This blog was written by an individual from the UK who wanted their story heard but wishes to remain anonymous.
This is a blog in a continuing series about the impact of the arrest & prosecution of individuals convicted of having Indecent Images of Children on their families. The author of this blog also wrote a previous blog on their experiences and this is a continuation. Kieran
In 2015 the father of my 2 young children pleaded guilty to Downloading Indecent Images of Children (IIOC) & received a 3-year Community Order plus 5-year SHPO
In my experience the Fear vs Reality of Negative Community Response is equally oppressive. It adds unprecedented stress within an already intensely emotional situation.
At the start it is all about managing the suspect's suicide risk. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation if the accused is dead there is no satisfactory conclusion for anyone. As my ex felt great shame after his secret online behavior had been uncovered, I was told unreservedly how important my silence was: the additional loss of control of who knew could push him over the edge.
Police warned me that if I broke confidentiality then this could trigger physical vigilante response such as spray-painting vile comments on my property. They advised me to gather evidence of any personal threats as that would make me a direct victim of crime therefore facilitating a referral to support services.
Children Services encouraged me to not tell anyone by explaining the impact on the kids: playdates might stop & my boys be excluded from class parties. Especially for older children, there is a risk that they could be bullied for potentially having the same predilection.
Media exposure when the case got to Court was a constant threat to the anonymity that I spent months protecting during the investigation stage: I had no way of influencing or minimizing this. The thought that something could be shared indefinitely on social-media platforms is horrible. My kids would never be able to control the level of disclosure to their peers & exposure is just a Google search away.
My ex did not commit suicide however, I believe it was an outcome we swerved. There was no vigilante action as I maintained our privacy about the investigation. Nothing has happened which required Police involvement. Luckily, his case was not reported in the media. As no-one knows, unless I tell them, the impact of Negative Community Response for me manifests in a more subtle & undermining way.
Early on I found socializing too daunting as I felt like I was constantly lying about my own life. I was profoundly lonely. I relocated before it went to Court because the level of isolation, I felt in my hometown was making me overwhelming anxious about the future. When I first moved for our fresh start in a new place I optimistically thought, as I would be known separate from him, that I would feel less judged about my past. I was wrong.
Over the years I have attempted to build a support network for my little family by carefully choosing who to trust with the truth however, I find people fall into 3 categories after disclosure:
1. Some completely disagree with my decision to allow my children to have ongoing fully supervised fortnightly access with their Dad. A lady I considered a close friend expressly told me that as a mother, she felt that I was wrong so no longer wanted to maintain contact. Others listen to my story, give sympathetic statements such as “I respect your decision but if it was me I wouldn’t let him anywhere my kids” however their conflicted feelings about this issue mean it remains an avoided topic & in time they melt away.
2. I have had people in my inner circle change their stance significantly over time which feels like my foundations keep shifting. Initially, my ex-sister-in-law stated she would never speak to her brother again & if she became legal guardian to my boys that she would not uphold my wishes that they see their Dad: a bereavement in the family prompted her to reconsider & he is back in the family fold. Whilst I was trying to resolve a school safeguarding breach two valued friends, who I thought understood the long-term ramifications, surprisingly minimized the risk factor he presented so did not agree with my response to the incident.
3. I can count on one hand the precious few I perceive to have my back. They empathize with my struggle, & support my autonomy without condition, restoring my faith that I can trust my instincts.
The risk of potential negative community judgment becomes self-limiting. I still feel humiliated that people might think I was complicit as he committed the offense in the family home. In time experiential evidence demonstrates that disclosing my family’s circumstance, to create meaningful connections carries the real possibility of losing a friendship which would compound my isolation further. My biggest worry is when my sons come of age they will learn of their father’s crime & this burden will slowly make them become as socially reclusive as I am now. They face the same long-term battle with maintaining their mental wellbeing with no funded support. As the number IIOC investigations rise exponentially, accelerated by COVID-19, more families will be affected. Society is not ready to see us as victims of a crime because currently, authorities do not recognize that we are.