I was married to a pedophile and did not know it until the diagnosis was made after his arrest for possession of child pornography. But early in our marriage, the clues were there; I just didn't know enough about pedophilia to see it and he was so very good at providing explanations for his behavior that made sense. The old adage "hindsight is 20/20" is so true.
Some people assume that wives of pedophiles always know and that we are somehow complicit in our spouse's criminal behavior. Some even go so far as to insist that we should be prosecuted for our spouses' crimes. We are seen as weak women who are co-dependent on our perpetrator spouses and it is assumed that we look the other way while a child's innocence is robbed and their lives forever altered.
Very shortly after our honeymoon, my husband introduced me to a child who lived with her mother in the island
community we had moved to just after our wedding. She was 8 and he wanted her to spend time with us--lots of time. It was confusing to me and I didn't understand why this was so important to him. We were newlyweds and I wanted to spend time alone with him, so I objected.
Three years later we were living in a rural area of the United States when I walked into a room where he and a friend's child were. Immediately, I knew something was wrong--very, very wrong. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, but everything inside of me screamed DANGER! I invited the child to join me in my dinner preparations and waited until we were alone to confront my husband
Nothing, absolutely nothing I had ever experienced in my life, believed or knew about the man I was married to, or expected to hear could have prepared me for the words that I heard him say. He admitted to molesting both the friend's child as well as the island child. Like his child victims, my world tilted and spun and was never the same.
For a very long time, I have been so afraid to share my entire story because I feared the judgment sure to come. After my husband's confession, I chose to stay in my marriage for several reasons: his explanations made so much sense, his remorse seemed genuine and I was pregnant with our first child. But I made a solemn vow to myself--that I would stand watch and do everything that I could to make sure that no other child was harmed in any way by the man I was married to.
The shame that has silenced me for many decades is that I didn't call law enforcement and report the abuse and in that way, I didn't stand up for the victims. I understand why I didn't--I was afraid, shocked and he seemed genuinely repentant. Plus, I had another child to be concerned about--my own. And realistically, there is no guarantee the police would have been able to do anything about the crimes. One occurred in another country and I had no proof that either crime actually occurred. This was over three decades ago and police departments were not prepared to deal with victims as they now are; there wasn't the public awareness on child sexual abuse that we now have.
But the reality is that I did stand up for the victims. To say that I "objected" to his "friendship" with the island child is a huge understatement. It was the issue we fought about the most during those early months of our marriage. I did not gently acquiesce to his insistence on spending time with her--I fought it vigorously. And I continued to fight when he shamed and blamed me and tried to coerce me into silence. I did not give up; I did not stop.
And three years later when I walked into that room where he was with a friend's child, how did I know something was off? Why did I confront him? Why did I get the child away from him? Because in my gut, I knew but didn't know what it was that I knew. I knew and I didn't turn or walk away. I stayed in that arena and fought like a lion, like a mama bear. I was tenacious and didn't give up. I did fight for his victims and I fought valiantly and for a very long time.
So it is time to reframe my story--to lay down shame and see the reality of what happened. It is time I tell myself the truth about what I did rather than cower in fear and shame over what I did not do. I did not bury my head in the sand of his lies and deceit. I was not complicit in anyway but instead I fought hard to protect his victims. I fought with everything I had and then some. I am a formidable fighter and he quickly learned that.
Every time we had a conflict during our marriage, he berated me or blamed me because he said he was afraid of how I fought. For damn sure! He had reason to be afraid and it's good that he never forgot it. Because I am a fighter and a victim's rights advocate--I truly am and always have been.
So the next time you are tempted to judge a woman married to a pedophile, remember that you do not know what goes on behind closed doors. Remember that if she knows what he is doing, and that is a huge "if" because pedophiles are such good manipulators and deceivers, she may be fighting, just not in the way you want her to. And she may be doing all that is within her power to protect children while she works to get herself free.