Why didn’t I know?

When you find out that your loved one has been accessing sexual images of children online, you don’t just have to deal with your anger and upset about that.

You will probably ask yourself – why didn’t I know?

Don’t beat yourself up. When you trust someone, this will have been the last thing on your mind.  You won’t have been looking out for things that look like danger signs with the benefit of hindsight. And your loved one will have been working hard to cover it all up.

Think about it – we all use masks – or put on a front – to help us deal with different situations. We show different bits of ourselves at work, at the school gates, and within our families.  Often we show what we want others to see, or even what we think they expect to see. This is normal.

If you want to cover something up, you turn to those masks even more. Your loved one only wanted you to see the non-offending side of him.

Some men will be extra helpful – perhaps offering to babysit, or supporting you to go out and see friends or go to a class. You thought he was just being nice. Now you look back and think he was creating undisturbed time when he could go online.

If you do get curious about why he needs to spend so much time on the computer, he might stonewall you, giving minimal answers, which discourages you from pushing it. Or he might get angry about you being intrusive – so you feel guilty and back down.

Now you do have hindsight, have a think about how your loved one tried to cover his behaviour up.

  • How did he create the time to look at images online?
  • What explanations did he give for spending time online?
  • How did he react if I got too inquisitive?

If you decide to stay with the person who has offended, it will not be your fault if he reoffends. But now you know a bit more, you may be able to help him stay safe.

First, you need to discuss how he concealed his online behaviour. He needs to tell you what masks he used, to help you notice them in the future. And he needs to agree to be supportive when you point them out to him, because you are just keeping him safe

If you decide not to stay with the person, it will still be helpful for you to be able to recognise warning signs. Click to reveal some examples.

This isn’t an exhaustive list! It’s important for anyone who is concerned about the online behaviour of someone close to them that they

  • Remain mindful of any behavioural changes in the person that may have been apparent at the time and trust their own intuition or ‘gut feeling’ that all may not be well
  • Feel equipped and able to challenge behavioural changes should they arise

Of course, none of this is possible unless the person who is viewing sexual images and/or engaging in other inappropriate online activities is willing to take responsibility for their behaviour and to seek help to change. This involves opening up – discussing what has happened – preferably with someone close to them and also with others who can help. If you are not sure your loved one is ready for this, then the next section may be helpful.

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