Freya's personal story

My world imploded

"I'm sorry but from today your life will never be the same again. The next few months will be hell and there is nothing you can do to avoid it." Those were the words of the lead officer standing at my door at 7pm one day in May 2015 holding a search warrant to remove all electronic devices and memory sticks from my home.

Five minutes before, a very kind female plain clothes police officer had knocked on my door, which became a life changing moment. She had been gently leading up to telling me that my ex-husband was being arrested in my driveway for downloading indecent images of children. My children had just been dropped back by my ex after an hour's play at Daddy's house. Everything just felt surreal.

My children were six and three at the time. I tried to act as though the four police officers were searching through our house because that is just what they do sometimes so they didn't get scared: smiley, 'nothing to see here' Mummy mask. A lovely male officer stopped searching in the sitting room to talk about cars with my eldest just to keep it friendly. I remember feeling embarrassed and self-conscious at the state of the cupboards they were having to sort through, which were stuffed full of life. Ridiculous to feel like that really. 

They were in my house for about two hours. Standing in my kitchen reeling, trying to process what I was being told: "Do NOT tell anyone, not even your closest friends, as there is significant possibility of vigilante backlash and he once lived here so your property will be targeted”; "Social Services will be coming to interview your children and when your ex is released under no circumstances must he have contact with them."; " We have enough evidence to arrest him today and it is highly likely he will go to prison"; "The schools will be told tomorrow so that they can put the appropriate measures in place."; "When it gets to Court it will be in the papers."

My head was a smorgasbord of thoughts and I couldn't seem to hold one theme for long as it was all so confusing. If the Police are telling me the man I married is being arrested for this crime I believe they have good grounds, BUT he just wouldn't have done something so abhorrent, would he? I divorced him the previous summer for a whole host of reasons however this was not on my radar at all. I felt naive and stupid that the crime had clearly occurred (in part at least) under this very roof without my knowledge. The past, now, the future...nothing seemed solid anymore.

The children went to bed at 10pm and I was sitting alone on the sofa looking through the search warrant. I was clearly in shock. I suddenly realised that they hadn't given me a list of things taken. I panicked then that I had just let these people into my home with my children present and it was all fake...had I just been robbed?! So I called the police switchboard to confirm that the name I had was a genuine serving officer. That is how much it didn't feel real!

 

The following days, weeks and months

The next day I continued to struggle to wrap my head around what he had allegedly done and what this meant for my family. On the outside nothing had changed. Inside though everything had. My world had imploded and no one knew because on the surface it all looked just as it did the day before. And I had to keep all this devastation secret, which meant no support.

In the weeks that followed I was given very little information. As the ex-wife the authorities couldn't tell me any details until it was made public in court and after two patient phone calls from the police I was left to process what had happened alone. They were working on the premise that he is a non-contact offender and reiterated that he had demonstrated a very clear online/real world demarcation whilst being formally interviewed. I was asked if I thought he could commit suicide and I confirmed I felt it was a possibility.

Social Services assessed us within days of the arrest: scared me with a reality check of what indecent images actually are; drew up a contract stating no unsupervised contact between my ex-husband and children until the investigations were complete; did not open a file for my children as I was deemed a responsible mother and that was their job done.

Three weeks after the police search, I sat by myself on my sofa (again) and made the decision to move out of my home town. I felt totally isolated but knew that if it hit the papers then it would only get worse. I had done nothing wrong and my biggest fear was my children being tarnished by their father’s crime. I had to protect my family. I put my house on the market and moved to a new town where I knew no-one at all in summer 2015.

Tim wasn’t sent to prison. He was given a three-year community order and five years on the sex offenders register. His case didn’t get covered by the press or on social media.

But my life and the lives of my children were changed forever.

 

Three years later

I feel so many things:

  • Angry. That he has done this to us. I have done nothing wrong, yet I need to live a life of compromise to protect my children. It has been like living in witness protection without any support as I relocated and can't say the real reason why I needed a fresh start away from my home town. I struggle still with the thoughts that my children are going to experience emotional distress when they hear/understand/live with their father's crime and all those children in the images he looked at were abused by someone somewhere even if he had nothing at all to do with the production of them. It’s just heart-breaking.
  • Unsupported. I have had no guidance or advice from anyone in authority. It is all on me to make decisions on what’s best for my children as no-one can be seen to influence me as I am constantly being assessed in my independent ability to adequately safeguard children. I get it. It’s not fair though and creates a huge amount of pressure.
  • Unfairly treated. Social Services view me as a suitable parent – at the moment. If I leave my children in the care of their paternal grandmother for supervised access, and it was found out they had spent time alone with their father the burden of responsibility for that choice would fall to me, regardless of my having any prior knowledge of it occurring. My judgement would be questioned because I trusted her in the first place. The buck stops with me and no one has my back.
  • Judged. His crime polarises people's treatment of me. I know from direct experience that I could be negatively viewed for allowing the children to still see their father at all and people I like/respect may melt away out of my life. It would be prime gossip topic if it got out. How did she not know? Well that explains the supervised access, etc. It’s horrible to feel like an indirect victim and have no way of defending myself. Everything has been changed by what he did emotionally and practically that makes me a victim, which took me years to acknowledge.
  • Misunderstood. I may still see him at drop off/pick up every week for the agreed two-hour access and can hold a civil conversation with him in front of the children, but that doesn’t mean I have forgiven him. I never thought he could do what he did. Ever. Now I must treat him in principle as capable of anything. In 2018 summer term it transpired the school did not have in place the appropriate additional levels of safeguarding I perceived as necessary. It hurt when two close friends, who know the full story, told me they were surprised I had got so upset as nothing had actually happened. Just because I try hard to keep as calm/rational/positive as possible it does not mean I am OK with everything - his crime still feels raw & my world fragile.
  • Marginalised. I’m not like all those other single mums out there. I can’t moan about my ex when he is being an idiot because it inevitably involves why, which I can’t share. I don’t have the battle of getting him to pull his weight as it is not a fight open to me. It makes me different. I feel different. I want to be like any other family, but we aren’t.
  • Restricted. I know that my children have benefited from the consistency and stability I’ve provided by my giving up my career to prioritise their happy childhood, but I do feel a significant loss of identity though which can be crushing at times. I miss socialising as nights out are very rare due to lack of childcare and I am still single as establishing a new relationship has proved challenging.
  • Resentful. Of the fact he has a better job than he had before he was convicted and he has a supportive girlfriend. The police forced disclosure to his employers during his standard probationary period in a new company: part of the community order is that the authorities have full access to any electronic devise he uses – he was made permanent anyway. He met a woman who not only accepted his crime but has moved in with him.
  • Vulnerable. If I am not well my family are fundamentally affected: I do all the cooking, taxi service, shopping and provide routine. What if I can’t do it? Who will? I only started again in this community three years ago so support networks take time to establish especially when I have to heavily filter my “why”.
  • Fearful. I do fear the effect on my children when they find out, on so many levels. I find the secret suffocating and one day be asking them to carry the burden too. I would love to say I personally don’t care if it gets out but that would not be true – I have established us here and I am not ready for it all to be tested. I want to live in our safe bubble for as long as I can. I hate the thought of my children being bullied for a crime their Dad committed.
  • Sad. My children will never have a proper father now. He can’t take them on adventures or holidays. There is no rough and tumble male role model to push them out of their comfort zone or do things sensible Mummy wouldn’t approve of. I try to be all things for them, including giving them as many new experiences as I can, but my protective instincts have been ramped up to maximum and I have no one to counteract this. I am sad they are missing out. They have also been robbed of the security of two parents due to his choices.
  • Strong. All this has not broken me. At times I have been more fearful of the future and full of self-doubt than I could ever have imagined. For weeks after the arrest I just functioned through life pretending I was OK, then I decided “ENOUGH, I am important too”. I had to stop firefighting and drive change on my own terms. Relocating caused upset within my family, but I knew deep inside it was the right thing to do otherwise I wouldn’t have coped with the community backlash and everything would have fallen apart. I acknowledged early the only control I had in any of this was how I responded and conducted myself. I couldn’t predict how easily it would be to sell/buy houses or how fast the police completed the investigation, but I wasn’t powerless. I had to forgive myself that I couldn’t have seen what he took such great care to hide. I have proactively gone into counselling to get scarily honest with myself and identify how I intend to live life forward. I created my fresh start with a smile on my face and I opened us up to meeting new people. I may have to heavily filter my past, but I try to be authentic. That man took so much but he is not taking my hope and positivity. I know my rock bottom has become the solid foundation which all we have now is built on. Pretty awesome really.
  • Proud. I am hugely proud of my two lovely children. They’ve taken every change I’ve thrown at them as well as I could’ve hoped given how young they are, and we have weathered the storm together. After everything, our love and respect for each other has held our little family unit of three solid. I am also proud of myself: I’ve put my children’s well-being first without question and haven’t compromised on how I want to raise them. Sometimes I look at my children and see my ex in them: not the man he became but the man I married. If I view him as evil, then what does that mean as genetically they are half him? I refuse to see anything fundamentally bad in them – that is not saying they aren’t naughty, boundary-testing little monkeys at times, but I am not going to raise them constantly looking out for signs that they are like him. Nurture vs Nature. I am going to nurture all of their good nature so they thrive – just watch me….

 

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