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What can I legally tell people about the abuser who hurt my kids?

Question: 

Dear Stop It Now!,

I am the father of two girls, 12 and 9 years old that were touched repeatedly by my best friend. He was arrested and convicted, and spent 30 days in jail. He is now free as a level 2 violent sex offender and is on probation for 10 years. I want to inform everyone he associated with who this person really is. Can I legally inform neighbors, friends and his company of what he did to my girls? After ten years probation is over for him, me and my girls have to live with this forever.

Response: 
Please share your feedback

Dear Concerned Parent,

I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to your children. I imagine this must be a very difficult time for your kids – and for you – as sexual abuse is such a huge violation of trust. I think it’s great you’re looking to take steps to make sure that other children are not affected by abuse, and I’m so glad you’ve reached out to us. 

Legal Answers
First, I do want to be clear that we are not a legal resource and so unfortunately we are not the best resource to determining what you can say to other people, legally. Although I do believe it would be okay to share the specifics of the abuse your family suffered (as sharing true statements is neither slander nor liable), it would be a good idea to check-in with an attorney as they would be able to give you a very clear answer on what you can and cannot say and in what contexts you can share information. Also, your family may be able to access victim advocacy services through our Legal and Advocacy page, including pro-bono legal help which may be useful in this situation. If you had a lawyer you had worked with on this case specifically, or if you have a free legal consult through your employer’s EAP, you may also turn to them with this question. 

Finding Out More Information
If this man has been convicted and is on the registry, it’s also possible that he has certain restrictions in place that he must adhere to. If there was any victim advocate liaison during the court process they may be able to give you information about his specific restrictions, and if this is not an option, you can also contact the local criminal court where your case was handled and ask to speak to his probation officer. His probation officer would be able to let you know about any restrictions he has in place, and they would also be able to tell you what information that is located on the registry, specifically, you can then share with others (so, if the registry lists his crime and address, they may tell you that you can share his crime but not his address). But again, it still may be helpful to reach out to a lawyer for the most comprehensive answer. For more information on the sex offender registry, please visit our FAQs on the Sex Offender Registry

Recognizing Warning Sign Behaviors
It may also be helpful to take a look at these Behaviors To Watch For When Adults Are With Children and these Signs An Adult Is At-Risk To Harm A Child and see if you notice any of these in this person’s behavior. Often it can be most useful to discuss direct and specific actions that you’ve seen (presently or in the past), rather than to make generalized statements about a person’s intentions, so these tip sheets may aid you in relaying some of the warning sign behaviors you saw in this man to others in your community. Also, please share these tip sheets with other caring adults – including people in your neighborhood – to make sure they’re able to identify behaviors that put children at risk. 

Planning for Safety
Even though the sex offender registry can alert us to people who may pose a risk to children or adults, it is only a small percentage of people who sexually abuse children. So it’s important to take other proactive measures within your home and family, like one we call Safety Planning. Our Guidebook: Prevent Child Sexual Abuse may also be helpful to you and your community – if you’re interested, please look through these resources and pass them on to your neighborhood, family and other caring adults.

Healing and Support
Also I want you to know that it’s only normal to think about the long-lasting results this abuse may have on your children, while this person is only on probation for ten years. It may be helpful to know that children are resilient and a Child Can Recover from the Effects of Sexual Abuse with a family’s love and support and with the help of a professional. Though you don’t mention in your email whether you have a therapist involved for your kids, this support can be integral to help make sure that they are able to address how this abuse has affected them and help them with any difficult feelings or memories they may be stuck on. For more information, please check out our specialized resource guide on Child Survivors

Certainly I hope that you have support as well, as even though time has passed, you also deserve a place where you can also work towards healing from this in whatever way feels most meaningful to you. You may want to check out some of our resources just for Parents of Survivors as this guide has some online and peer-based communities and support forums that can be helpful in connecting with others who have gone through similar experiences.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 28th, 2018