Several years ago, our family was befriended by a community acquaintance with whom we shared some extracurricular activities. Over time, this man (I’ll call him Bob), began paying attention to my 2-year-old son. He’d ask my son for high fives or hugs and offer to take him for walks when my son grew antsy at events. At a summer picnic, he asked if he could take my son over to the playground, “So you have a chance to visit,” he said. I didn’t know him well, so I politely declined.
From time to time, Bob came by our house with his grandchild, stopping to chat with us in the yard. More than once, he asked if my son could walk to the park with the two of them. I always came up with a reason to keep my son home with me.
One day, when my second child was just weeks old and my husband was gone to work during the day, Bob knocked on my front door. He made small talk about the baby and asked how I was recovering, or if I needed anything. Then, he asked if he could take my 2-year-old to his house to pick out a kids’ movie from his collection and bring it back to our house. Once more, I declined. He persisted, despite my reasons. I stood my ground.
That evening, I talked to my husband about Bob, explaining that my intuition was telling me something was off. Bob was just too interested in our son. He had offered too many times to “take him off my hands.” We didn’t have any evidence to exclude him from our lives, but we agreed to use extra caution when Bob was around our children.
“I don’t know what it is,” I said, “but someday we’re going to find out there’s more going on than what we see.”
A few months later, Bob’s computer was malfunctioning, and he asked my husband to help him get it operating smoothly again. Bob left the computer at our house, and my husband went to work on it one night while the two of us hung out in the living room.
“Ohhh, no,” my husband said — a look on his face I’ll never forget.
I knew immediately that my suspicions were confirmed. Bob’s computer files were full of child pornography.
The computer was turned over to the police, who recovered 64 pornographic images and 7 sexual videos of boys, along with online chats where he solicited photos of young boys and girls from other predators.
Bob was sentenced to nine months in the county jail, followed by five years of probation. He is back in the community now as a registered sex offender.
I’ve thought about Bob and our family’s experiences with him dozens of times over the past five years. My responses range from panic to pity, disgust to fear, intense anger to deep sadness for his brokenness.
What does a mother do with all of this? What can a parent take away from an encounter like ours? How can we use it for good instead of being eaten alive by anger or fear?
This is my starting point. It took years to reach the point of being able to write down our experiences and offer these suggestions to all parents – yes, all parents – whose children are at risk of sexual abuse.
Trust Your Intuition.
Looking back, it’s easy to see why I said no to Bob’s many requests to take my son away from my care. But what about that first time? Or the second? What if I had allowed him to just take my son for a walk around the block? Would it have opened the door to future interactions? Would I have let my guard down after one experience turned out okay? Could my own child have been a victim of abuse?
The what-ifs are chilling.
But I didn’t say yes. I didn’t allow that door to be opened because from day one my mother’s intuition said, “Uh-uh. Hold your son close.”
Of course I can’t be certain of Bob’s motives, but I’ll be forever grateful for the feelings that compelled me to keep my toddler in my care so that I never had to wonder about what had gone on beyond my view.
Parents, if your intuition tells you to steer clear of a person or situation, there might be a reason for it.
Maybe you won’t find out until years later. Maybe you’ll never find out. But your child is your treasure, and you always have the right to say no.
Talk to Your Children.