What If It Had Been Her Child

 Something happened, once, that I can never fully escape from.

It was a conversation I had about twenty years ago.  Today, it haunts me as much as it did then.   Maybe even more.  With the twenty years of disbelief that I have allowed to grow.

Oft times something will happen in the news or I will be made aware of something and this time of my life rushes in and torments me.  And I can’t shake it.  It replays in my head over and over again.   Without giving me any chance of peace or escape.  It’s there-living in my brain.  And I hear it still.  A constant echo.

There was a time when I had to call a family I knew, to inform them that one of the people in their life that they called ‘friend’ was a pedophile.  Not a conversation I had ever had.  Not one I was in any way prepared to have.  But something I knew had to be done.   There was a lot of discussion before I made the call.  And out of fear for the children involved it was decided to call.  Because which one of us, as parents, wouldn’t do everything we could to prevent a harm to our child.   And knowing ahead of time that there was a potential hazard, a danger lurking around the corner…. wouldn’t you remove the hazard?  Or be the one to go around the corner and take danger out of your child’s life?

I would have.

Not all of us were lucky enough to have someone warn us.  Give us advanced notice that hey, this person is going to hurt your child.

So I make the call.   The father in the family answers the phone.   He engages in small talk while letting me know that it was bath time for their young children.  And I could hear the noise of family life at night.

And I had no grace.   I didn’t need grace.

I just told him.

He repeated it out loud to his wife.

What happened next is the haunting part.

She got on the phone and told me that “if” this was true it would not change her feelings for this man at all.  “If” this were true it was not cause to stop or end a friendship.   “If” this were true she would not abandon her friend.  “If” this were true she would do what she could to support him.

She went on like this.  Obviously not wanting me to discuss it, but listen to her.   I don’t know if she has any idea how that haunts me.   There was not one word of sympathy, or understanding, or shock, or fear, or concern for the children already hurt.  Already damaged. Already suffering.   She didn’t express a single comment of consideration for what had happened to a child, already.

I could have understood if she had said:

“What???  Are you sure???  Oh my God!  No way!”


“What happened?  How do you know?  Tell me what you know! “


“Oh my God are you guys okay?  What can we do?  Is there anything we can do?”


“Colleen I’m in shock.  Just utter shock.  I don’t know what to say.”

The sad and haunting part is she had so much to say.  In defense and honor of this pedophile.

I was so naive back then.  I didn’t know how to have this conversation when it was made.  I just made it.  Knowing it was the right thing to do for the children.  I had no idea how the conversation would play out.  But I’m pretty sure I didn’t expect that.   Total acceptance and support of the pedophile.   And total disregard for the children already hurt.  I’m not so sure I said too much of anything in response to her.   The father of the family got back on the phone.  I muttered something about they needed to know.  I would want someone to tell me this if it was my child being in the presence of this monster.

The father said, very softly “don’t worry I’ll keep an eye on my kids.  I’ll do what I have to do.”

All these years later I still allow this to eat at me.  With the haunting, and what felt like taunting, of the words she spoke I have one more torturous haunt that lives in my head.

The haunt of the words I did not think to speak.

“What if this was your child I was calling about.”

44 thoughts on “What If It Had Been Her Child

  1. The response of this woman totally baffles me. It makes me think she already knew or suspected this of her friend and had decided it had no bearing on her so it didn’t matter. I can see why this still bothers you.


  2. Sometimes people are too blind to listen to reason. It’s people like her, who give support totally and without question like this that can eventually lead their children into dangerous situations. How sad.


  3. I would love to call her now and say, now that your children are grown, did you learn anything that they were too afraid to reveal to you when they were children bc of your loyalty to this nan? Most abuse victims speak out about the crime many years later, if at all. I don’t care if it were my brother or sister someone was accusing… It’s your child and someone called to warn you. Your job as a parent is to protect them, period. I wonder if she would like to know he admitted these crimes to me but said he was afraid of jail… N’all. More loyalty to her “friend” than protection for her children…. Disgusting.


  4. Colleen, I share in your disbelief. I often wonder why these women deny such critical, life altering information. You will never know. But as for your role in this situation, you should be applauded. Brave beyond measure. There are very few people who would actually reach out and discuss this delicate subject matter. Good for you!


    • In the thousands of reflections I’ve had on this over the years I have wondered if she thought she was being wise and Jesus like by not hating the man. But in her comments and my disbelief, all I could hear was “I don’t believe those children and it doesn’t matter what happened to them”. Whether that was her intended message or not, that’s what I heard. And I harbor many feelings about that. Thanks for the kind words.


  5. This absolutely disgusts me. I pray for those children that the father did indeed watch him and did what he had to do. As a mother, and after reading this, I am horrified.


  6. Woah. This is so sad. I don’t know what more you could have done, other than call CPS…but what would they do? Those flashbacks are nasty. Don’t beat yourself up! You were being your brothers keeper, unfortunately, your “brother” didn’t appreciate your warnings. It makes me upset. So many children’s lives are destroyed because of others’ sexual twisted perversions.


    • There is so much to this ‘story’. I tell the part I feel is mine to tell. Any other parts are not mine, though I share in it, it is not mine to share. I am still, to this day, stunned at her reaction. I can’t imagine receiving that phone call and not having a reaction of concern for my children, AND the children already affected. I would feel some sort of panic on what may have happened, or could have happened, or even disbelief. But not at the expense of children. Disbelief – in that none of us WANT to believe things like this happen at the hands of people we know. And total fear knowing that it does indeed happen.


    • I do hope. If nothing else that very little itty bit of ‘not wanting to believe it but knows it could be’ made her watch her kids around him a little more careful. And subconsciously found reasons why they could not be alone with him.


  7. Your last two sentences… Wow.

    I am sorry you have been so tormented these past 20 years. That is a looong time to be under attack by your own thoughts – especially from trying to warn someone about a pond-scum living near them.

    I do know a pedophile. I always think twice before telling someone. But…in case they cannot accept or comprehend (which is sad), I suggest they check this state website of convicted child predators and look him up.

    I also give this analogy: “Sir, please think of a child predator in this manner. You go to the park to watch your kids play and look after them. When a child predator goes to a park to watch kids play, he is watching a live porno flick. He is getting turned on.” Brunt, brutal…but it seems to work.

    Again, sorry for your torment… You did the right thing.


    • Thanks M.Koji. I like your suggestion. Now a days I feel a little more proactive about stepping in. I’d rather step in and be wrong than ignore it and be right. I had a shake up of an incident this weekend that prompted all of this again. Maybe I’ll blog about it because it’s too long to write in a comment. Thanks again for your suggestions, and always…your kindness.


      • As always Koji reads my thoughts…although I do not know a pedophile, as a parent I would have welcomed that call. A very dear friend went through this happening to her grandson and granddaughter, how they wished someone told them before it was too late. I agree you most definitely did the right thing. Hugs..Patty


        • I’ve had this very discussion with others through out my life. As parents, given a call to tell us/warn us, about the “bad” thing that you need to protect your child from-when we didn’t know we had to protect from that “bad” thing….

          Thanks Patty.


  8. Sometimes, Colleen, news like this is almost like an accusation of yourself-its hurtful and embarrassing to know that someone you know is a paedophile, and YOU didn’t pick it up. The first response would be a defensive one. Of course it could be something else entirely…it sounds almost as if she knew already, but then that begs the question, why didn’t she protect her kids? You did the right thing.


    • Thanks Yaz. Someone else said something like that, maybe she knew or suspected. I think I did feel she was being defensive. But when I found out I didn’t have the luxury of being defensive. I was stunned, shocked, damaged, disgusted and my life literally changed for ever. We were hoping to save them some of this. Maybe, in the long run, we did. Like BornByARiver said, we can hope.


  9. How can you be so nonchalant when someone is trying to warn you about something. Not trying to add salt to a wound, but it is as if you are being warned about vicious, rabid wolves in your area and you would throw your kid to them.

    You did the right thing by calling to try to warn them.


    • Exactly Heretic. Others are suggesting her reactions may have been based in self defense, that perhaps my calling made her react to thinking she should have known this. Which of course was not my intention. I was stunned when I was told. And it still torments me to this day that I did not know. So we were trying to be preventative….doing what we wished someone had done for us so many years earlier…..


  10. This reaction is not as uncommon as you may believe. Some people are so egocentric they see you revealing these things as an accusation of their judgment. i.e. You told her something as a parent she should have known or found out. By telling her, you were convicting her of failing to be the “good parent” she believed herself. Downplaying her concern would have been a knee-jerk, shoot-the-messenger reaction.

    On the other hand, she could have just been a monster.

    I have been on both ends of this conversation. I know what the butterflies in my stomach feel like when someone tells me. I doubt very seriously this woman does.

    You have a woolly mammoth in yours…and plenty of room for him to be dancing about.

    Peace, love and {HUGZ},


    • Red, you and others have truly opened my eyes to the possibilities of “why” she reacted this way. And it certainly is a possibility. And not knowing the full truth of what has transpired these past 20 years I really have no way of knowing what the truth of her reaction was. So I am left to my own thoughtful devices: shock, still.

      That woolly mammoth you just painted a picture of in my head has now taken visual hold. I just hope I can sometimes get him to sit down. Not leave, because I don’t ever want to truly forget her reaction. Because I do believe I did the right thing. That mammoth has a purpose.

      Thank you so much for the feedback, the peace and love and HUGZ. They are all appreciated. And returned.


  11. It’s a tricky one – maybe they were shocked and re-acted strange, after all it was a friend of theirs. Maybe after the phone call the reality hit them. I would have been polite and thank you for contacting me … there is also pedophiles that had successful treatment – so sometimes we can do damage too. Still I’m glad there is people like you that re-act and do something. Maybe they already knew about their friend and felt threaten that somebody else knew too.


  12. Many years ago when my son was about 4 1/2 yrs old, I was a single mom and he dad saw him very sporadically. My son hadn’t wet the bed in some time and all of a sudden started wetting the bed at night, had become violent with our cat and in general my sweet happy little boy changed into an angry sad little boy over night.
    I knew he was demonstrating the signs of sexual abuse but had not idea how or who would hurt my baby. My father had cared for my son as had my brother and he had been to his father’s recently. I immediately called them all and told them what was happening, that I was not accusing them but my son would not be allowed out of my sight until I figured out what was going on. I don’t think any one was offended but I really didn’t care, I didn’t suspect them, would have been shocked beyond description if any of them would have hurt my boy, but you never know and I was not taking any chances. I had my mother care for him when I worked and if she couldn’t then I took time off work. I took him immediately to a counselor who specialized in child abuse and she said she didn’t get anything positive out of him but to assume he had been abused and keep on the course of action I was on and just love him. It took a couple of weeks before my son’s father called to tell me that he had met a new woman and one night when he had my son him and this new woman went out and left my son with the woman’s 17 year old son. The son had just been charged with molesting little boys. Sheesh…. That was 25 yrs ago and I am shaking so bad I can barely type. It was my worst nightmare come true, I had failed to rpotect my little boy. I took him to counseling serveral times and he had behavior issues and bed wetting issues for many years. He has no recollection of anything ever happening and I have told him what happened when he got older. He still to this day has no memory of anything so maybe nothing happened but I remember the day my baby changed. I can not believe any mother would not walk on hot coals, face fire, and fight tooth and nail to keep her kids safe and friendships be damned. I am angry!
    She was a stupid stupid woman. I pray her children were ok. You absolutely did the right thing.


    • My greatest fears when I had my first child was the harm someone else might do to her/them. Consuming fear. Could I protect them? How could I when I couldn’t protect myself? And yet….I did. To the point that one of them, at one point, got so fed up with my cautioning she begged me to stop and promised she would tell if anyone EVER tried anything.

      I am so sorry for your little boy. I love your attitude though. You called them, put everyone on notice, and didn’t care what they thought. You put your child first. Period. So many, do not. Or don’t know to (how sad).

      Thank you for your feedback. Thank God your boy had you watching over him. You did not fail him. But I understand your feelings.


  13. This is enormous, Colleen, really an enormous tell. I am basically speechless, devastated. That woman, rightly, should have been removed from caring for those kids.

    Did the male of the house protect them, did he?


    • I want to believe so N’n. At this point in our lives there was no longer much involvement. So I wasn’t a part of their lives. But he told me, he would do what he had to do. And I don’t want to think she would not have protected her children. I think some of the others may have hit what her response was…..defense of her mothering abilities. Or her friend “quality”. I don’t know. Still so shocking to me…..


  14. Something like that would haunt me too. I don’t understand defending a pedophile. Not believing it of a friend… maybe. But to defend them with “IF this is true..” is beyond my comprehension.


  15. Sounds like he may have had her scared the police would find out what he’d done to her, her kids, and it would be in the newspapers.


  16. I have several similar memories of that sort of thing. Not my children. I told them if anyone ever tolded them to keep something a secret, and they threatened to do something bad if they told, tell me anyway and we can decide together whether or not those threats were valid enough to pretend they never told me.


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