Writing this article is far from easy for me. It’s taken me weeks to process the information and I’m not doing a very good job with it. So as hard as this is for me to write, I hope that it will serve a purpose to protect you and your family.
I’ve spent the last 6 years of my life calling a certain person my best friend. He would do anything for me and, I, for him. We worked together, we played tonight, we consoled one another when times were rough and we laughed… a lot. He was my rock for many years and when my son was born, it just seemed right to call him uncle. To say he was my everything is an understatement.
However, over the last year or so, he sunk into such extreme depression that there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to stop the downward spiral. I knew he was spiraling because He started drinking more than usual and started hanging out with some sketchy friends (who I never met, but I can only assume were not the people I wanted to be around.)
But we would still have weekly chats and I would come over from time to time with a bottle of wine just to catch up. I wasn’t thrilled with his life choices, but that didn’t negate everything he had done for me throughout the years.
So, you can imagine my utter disbelief and shock when I found out he was arrested a few weeks ago on 12 counts of child pornography charges. I’m not even sure “shock” capsules how I felt. I don’t know whether to hate him, feel sad, feel betrayed, be concerned for him, be scared for him. More importantly, I don’t know how to navigate my own feelings.
Was I that blind? Was I that untuned to what was going on around me? Had I put my son in danger? To say the charges were (and still are a nightmare) is an understatement.
I think the worst part of this whole ordeal is that I blame myself for putting my child in a situation where he could have been hurt. I blame myself for not seeing signs. I blame myself for ignoring the bad in my friend and only looking for the good.
And, in general, I think it’s ALWAYS good practice to look for the good in people. But you have to do your due diligence in vetting the people you are going to spend your time and your kids’ time around.
Because the reality is that predators are not people in hoodies living in basements. They come in all shapes, ages, and colors and I think that’s what scares me the most. Whenever they interview parents and friends in these situations, the general consensus is, “We had no idea this was happening. He (or she) seemed like such a nice, upstanding person.”
And that’s the REAL scary part. Predators are out there in society living seemingly normal lives. It’s almost impossible to know the depravity of a single individual until it’s too late.
My solution? I’m not sure I have one. First and foremost, you can’t talk too much to your child about self-autonomy and having an open dialogue about when it is or isn’t okay for someone to touch you. But probably the most important thing is to remind your kid every day that you are their safe space and they can tell you anything without getting in trouble. Because that’s the best line of defense we really have right now.
I didn’t write this to scare anyone, but just to point out that it can happen to anyone at any time and just because someone is a relative, good friend, or neighbor doesn’t always mean they are trustworthy around your child.
Trust your gut and keep your child informed. That’s the best thing you can do.
Oh, and also try and remember most people are innately good. At least, I still hold onto that thought.