What can I do if I have concerns?
Suspecting or discovering that a loved one has been having sexual thoughts about children and/or has sexually harmed a child, is a distressing and confusing experience. One partner of a man arrested for accessing indecent images of children online described it as ‘being hit by a tsunami, such was its emotional and practical impact’. How you feel and how you respond will likely depend on:
- the person’s relationship to you
- how you came about this information
- your own personal circumstances
- whether the individual’s behaviour is already known to the authorities.
The majority of people who discover that the person they care about has been acting inappropriately towards children will be shocked, even if they suspected something was amiss. Often the initial response is an inability to process the information and to function normally, followed by emotional responses such as anger, distress fear and anxiety and then questions about the behaviour e.g. ‘do I report him to the police?’, ‘what does this mean for our relationship?’, ‘what do I say to the children/my friends….?’.
Resources for further advice and support
Stop It Now! Helpline
If you are even slightly concerned that someone you love may be having sexual thoughts about children or they are under investigation/have been convicted of a sexual offence against a child, you can call the Stop It Now! free and confidential helpline on 0808 1000 900.
Our trained operators will listen to your concerns and offer information and support. Dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s actions is a lengthy and difficult process and Stop It Now! is there to help.
You can also email Stop It Now! by clicking here.
Our Parents Protect! website (www.parentsprotect.co.uk) contains advice, information and resources regarding how to identify whether your child is being sexually (or has been) sexually abused. It details:
- warning signs that might indicate that an adult is using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons
- information about what is considered to be age appropriate sexual behaviour and development in children
- resources that educate your children about good and bad touch, and what to do if they found themselves in a difficult situation
- information about child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation
- risks associated with the internet and internet safety information
- what to do if you have concerns about a child
- what to expect if you report a case of child sexual abuse to the authorities
- how to create a Family Safety Plan
- details of other organisations
If the individual who has disclosed sexual thoughts about children or has sexually harmed a child remains in the family home, it is important to consider what needs to happen to safeguard the children. This will depend on the ages of the children, but in some cases the children may need to be given details of the individual’s concerning behaviour so that they can be aware of warning signs and what to do if they have concerns themselves. For younger children, it may be more a case of providing general information about what is okay and not okay, alongside simple messages about what to do if someone behaves inappropriately towards them.
Developing and implementing a Family Safety Plan is a way to create a safer environment and a support network for everyone in the family. A template for a Family Safety Plan is available here.
Citizens Advice Bureau
In situations where a child has been abused by a parent, decisions on what happens next will likely be influenced by the police and children’s services. Contact with child victims and other children may be restricted or subject to supervision. The Citizens Advice Bureau (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) may be able to advise you of your options in these circumstances and signpost you to the best source of legal and practical help where applicable.
Other things to consider
There will be a number of difficult, and sometimes life-changing, decisions that need to made and things that need to be considered. Whilst these things need time for thought and reflection, they are often hurried as a number of immediate and practical issues are often clamouring for attention.
But you need not face this alone. Talking to someone who understands and can help you make sense of what has happened can be a ‘life saver’. It is also important that you have your own support when making and acting on important decisions.
Examples of things that you are likely to have to consider include:
- Fear of the police finding out (if the person has not yet been arrested)
- Fear of others finding out (family, friends, neighbours, the wider community, employers, colleagues, the media)
- Fear of rejection
- Employment problems (the individual’s and/or yours)
- Involvement of Children’s Services
- Financial problems (e.g. if the individual loses their job, you have to take time off work, legal costs, if the person is required to move out of the family home and into rented accommodation)
- Going through the legal process
- Waiting to find out about criminal charges and sentencing
- Media coverage
Many of these stressors may relate to things which have not yet happened, and may not be applicable to you. However, any one of them can be stressful and it is important for you to maintain good self-care. Good self-care involves both recognising when you are feeling bad (rather than just telling yourself it’s ‘one of those things’) and doing something about it (rather than just ‘getting on with things’).