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. It’s so important to trust your intuition. But, I now know sexual predator behavior.
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.
This friendship taught me about sexual predator behavior
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? Trust your intuition.
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.