My daughter is dating a pedophile, what do I do?
Dear Stop It Now!,
I just found out that the man my 30 yr old daughter has been in a relationship with for the past 3 yrs is a convicted incestuous pedophile. His daughter was not his 1st victim. She was aware of this upon entering the relationship. I have done much research and contacted professionals in the field and they all corroborate my feelings that his behaviours are in line with that of a sociopath. I've shared all of my findings with my daughter to no avail. She fiercely defends him. What do I do?
Dear Concerned Parent,
I understand your concern. It's only normal as a parent to want the best for your child, and it can be very scary to learn that your daughter is in a relationship with someone who has been convicted of a sexual offense. I'm so glad you've reached out to us with your concerns.
Recognizing Warning Signs
I hear that you’ve talked to your daughter already about this man’s past behavior and she’s not able to hear what you’re saying – and I know how frustrating that must be. Though you don’t mention any children at risk currently, I’m wondering if you’re worried about this man’s behavior specifically from his past sexual offenses, or are concerned about his actions around children now. I want you to take a look at these Behaviors To Watch Out For When Adults Are With Children and these Signs an Adult is At-Risk to Harm a Child, and see if you notice any of these in the way this man acts around children. And, are there allies in your concerns – like another loving relative or friend of the family? Please feel free to share these tip sheets with other people in your own and your daughter’s lives currently. If you’re noticing a pattern of unsafe behavior in this man’s behavior around children now, you may want to reach out to the child protection agency in your province; for more information, please check out the Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal’s Provincial and Territorial Assistance page.
It’s also possible that you’re worried about this man’s risk currently because of his past sexual offenses. As you say he is a pedophile, I’m wondering if he’s talked to you about a diagnosis he’s received, or if you’re just referring to the sexual offense he’s committed. We are never looking to excuse someone’s sexually abusive behavior, but there are many reasons why an adult would sexually abuse a child, and in fact, many people are stunned to learn that around half of adults who abuse children are not pedophiles.
Finding Out More Information
Though it is never okay to hurt or abuse a child, with treatment adults who have engaged in sexually abusive behavior who want to stay safe can live the rest of their lives abuse-free. I want to be clear that I do not want to convince you that this man is not a risk to children, but when information is available, it can be helpful to learn more about a person’s offense to help understand whether they have completed treatment and are currently trying to live a safe life. Here in the United States, there is information that is available to the public about people who are registered sex offenders, and by contacting the local criminal court who handled someone’s case and asking to speak with their probation or parole officer, people in the US are able to find out more information about someone’s offense. If this is possible in Canada, then you may want to ask this man’s probation or parole officer some questions like: how this person has been doing since conviction/release, have successfully completed treatment or are the in treatment currently, and have they been compliant with any restrictions they have had to follow?
It’s important that you continue to stay engaged with your daughter and keep building on the relationship you already have with her. It sounds like you’re not getting anywhere with her when you’re talking about your concerns with her partner right now, but if you continue to show that you love and support her, she may be willing to talk to you about any concerns she may have (with him or their relationship) at a later date. That doesn’t mean that you have to endorse their relationship, but you can still express your love, care and concern while refraining from making any judgmental or accusatory statements about her boyfriend. That also doesn’t mean that you should let any inappropriate behavior “slide” either – instead it is often most helpful talk about direct and specific actions you have noticed (like it makes me uncomfortable when… then describe the behavior you witnessed), rather than to make generalized statements about a person’s intentions.
Planning for Safety in Your Family
And with all the recent media coverage of sexual abuse, it’s great that you’re staying engaged and paying attention. Although the sex offender registry in the US can alert us to people who may pose a risk to children or adults, it is, however, only a small percentage of people who sexually abuse children. Whether or not your daughter is in a relationship with this man, you may still want to talk to her more generally about safety. There are things you and your daughter can do every day to help keep children safe in your family – and you may want to share these I’ve included below tools with her.
- Safety Planning
- Guidebook: Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
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Last edited on: October 31st, 2018