kids

'What I did when I found out my toddler was molested by her grandfather.'

The author of this story has chosen to remain anonymous, but is known to Mamamia. 

I’ve heard the debate for years about whether child sex offenders should be named and shamed. Yesterday, I discovered that perhaps it’s a pointless debate because, in my experience, many people don’t care anyway.

Last week my father-in-law, Saul* pled guilty to molesting my daughter.

She was a toddler at the time. He didn’t spend a single day in jail. The fact that he received no punishment whatsoever has left me traumatised.

I can’t speak for my daughter as she’s only a child so is unaware of the outcome. Her trauma is likely to come some time in the future.

Saul appeared to be great with all the kids, not just ours. I remember telling him he’s such a natural he should be a hockey coach. He said he had done that for years and loved it.

Recently, still haunted by the memories, I went to his house.

It was raining quite heavily so I didn’t want to park too far from where I thought his house was and the one spot where I could pull over was directly in front of the house I suspected was his.

I sat in my car for a while, trying to figure out if I was in the right place. Then the garage door opened and he drove in. Liz*, his wife, got out of the car and waved to me. I waved back. I felt frozen. Now that they’d seen me I didn’t know whether to just drive off or sit there. I didn’t want that scumbag of a man thinking he could scare me off so I sat there for a few minutes, contemplating my next move.

After a few minutes Liz came out to me. The conversation started out nicely enough. I asked her how she was going and she told me how hard it had been on her. She didn’t ask how I was doing, or how her son or granddaughter were doing. I asked her why she hadn’t left him. She said it was because she had no hatred towards him.

Not surprisingly, the conversation quickly turned nasty and she told me her biggest regret in all this was that she didn’t call the police on me for being a neglectful parent. Living with severe depression means I struggle with raising my children and even getting out of bed. She had always been a huge support for me so her throwing that back in my face hurt me deeply. I ended up telling her I’d tell all the neighbours about what her husband had done. Hell, he deserved it anyway.

To my surprise, she said they already knew.

I assumed she was bluffing so asked her “So if I went inside to talk to them they would know?”. She insisted they did and brazenly went inside their house. As I sat in my car looking at the kids’ toys and bikes in the garage, I wondered what she was actually talking to them about because it surely couldn’t be this. A few minutes later she came out with bloodshot eyes and tears streaming down her bright red face. The neighbours were right behind her.

The rest of the conversation is a bit of a blur to me because it left me shocked and devastated. What I do remember is that the neighbours came out and told me that I was nasty for trying to humiliate Saul. The husband, Matt*, a father of two young girls, was intimidatingly staring at me through my car window asking what I was trying to achieve.

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I didn’t know how to respond to that, I hadn’t done anything – they were the ones who approached me and then started to abuse me for being horrible. I was speechless. I could not believe this was happening.  He told me he’d gotten to know Saul and he’d proven himself to be a lovely man. Well, I thought, that makes sense, he only knows we’ve accused him, not that he pled guilty or has been convicted. When I offered this information he told me he knew that already and that it could happen to anyone. I asked him “Anyone could be aroused, have an erection and ask their granddaughter to touch it?”

Liz started screaming at me and said “That’s not what happened!” I told them all that’s exactly what he told the police had happened in his statement. Matt walked away and stood with my daughter’s child molester in the driveway and chatted, presumably about how crazy I am, while his wife, Deb*, continued to chat to me. She told me she had been molested by her grandfather for three years.

“So how would you feel if no-one believed you because your grandfather is such a lovely man?”. She had no answer for that. Matt walked back over to me, stuck his head in the window. “Why are you here? What are you trying to achieve by humiliating him?”.

By this time I was just shattered. I couldn’t believe what was happening. How has this paedophile ended up the hero yet again? I told him nothing, I mistakenly believed that other people might want to know that their friendly old neighbour is a convicted paedophile and that their children are not safe. So I left.

People think innocent misunderstandings with children can land the accused in court or jail. Anyone who’s had children knows how curious they are and most of us have had unintentional, inappropriate moments with our kids.

Dad’s having a shower with his kid, washing his face and a kid thinks that’s a great time to discover Dad’s got something hanging between his legs.

Unbeknown to Dad, because he had his eyes closed, the kid decides to reach out and touch it. It’s a horror moment in anyone’s life and dads everywhere usually freak out. “Don’t touch that!”.

You know what they don’t do though?

They don’t ‘innocently’ ask a child to touch their erect penis while aroused. Police know this. When I went through this ordeal with the police I discovered that is the first thing they do – make sure it wasn’t an innocent mistake misunderstood by a hysterical parent. They also make sure that the intent of the abuser is sexual gratification. Unfortunately, parents don’t know this, so it’s easy to believe it when someone tells you it was a misunderstanding.

The one incident he pled guilty to was not the only incident that happened. It hardly ever is. He just knew it was the easy way out; it’s easy to convince people it was a misunderstanding if she just accidentally touched his penis once. Misunderstandings do not end in convictions.

My daughter told me it happened ‘thousands of times’. Obviously she was a young child and had no concept of actual numbers so I’m sure it didn’t happen thousands of times. I can only assume she meant that it happened a lot. She told me, and the police, that it happened in his bedroom, his office and in her bedroom. She told me he would take out his doodle and ask her to touch it. She only touched it with her finger because if she touched it with her whole hand it would smell like ‘doodle’.

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That’s a strange thing for a toddler to know.

During his sentencing, I discovered that he has since seen a psychologist 11 times because he says he doesn’t understand why he did it. Why would he go to a psychologist 11 times if it was an innocent misunderstanding?

The psychologist reported that he was extremely remorseful and struggled to understand why he had done what he’d done. Again, if it was a misunderstanding why would he be remorseful or be trying to understand why he’d done what he did?

I think our society is under the impression that if he was that dangerous he’d be in jail. Or at the very least he wouldn’t have family and friends around him. Well, that’s what I thought before I was exposed to the actual process. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true.

Convicted child sex offenders are still surrounded by loving family, friends and neighbours who KNOW what they’ve done.

The reason he received no jail time was because five of his friends wrote him glowing references about how he’s such a great father, devoted husband and hard worker. I guess he convinced his friends it was an innocent misunderstanding as well.

We tried to tell the rest of the family what had happened. My partner only has one brother, Tom*. He told my partner that he’d be the one going to hell with a heart full of hate because he wouldn’t forgive his father. Since then, I’ve seen Tom make Facebook posts about how proud he is of his parents for having such a successful marriage and for being such a great father. He runs a home daycare centre. Saul visits regularly while the children are there.

In fact, he has formed his own relationships with some of these children and their parents. Tom has brought one of the daycare children to Saul’s house at least once for a family gathering whilst I was there.

A friend of mine was one of at least three children to be sexually abused by her uncle. He was also jailed and now she is forced to be around him at family gatherings and play happy families because the rest of the family believe he has served his time so she needs to just get over it.

The neighbours of my daughter’s abuser are under the impression that this was something that happened to their poor old, lovely neighbour and that it all came from a misunderstanding.

So how do you keep your children safe?

I have no idea.

Unfortunately, in my case, my child may have been safer being babysat by a stranger off Gumtree than they are with trusted family or friends.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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