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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. How you feel and how you respond may depend on the person’s relationship to you and on how you came about this information, as well as your own personal circumstances and 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….?’.

Some of these issues can be helped by seeking further information and advice.

If you are even slightly concerned that someone you love may be having sexual thoughts about children and/or they are under investigation or have been convicted of committing 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. Or if you prefer you can e-mail us on help@stopitnow.org.uk.

The helpline offers on-going support and information to all adults who are concerned about their own thoughts or behaviour towards children or who are concerned about the thoughts or behaviour of an adult or child who is close to them. Dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s actions is a lengthy and difficult process and Stop It Now! is there to help. For further information, please visit www.stopitnow.org.uk.

There are other resources available that can provide information about what to do when a person you love has disclosed having inappropriate sexual thoughts about a child and/or is under investigation or been convicted of committing a sexual offence.

Our Parents Protect website www.parentsprotect.co.uk contains advice, information and resources about warning signs in both children and adults that might indicate that an adult is using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons and that might be a sign that a child is being sexually abused. It also provides information about what is considered to be age appropriate sexual behaviour and development in children and young people so if your concerns relate to a child this may assist in helping you to decide if your concerns are justified and reasonable and what you can do. In addition the website provides information and resources that can be used with children and which will help all adults to recognise and to prevent child sexual abuse. It includes:

  • Information about child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation
  • Risks associated with the internet and internet safety information
  • Warning signs- what to look for in children and adults
  • What to do if you have concerns about a child/ if the disclose abuse
  • Creating a Family Safety Plan
  • Information about useful resources to use with children and organisations who can help if there are concerns

It is important that in the aftermath of discovering that someone you love has either sexually offended against a child, or has had inappropriate thoughts, that you gather as much information as you can about the thoughts and behaviour so that you can make decisions about the future. Don’t rush into making vital decisions, take time to consider all the options but ensure that you are protecting children that may be at risk by preventing any unsupervised contact with the person you are concerned about. Whatever decision you make will have different potential consequences and you need to consider these carefully

In situations where a child has been abused by a parent decisions are likely to be influenced by the involvement of external agencies such as police and children’s services. Contact with child victims and other children may be restricted or subject to supervision. The Citizens Advice Bureau 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. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

If the individual who has disclosed sexual thoughts about children or has sexually harmed against a child remains in the family home it is important to consider what needs to happen to safeguard the children. This is likely to depend on the ages of the children but in some cases might involve the children being given details of the individuals concerning behaviour so that they can be aware of warning signs and what to do if they have concerns. In the case of younger children they may not be told about the inappropriate behaviour but instead be given more 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 on the Parents Protect website- www.parentsprotect.co.uk

The discovery that someone close to us has been having sexual thoughts about children or has offended against a child can be shattering and traumatic. The 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'. Difficult and sometimes life-changing decisions need time for thought and reflection, often at a time when both are in short supply and when 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’.

In addition it is important that you are supported in the aftermath of this discovery and when making and acting on important decisions. Things that you are likely to have to consider include the following:

  • 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’).

 

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