How do I proceed with extended family gatherings with an uncle charged with child pornography?

Dear Stop It Now!
I have learned in the past year that my uncle (mid 50's, single, lives with my grandparents) has been heavily involved with child pornography for a long time and is currently on trial. I have two young children and there are other young children in the extended family (babies through 6 yrs old). How can we best keep the children safe in light of him being a pedophile and that this is his family too?

Dear Concerned Parent,
Safety planning in advance, as you are doing, is key. You and other parents and adults can create the safety rules necessary. In many ways the safety rules you design shouldn't be much different from safety rules that you want to establish overall for your family and home.

Safety Planning
Safety planning is about boundaries, privacy and includes communication and supervision. Here are some samples of safety rules:

  • No one is allowed in children's bedrooms but the child and a parent
  • Doors stay open when there is more than one person in a room and you always knock before entering
  • Only one person in the bathroom at a time

Families can personalize their rules but it is important that everyone needs to follow the rules that are set up – no exceptions. We want children to know what the rules are, and what to do if anyone is breaking the safety rules. If they see that "everyone" follows the rules, then if there is someone who doesn't, children will have more success at recognizing behavior that is different - and therefore potentially concerning.

Look over these safety tip sheetsand guidebook for more strategies:
• Don’t Wait: Everyday Actions to Keep Kids Safe
• Talking to Children and Teens
• Prevent Child Sexual Abuse: Facts About Abuse and How to Prevent It – guidebook

Have a conversation
It would be helpful for you to make sure you have as many facts as possible about your uncle's activities, charges and for that matter, what his involvement in treatment is. How committed is he to treatment and to being responsible to keeping children safe? 

In some cases, people in similar situations have had a conversation with the adult that brings up safety concerns - and asks him or her honestly to talk about what they can do to guarantee that they will be a part of safety planning.  Asking them to define the steps that they are taking to be safe around children may help you make further decisions on how you want to interact with your uncle.

It is reasonable for adults to set very strict limits when concerned about safety issues.  Discussing rules, limits and concerns with other famly members prior to any family gathering can help everyone make decisions about safety.

Take Care,
Stop It Now! 

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Last edited on: December 18th, 2013