transpired, and you were guilty until proven innocent—your trial by social media continued to the point of death threats.
Firstly, in the wake of these events please know you are not alone at this time and neither is your family. There are plenty of people in the community who feel empathy for your plight, and together we must challenge the status quo to regain a sense of justice and attempt to ensure that events like these do not transpire again. Not in our community, not to one of our men, not to someone’s dad, friend, or partner; not to somebody, not now, not ever.
You must realise that you, like other innocent men, you never deserved the paranoia surrounding you. I’m a mother of a toddler, and it shouldn’t need to be said that it’s ok for you to smile and greet me, or my child for that matter. What’s more, I promise to return that smile long into the future, just as I would to another woman.
The events that have transpired and victimised you should serve as a warning to others, about blindly following, believing, and sharing everything you see on social media. I have witnessed other second rate detective accounts of incidents being widely disseminated on the same jumped up junta noticeboard where this post originated. I have seen car registrations posted. I have witnessed business’ names being tarnished. And then in your instance I have witnessed the crucifying of your character. This must stop.
Another good man has confided in me that he gets nervous driving through school crossings at 40km an hour (maximum speed) because he fears being sighted and accused of child watching. I concede that as a woman I’m privileged to never have had that worry. He, of course, is not alone. Another male friend on a trip overseas wanted to take pictures of how jovial the children were, playing in a neighbourhood park. He refrained for the same reason. I could have taken that photo and no one would have batted an eyelid. That’s a regretful reality and a sad reflection on the society we live in today. When a lynch mob mentality makes people so paranoid that situations like this can occur, society needs time for some thoughtful reflection.
In light of these damaging events you must know that those that know of your plight want you to realise it’s ok to cuddle the children in your life and for it to make you justifiably happy, without the need for suspicion. Those who know and love you will recognise these circumstances for what they are- a regretful misunderstanding that has culminated into the worst kind of defamation.
While initial devastation over the false accusations is understandable, in the longer term please try to stay as carefree and unchanged by this as you possibly can. At best you will probably be reluctant to go shopping or use a camera in public in the future. And after your ordeal, that might not even be the worst you suffer. But you must try and remember to hold your head up high. You’re a proud Dad just like any other. Give yourself that permission. Undoubtedly your children love their carefree ‘Star Wars’ Daddy. They will certainly want him back when this whole mess blows over. After all, there was nothing wrong with him in the first place.
About Naomi Fryers
Naomi Fryers is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. A Monash University graduate (and former editor of her the university’s student newspaper), she has written for a number of celebrated Australian publications. She is about to commence post graduate studies in Publishing and Editing. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Ted’s Mum’s Blog