My boyfriend was sexually harmful as a youth, can he stay safe as an adult?


Dear Stop It Now!,

My boyfriend is in his 20's and had sexually offended his little brothers from when he was 12 until he was 18, when he went to a recovery center. There he confessed to being addicted to child pornography as well and has been in therapy. He is still struggling with this addiction and I know that sometimes it's hard for him, but I can really see that he is trying to do his best and recover. All his teen life, he was around bad sexual habits and addicted to porn. He never understood sexuality and did terrible things. Now he is grieving for the loss of his brothers, who are afraid of him and I can clearly see that he loves them and that he understands now, thanks to the therapy, how much pain he caused.

And yet I'm scared. Can he really fully recover? Is it possible for him to start a family one day? Is there hope? I want to believe in him and in the great progress he made up until now, but sometimes I cannot help but doubt everything. Please help me.

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Dear Concerned Girlfriend,

It sounds like your boyfriend has had a complicated history, but know that yes there is hope, and it is possible to recover. With treatment, youth and adults who have harmed others, can go on to live happy, healthy, and abuse-free lives. After so many years of addiction and hurt, it’s great that your boyfriend is now seeing a therapist who can help him with any difficult thoughts or feelings he may be having.

Treatment and Recovery
Talking to a specialist is one way your boyfriend can start to learn about healthy sexuality, his own triggers and how to keep himself safe, and even about the harm he’s done to others. Staying honest is such an important part in the recovery process, and it sounds like your boyfriend has really grown throughout his therapeutic work; being committed to treatment will be vital moving forward.

Planning for Safety
Part of recovery involves making a Safety Plan, and always sticking to it – even when he seems to be doing well. A safety plan helps keep both him and children safe by identifying what situations make him feel triggered, what he needs to avoid, and what he can do if he were in a risky situation to make sure he stays on track.

This may mean actively talking to his therapist about when and ifhe is ready start a family, after you’ve discussed with him what he wants for his own life, what you want for yours, as well as your plan for your lives together. Discussing these concerns with his counselor is a good idea so they can fully support a healthy decision and help you both plan for the future.

Although it sounds like he is doing well, this may not be something he may do any time soon, especially since added stressors can sometimes upset the progress one has made. Deciding to start a family is a big decision that deserves both parties’ involvement, thoughts, and input. I hope that he will follow through with treatment as that will indicate his commitment to keeping children safe, to his own health and wellbeing, and to the wellbeing of your relationship with one another.

Additional Supports for At-Risk Adults
I’m so glad to hear that he has the support of a counselor, and you may even want to pass on our Adults At-Risk resources to him. Even though he is already seeing someone professionally, there are many online and in-person communities that may help him keep himself and others’ safe like Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), Virtuous Pedophiles, and CROGA. 

Taking Care of Yourself
There are some resources that help not only people who watch child pornography, but also their allies who may also be affected – like you. Get Help from Stop It Now! UKhas a link specifically for friends and families to help them get information, support, and help them unravel this very complicated topic. You may also want to explore Cyber Sexual Addiction as they have other resources, articles, and information for concerned loved ones. Please check out both resources as they may help you start to understand and process your boyfriend’s history.

You may even want to think about finding a Professional who you can talk to – together as a couple or by yourself – as you move forward. A neutral party may be helpful as additional support for you, or you and he both, as you figure out what you want for yourself moving forward. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!


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Last edited on: November 9th, 2018