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Should I date a sex offender?

Question: 

Dear Stop It Now!,

I have recently started dating someone who was accused and found guilty of child molestation when he was 16. He was put on the sex offender registry when he was 17 and is now age 29. When I confronted him about the record I found online, he owned up to it immediately; however, he says he did not commit the molestation. He had a drug/alcohol problem until he was about 24. When he was 16, he was high on ecstasy and trying to complete a paper for high school when his nephew was bugging him. He made him sit in a chair and tied his hands but he says he did not molest or sexually abuse him. His nephew's uncle, who was the chief of police, is the one who he says accused him of the molestation. Sometimes it seems fishy but in other ways he is doing what he can to own up to his issues from the past and better himself and find the right help. Sometimes I feel that I can believe what he tells me. He owns up to the abuse, and also says that the drugs was not an excuse for what he did. I am really concerned and conflicted here on whether I should further invest myself in this person's life or if there are serious red flags that I am being naiive around. I really need to talk to someone about this and find some proper direction.

Response: 
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Dear Concerned Girlfriend,

Understandably, it may be worrisome or confusing when you realize that someone you love is on the sex offenders list, and I’m so glad that you’ve reached out.

Recognize Warning Signs
It may be helpful for you to become aware of these Signs An Adult Is At-Risk To Harm A Child, and see if you notice any of these in your boyfriend. I’m also curious if there anything else that has caused you to be concerned about him or his honesty in your relationship so far.

Find Out More Information
Although you already found out that your boyfriend was on the sex offenders list, it may be helpful to search again and find out what he what he was convicted of and where, taking note of this so you can contact the local criminal court. To do so, please look at the US Department of Justice Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website.

When you find out where he was convicted, you can call the court or the local police that handled his case. These are both great sources of information to find out what sort of treatment he had, what his probationary rules were and whether he was compliant, and maybe even how he was convicted – was there a confession, does the rest of his story check out, etc.

Weighing Your Decision
It is hard to say what you should do based merely on what you have told me. It is not unheard of for the legal system to have made a mistake, but it is also difficult to find out whether he is telling the truth. As you move forward with your life, it will be prudent to look at all the factors involved and weigh them equally when making your decision. Further, it is always a good idea to move slowly, and find out more about the person you are dating, no matter what they’re past may look like, before making big life decisions.

As you move forward it will be helpful to take into account his actions now, whether he is showing any warning signs, and perhaps to look at other factors in his life such as the following:

  • (Taking into account that there will be a discrepancy regarding whether or not he sexually abused his nephew) has he told the whole truth about the surrounding circumstances of the event?
  • How did he do in treatment or probation?
  • What has he done in the years since? Has he made moves to better his life?
  • Has he gotten in trouble? If so, for what?
  • Has he completed a drug rehabilitation program? Is he clean now? For how long?
  • Have you met his family or close friends? What do they have to say about him?
  • Do you trust him? Do you believe him?

Support
It sounds like you are in a very difficult situation, and you’re looking for guidance on how to proceed. You may even want to think about finding a Professional who you can talk to – together or by yourself – as you move forward. A neutral party may be helpful as additional support for you, or you and he both, as you figure out whether you want to choose to move forward with this relationship or not.

It’s great that you want to become educated and want to find out the truth. I understand that this is not always an easy task, and you may not find out immediately. I encourage you to use the resources I gave you above, and combined with your research and what you know about him already, I hope you will find  the best course of action.

Take care,

Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 12th, 2015