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This page is designed to help you understand the dynamics of denial so as to address your own fears and be empowered to make some difficult decisions and start moving forward from what may feel is an isolated position, where either you think you should have recognised the signs sooner or others may be hinting that you must have known something.
- Coming to terms with the reality that a person close to you has been viewing and/or distributing indecent images of children can be a very difficult journey. It may be that when you first heard about or suspected the behaviour you thought, “I don’t believe it!” “It can’t be true!”
- This kind of thinking is a normal defence mechanism. It helps you to initially protect yourself, because the reality might be too painful to bear. As one non-offending partner said to me, “the river boat of denial is a more comfortable place to be”.
- Denial is a common defence against fearful or unwanted information. Denial allows individuals to act as though they will not die, will not become helpless with age and will never be diagnosed with a terminal illness. Denial is activated when people are afraid.
How can someone try and understand denial from the perspective of the person close to them who has been offending on-line?
- They will have been actively keeping the behaviour a secret from you because they realise that what they are viewing is wrong, but also there are likely to have been levels of denial around the offending, just as there will be levels of denial when the offending is known about.
- For a person who has viewed indecent images of children, it is the most difficult thing to fully admit the thinking and feelings that were associated with this behaviour. When memory and pride are at odds, it is memory that usually gives in.
- To further understand how difficult it would be for this person, think about something you have done in your life that you are not proud of and imagine having to tell either a person you are emotionally intimate with, or a stranger, the full version of the incident. What would your fears be, and how would you be feeling during the disclosure?
- Denial may be partial or total. It may be short lived or persistent. It may be public or private. These three areas of denial can be experienced not just by yourself, but also the person close to you who has been offending online, and other family members, as the behaviour is being discovered.
- If you are struggling to come to terms with the fact that your partner or other family member has accessed indecent images of children on-line, it will be even more of a challenge to accept the facts if others around you are finding it more comforting to minimise and or justify the behaviour.
Types of Denial
- Denial of the fact: e.g. “I didn’t do it”/ “He didn’t do it”
- Denial of awareness: e.g. “I was drunk and I didn’t know what I was doing”/ “He was drunk/stressed and didn’t know what he was doing”
- Denial of responsibility: “I had no part in harming a child”/ “He wasn’t the person responsible for the images being on-line”
- Denial of impact: “The children were smiling; they looked like they were enjoying themselves”/ “He wasn’t the one abusing children”
- Denial of the need for treatment: “I’ve learnt my lesson and I won’t do it again/ “He was under a lot of pressure at the time”
Reasons for Denial
- Fear of losing his family
- Fear of custody
- Wants to continue offending
- Wants to stop but doesn’t know how
- Acknowledgement of causing harm to the children online and family is too painful
- Fear of losing child and or partner
- Fear of family break up
- Fear of a hostile response
- Fear of being blamed
- Fear of loss of autonomy – you worry that you have no control over the situation
- Fear of retribution – will you be blamed for the actions of another?
- Fear of loss of financial security and being a single parent – your perception of family life has been turned upside down
- Fear of stigma and punishment – concerns about how you will be judged by others
- Belief the individual won’t do it again – your loyalty takes precedence over the evidence
- Divided loyalties – how do you balance the offence with your positive experiences of the individual?
- Child Protection – would this offence impact upon your ability to prove that you are able to protect your children or others that you are in contact with?
Once we know something, we can only pretend that we do not know. Some may minimise or justify, and this is understandable at the beginning of discovering such activity. Talking about what has happened in a non-judgemental, confidential environment may help you to understand what has happened and to begin to move forward. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.