A Florida mother's online plea for parents to "put down their pitchforks," following a deadly alligator attack on a child in Orlando, Fla., is going viral.
Since Melissa Fenton posted her call for civility and compassion on Facebook Thursday, the post has been shared nearly 500,000 times.
In it, she says "blamers and shamers" have rushed to judge the parents of the two-year old boy snatched by an alligator at Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney World.
"Mothers feel this tremendous amount of pressure all the time, for perfection. We can't lose sight of anybody for more than one second, or we are terrible, awful, negligent parents," Fenton told CBC News.
"We need to stop. These parents need our compassion. They don't need our opinions, they don't need our accusations. They don't need blame and they don't need shame."
Alligator attacks rare
Fenton, a freelance writer focusing on parenting issues, has four boys herself. She lives just outside Orlando and says the attack was a freak accident, suggesting there was no way parents could prepare for it.
"Statistically, we cannot wrap our heads around what happened to that toddler," she said. "I've lived around water my whole life. There are alligators in every body of water in Florida, statistically speaking, they are not pulling our children off our beaches."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission estimates there are about 1.3 million alligators in the state. Even though the state's waters teem with alligators, statistics from the commission show an attack is highly unlikely.
The Orlando attack marked the second one reported this year. There were nine alligator attacks in 2015 and 10 in 2014. In the past three years, only three people have died from an alligator attack.
"I would never anticipate something like that happening … even being a native Floridian, no one could foresee something so completely unthinkable," Fenton said.
'We need to love and embrace each other'
Even though the parents of the two-year-old couldn't have seen the attack coming, Fenton said the online vitriol comes from the ability of commenters to hide behind a keyboard.
"Sitting behind a keyboard gives people an unbelievable amount of courage," Fenton said. "I would dare any of these people to approach these grieving parents face to face and ask them, 'What are you doing, why weren't you watching your child?' There's no way they could speak to them."
Following her post's popularity, Fenton said she wants to see people be kinder to each other online.
"I hope from now on people will just think before they type. Think before they make a comment of someone, especially in their darkest hour," she said. "This kind of blame and shame is an epidemic on social media that needs to end. We need to love and embrace each other as parents."