Before jail. Before she moved away from their small town — because how can you stay? And before the realisation that when the person you love is a child sex offender, nothing is black and white. This is just one of the stories shared with The Sunday Times this week when we visited a support group of women who are the partners or mothers of men who have been convicted of child sex offences.
The women meet fortnightly to talk, cry and support each other through the kind of scenario that only ever happens to other people — until it happens to you. She is right. While the stereotype of child sex offenders might be creepy men living alone, meeting this group soon disavows that assumption. The women at this meeting have arrived straight from work.
Some wear office clothes. They are articulate, well-spoken professionals. One is a nurse. Others work with children. They all speak of their shock that this could happen to them.
They say before the knock on the door, the disclosure, the moment their lives imploded, they had a pretty simple view of who a child sex offender was — they were sick freaks. They never for a moment thought their partner or husband — police officers, small business owners, professionals — would be capable of such crimes. And I thought I knew this person really well. I thought I was quite a good judge of character and obviously I am not.
While the shocking stories of institutionalised sexual abuse has dominated headlines in recent years, sadly, the true story of child sex abuse is much bigger and much closer to home. Most child sexual assault, up to 90 per cent, happens within the home and is often perpetrated by family members. But despite the huge numbers, there are shockingly few resources available for families of perpetrators.
A paedophile in the family
And it is often the women left holding their family together — and caring for their traumatised child — when the perpetrator goes to prison. The group is run by two psychologists, Janice Paige and Christabel Chamarette. Ms Chamarette was previously involved in SafeCare, an organisation which ran from to and provided treatment for all family members, including offenders.
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Since , the two women, along with another psychologist Peter Dunlop, have been running groups offering treatment to male sex offenders. They then saw a need for a group for women who are the mothers or partners of male sex offenders. Women they say are secondary victims of these crimes. They feel guilty for not realising their partner was committing these crimes and not being able to protect the children.
They are confused about loving, or having loved, someone capable of these horrific acts. Often, while their partner is in prison, they are left to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. No support.
Collateral damage: the family upheaval that results from abuse
This has been my happy place for the last year. They all said dealing with judgment from the wider community had been one of the most difficult things they had to navigate. If you say nothing you are seen to be OK with what they did. Is that the best thing for them? Or would it be best to cut contact entirely? As the group members have seen, my thing is just not knowing what the right thing to do is.
Melissa, a mother of teenage children, has experienced that reaction. She decided to stay with her husband of 20 years after he was arrested for taking sexually inappropriate photos of young girls. The community has been less understanding, with repeated attacks on their home and estrangement from their wider social circle.
We just have to find a happy place to move forward. But she said despite her decision, their future remains uncertain. For Eve, a woman in her 60s, when she discovered her husband of nearly 50 years had sexually abused teenage boys her response was immediate. But with such a long shared history together, she found she was unable to walk away. Eve has maintained contact with her husband while he lives in supported accommodation. He is awaiting sentencing for what is expected to be a lengthy jail term.
He was intimidated into signing a confession, by the guilford county sheriff's department. I'm at a loss as to where to go from here. I'm afraid that this girl will continue this dangerous type of self-destructive behavior, leaving innocent men in prison for crimes that they didn't commit.
If there is any help that you can give, I would greatly appreciate it. Sincerely, Teresa Lee Mother of innocent convicted sex offender. I just watched my son of 20 years of age charged with child molestation. The girl, who was 13 at the time, Facebooked him until he responded and offered him everything everything under the sun over and over again. He met with her once and the "made-out" he touched her and the parent who had multiple drug charges against him pressed charges.
He will now be in prison for years and a sexual offender. My problem with all of this is that the girl continues to stalk older boys and has no consequences. The court system has not caught up with the sexuality of teens. I am a labor and delivery nurse and the first year I worked I delivered many year old girls who had been sexually active for quite some time. I am not saying what my son did was right however I do believe that being labeled and paying for the rest of his life is wrong. I think that the parents of these girls should have some consequences as they do not monitor their children and pay attention to what they are doing.
Sincerely Karen K. Lizzy November 7, at PM. My son was only 14years old when he was convicted of committing a sexual crime. It's a long story but he was bullied into this situation by 3 other boys. My son struggles with some learning disabilities also so he did not realize how to problem solve to get out of the situation.
He is now 17 yrs old. The past few years have been hard but he has survived them gracefully. I worry about his future a and what this label will do to him.
He has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. We accept what he did was wrong but I just don't understand why he has to pay for this for his entire life. Susan January 19, at PM. I agree, my son is also 20 yrs old and convicted of aggravted sexual assault of a young troubled girl who had "consented" contact with him. She was very troubled and it wasn't the first contact CPS had with her and her mother.
Instead of just saying the girls are victims and they can't address their issues, they need to get these girls and mothers into some sort of counseling to change the behavior instead of just throwing our sons into the prison system and thinking problem solved. Yes, they did wrong but a little girl flaunting herself in front of a boy is also wrong!!
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Nicole February 14, at PM. My son 13 yrs old when he was arrested it was by far the hardest thing are family has ever been through. Now he can't enough talk on the phone to his two younger brothers. I need to know how other mothers get through this. I know it was my son that did wrong but i feel his brothers and i are paying for it too. I see my son monthly which is hard too i am not used to asking permission to see my son.
Inside the Scottish support group for relatives of sex offenders
Are lives are upside down. Please Help! Any Advice would help. Becky February 27, at PM. I am devastated and need help and would join any organization to help our sons with this problem with online porn.