How do you tell your children that their uncle is a paedophile?

The clock is ticking. My brother-in-law will be released from prison soon and I’m going to have to tell my son where he has been, and why we will never see him again.

Last year my husband’s brother disappeared. At first his absence wasn’t noticed. It’s not like we saw him every day. But when he didn’t appear at our regular family get-togethers my son began asking, then demanding to know where he was.

His wife was cagey and defensive of his whereabouts. It didn’t make any sense. We racked our brains for an explanation. Is he sick in hospital? Had she murdered him?

Where the hell is he?

It took me just a few minutes of searching on the internet to find him and our worst fears were realised. He was in prison for child sex crimes.

It would have been better if he were dead.

The crimes he was convicted for are unforgivable, even though some members of the family comforted themselves with the fact they were only online crimes, as far as we could tell. The worst part of the entire situation was his effortless duplicity.

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We had no idea that lurking inside this charming, affable, loving uncle was a monster.

Paedophile on a computer
The crimes he was convicted for were unforgivable, even though some members of the family comforted themselves with the fact they were only online crimes. Image: iStock.

I have four children but it’s only my oldest who has been asking where his uncle is. He’s becoming more insistent, particularly when the family gets together for holiday celebrations and birthdays. So far we have managed to fob him off by saying that his uncle is away for work but that is starting to wear thin.

Not knowing what to do, I asked a friend who is a psychologist? She advised me to tell him the truth, not every little horrific detail, but a broad version of the truth.

This is her suggestion for how I broach it:

We won’t be seeing Uncle this Easter. The reason why is he is in prison. He has done something very wrong that is against the law and is harmful to children. He was looking at videos and photos of children being hurt by adults as they were having sex with them. This is illegal and it is wrong and you know that. I know you love your uncle, but we are not – that is all of us – going to be contacting him again because we don’ t want someone who thinks about children in that way around our children. You might be upset or angry with us for stopping you from seeing him and we understand that you will have feelings about this situation and we are here to talk to you whenever you need to. You are old enough to know the truth now and to know what is right and wrong. This is why I wanted to tell you about it.

It’s the last thing I want to have to do but my son deserves to know the truth about his uncle. My son deserves to know that spending time with his uncle isn’t safe.

I keep going around and around in my mind. Can I get away with not telling him? Should I just wait for him to forget that he even exists? With my younger children, that’s certainly viable, but not with my oldest son. He’s curious, inquisitive and incredibly attached to his loved ones.

It’s going to break his heart. It’s going to break him wide open. But he deserves to know the truth. He deserves to have all of the information needed to keep himself safe.

Hey Dad! star Sarah Monahan spoke to Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast about her experience with convicted paedophile Robert Hughes. Post continues after this video…

I worry that when my brother-in-law is released from prison he will try to make contact, if not with me then with the kids. What if I am not there? What if they still believe him to be a safe person?

I don’t believe that he would every try anything with our kids. He never has before. Thankfully it seems that they have always been off limits for him. However now that his dark secret has been revealed, now that he knows that we know and plan to cut off all contact with him, who knows what he is capable of?

It is so scary. I never thought I’d have to deal with anything like this.

So I’m going to sit my son down and tell him the truth, hold him as he cries and help him during the next few weeks as his innocent little mind tries to process this horrible truth. I’ve learned the hard way that I do my children no favours by trying to protect them from the world. It’s better to expose them to the dark and the light and then teach them how to cope.

This is going to be my biggest parenting challenge so far but I know I am doing the right thing. Despite objections by family members who still hope it’s all a big mistake, or who downplay his crimes, I know what needs to be done.

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