“I found my father’s child porn 30 years ago. Now I’m overwhelmed with fear that he is a paedophile.”


I’ve wanted to write for a long time but recently my problem has become overwhelming.

When I was nine, I discovered explicit child pornography magazines in my father’s bedroom. I was doing my pre-Christmas search for presents and can still remember the confusion and disgust.

I was a very innocent child by the standards of the time (mid-Seventies) and didn’t have a clue about sex. I can still clearly remember the pictures and especially the face of a little girl being forced into intercourse with a man in his 50s.

My father walked in as I sat staring in disbelief. He wasn’t angry as I had expected; he said a nasty man had left the books there by accident and he was going to put them in the bin.

We lived overseas at that time and there was strong distrust (racism actually) of the locals. I assumed he meant one of them.Here’s the odd part.

Over the next 30-plus years, I had a great relationship with my father. Occasionally I remembered that incident, but I pushed it aside and never told a soul.

My father is now in his 80s and in poor health, but I am obsessed with the incident.

I realise the story he told me was a lie and those terrible books were his. I’ve even started to wonder if my mother knew they were there; she was always very passive.

More worryingly, I’ve started to think about occasions when I was young when I was mildly uncomfortable in my father’s company. I recall odd questions and ‘accidental’ touchings, but nothing actually abusive. But I feel I’m going mad and want your perspective.

Is it normal for things to lie dormant for decades then erupt for no reason? I’ve wondered if this is to do with all the publicity surrounding child abuse cases.

I’ve come close to telling my husband, but he loves my father dearly and I don’t want to ruin that. I have horrible thoughts asking if my father was a paedophile.

He babysat my daughters when they were small and sometimes I have panic attacks thinking I may have put them in danger. Next second I hate myself for thinking that and tell myself that he made one mistake and all is fine.

My huge fear is blurting this out, potentially giving my dad a heart attack and destroying my family. How can I live with this awful secret and why is it consuming me now? Please give me wise advice.

 This problem first appeared in the Daily Mail

You begin by saying that this has been with you for a long time. You have waited, as so many people do, until you were completely overwhelmed by your knowledge before you have sought help. You say that when you found your father’s child pornography you were confused and disgusted. You say you were innocent, but, in fact, you immediately recognized your own emotions because you understood the trauma and acute distress of the child in the photograph and you understood that she was being horrifically abused.

You describe your surprise that your father wasn’t angry, but his lie was perhaps practiced. He knew that what was important is that he shouldn’t be accused and, unconcsiously, you understood this too and were effectively silenced. You wanted so much to believe him and, very importantly, he wanted you so much to believe him that that is exactly what you did in what must have been great fear and confusion.

Silence and ensuring silence is very important to child abusers. Viewing child pornography is, as you know, illegal and results in the rape and torture of children worldwide. You say that you pushed it aside and never told a soul – this is commonly what children do in these situations as telling would be catastrophic to the family, possibly dangerous for you and might also result in disbelief which would leave you feeling betrayed by father and mother alike, as many children do in these situations. Many children find that they have pushed these incidents so far away that they do not even remember them and are only able to identify abuse from their adult symptoms (some of which are outlined here: http://www.ppfoundation.org/abuse_symptoms.aspx ).

What you say next is deeply disturbing. You suggest that your mother may have known about your father’s paedophilia and you remember ‘accidental touchings’ but ‘nothing actually abusive’. Again, it is extremely common for survivors of abuse to minimize what happened in their minds, to dismiss it and feel that others may have been sexually abused but they themselves were not. Not really. Not much. I would highly recommend that you read The Courage To Heal http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Courage-To-Heal-Survivors/dp/0091884209 , a book that might help you assess your memories and stop you feeling that you are ‘going mad’.   Again, this uncertainty about memories and lack of trust in your own sense of perception is a very common feature of living with an abuser.

It is tempting to look at what you have written and take it at face value – you found pornography, felt uncomfortable with this man and don’t remember explicit abuse, though God knows what ‘accidental touchings’ might entail. However, you have waited a lifetime to get help, you allude to your mother’s collusion, disturbing memories and a feeling that you are going mad. You wouldn’t have written if you didn’t already know the truth on some level. This letter is a confession of as much as your able to say. It is very normal for things to lie dormant and erupt in later life, perhaps as a result of your father’s ill health or, as you say, the news coverage of paedophilia. It takes great courage even to remember, let alone to tell. It can take a lifetime to work up that courage and to let yourself know. The media sometimes suggests that people make these things up, mothers and fathers tell their children they are making these things up. Whilst this must occasionally happen, it is far, far more common that the child obediently pretends it never happened to themselves and everyone else – forever.

Your fear about telling your husband is a replay of that childhood fear of telling. You are protecting your father still, protecting his secrets and carrying the burden of knowledge by yourself in order to save the feelings of your father and husband even at the risk of allowing him access to your daughters. Instead of trusting your very intense instincts, panic attacks, you have ignored what your body and mind are telling you in order to protect him.

Your confusion as to whether you are a terrible person for harbouring such thoughts or perhaps it is true is a classic symptom of an abused child.

You say your fear is of blurting it out and killing your father, destroying your family. This, I think, is a wish as well as a fear. If you were to blurt it out you feel it would be you destroying a happy family. If, as you basically state, your father is paedophile, then the happy family is a delusion and what has been destroyed is your innocence and your childhood – destroyed by him.

This link is to a survivors of incest help group – http://www.siawso.org/

Proper advice via Skype or Email: anna@blundy.com

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About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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