Your <child/sibling/partner/parent/best friend/next door neighbor/mentor/spiritual advisor> has been accused of a sex crime. Sex crimes, actually.
You are, to put it mildly, stunned.
You only know this person by their good qualities. Their wonderful qualities. You had never, ever, ever seen the slightest indication, the barest hint that they could do something like this. Rape. Very inappropriate conduct. Assault. Molesting a minor. Repeated harassment. Whatever it was.
You have no idea how to reconcile what you know of this person with the things they are being accused of doing. You know that if the accusations are true, you want nothing more than for none of this to ever have happened. You think about the known or potential victims, and you wish so badly that you could take their pain away.
Your relationship with the person that’s been accused has started to change in ways you can barely begin to comprehend. You thought you loved them unconditionally, and maybe you do, but… this situation has been a lot to take in. You’re sad and horrified and scared and angry and confused and deeply uncomfortable in other ways you don’t have the words to describe.
And then there’s your relationship with the rest of the world. Just about everyone you know, it seems, has already heard about what’s going on, and some people shunned you immediately. Even people you used to count on for anything and everything have been starting to keep their distance. Your closest friends are still talking to you but you hear the veiled judgments in their voices. All of these developments have been rather destabilizing, to say the least.
You sought out a therapist to talk about what’s going on, but the therapist looked really uncomfortable when you explained the details of your situation, and didn’t say anything you found helpful or reassuring.
You tried Googling things like “support for family members of sex criminals” but all you found were hateful diatribes and pieces of “advice” that shamed you for being associated with a sex offender.
This is a tough situation to be in.
In our society, just about anything that has to do with sex(uality) is often burdened with a disproportionate amount of significance. When it comes to sex crimes, well… there’s a dire shortage of compassion to be had. Often, we respond to the occurrence of sex crimes, and to their perpetrators (or alleged perpetrators) from a place of fear and loathing. We either want to deny the possibility that the bad behaviors could exist, or could be perpetrated by anyone we know and love… or we want to demonize the alleged perpetrators and throw them out the window, literally or figuratively. We do not have a shared cultural repertoire for responding to these matters compassionately, thoughtfully, and effectively.
We as a society do not have a great track record for responding to sex crimes in a manner that could reasonably be described as healthy or helpful for anyone involved. Victims are often treated horribly. Perpetrators are not responded to in ways that help heal the cycles of violence and abuse. Loved ones bear huge, scarcely recognized burdens. We suffer from a dearth of opportunities for the healing of all of the parties involved.
So where does that leave you? How do you wade through your current situation? How do you navigate the complicated terrain of dealing with other people’s reactions to the actions of your loved one? How do you deal with being found guilty by association in the court of public opinion? How do you process your own feelings about your loved one’s misdeeds, whether they’re confirmed or alleged? How do you engage in your relationship with them from now on?
Or perhaps the more pressing question is, how do you just get through the day without hyperventilating?
If you’re in a situation like this and you want to talk, I’m a compassionate, non-judgmental life coach who is ready to listen to whatever you have to tell me. Book a free consultation with me to see if my services are a good fit for your needs. Also, you can click here to read the longer version of this post in Medium.com.