Media coverage of the sad story of the 10-year-old Chiba Prefecture girl who appears to have tragically died due to parental abuse is probably necessary for bringing about social and political change, but over-hyping such a case can have damaging side effects. For example, someone I know well has a daughter in her early 20s who is very sensitive, who feels shunned by society, and who has been experiencing bouts of depression.
One recent evening, a loud argument (not involving physical violence) broke out in their household between the daughter and her parents. Just after the fight had wound down, a half-dozen police officers appeared at the door saying they had received a phone call from someone who had walked past the house and heard shouting that made them suspect child abuse was occurring inside.
Even though the police could easily see that no children were present in the house, they still insisted on speaking with the parents, and with their daughter, separately, and took up about one hour of their time before finally leaving. Now, the daughter feels worse than she did before and refuses to even step outside the house.
Whoever called the police, and the officers themselves, probably felt that they were doing the right thing. Sadly, however, they caused a great deal of damage by overreacting to a situation that they did not understand. Vigilance is one thing, but reacting on pure impulse under the influence of a mood of public anxiety and tension that has been fueled by media noise is another. One hopes that the police would at least tone down their reactions to public panic and confusion.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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