I’m related to a non-offending pedophile. I’m his wife. How startling is that for starters? But, if you are still reading, I have your attention. Being the wife of a non-offending pedophile is not a role I sought, wanted or would wish on any other spouse, or significant other, because with that position comes responsibilities. Who to tell –or not tell; when to tell – if you ever do; what my role is in protecting children in this unique position; what will happen to my reputation as a reluctant attachment to a person who admits his (for others, it could be her) sex drive towards children –but hasn’t acted on it.

Well…now I know more, at least I know my story, and am going to share it with you.

When he told me he was sexually attracted to young girls, it took me a while to twig to the fact that he was pedophile and then, that being a pedophile was not the same as being a child molester. Give us time to sort that out, and help us to understand. With that squared away it is less scary, but then I wondered if I could I believe that for more than 50-years he had controlled this attraction. For many this could be a big hurdle but although we had been married only 5-years, I had evidence that my spouse was honest –honest enough to tell me other bad things in his life before we were married, and I had never caught him in a lie of any consequence. How a person has acted in the past is an indicator of how they will act in the future, and he was an honest man to my way of thinking (and still is), but I question why he did not tell me this secret before we married. Maybe he was just plain scared, and/or because he had never acted on that attraction in 50 years, he felt it unlikely he would act on it after we married. After all, did you tell your marriage partner absolutely everything negative about yourself before you got married, even the second time around?

At work I spoke to many people on an academic level about what pedophilia was or wasn’t, and as the light bulb went on, a topic that was never spoken about openly before became more understandable. It made sense. So why didn’t more people speak up? The answer is that speaking up has a price, especially if you are speaking about real situations with real people and not a theoretical scientific, behavior that is somewhere outside on the dark, distant horizon. Now a listener has to take sides and for many people, when assaulted with something that they have minimal knowledge about and whose minimal knowledge is probably flawed and biased, they take the easy option. They neither speak up nor are willing to do anything. Keeping the status quo is safe –others can deal with the problem.

Over a 5-year period of broaching the subject we had little response from people working with kids, church groups and church leaders. It was always…interesting, but. A public radio interview, being part of short documentaries, an article published in a journal and the occasional useful conversations were high-points for us, but overall the response was negative.

They believed that if we ignore it, it will go away. Wrong.

In January 2017, we made a big splash with The Sun. Ooops. Tabloids. Followed by incredibly sensational, false information (with a little truth) on line by the Daily Mail which found its way onto my husband’s Facebook page accompanied by threats on his life, hate and ridicule. The proverbial cat was out of the bag in a big way! We did 2-TV presentations (one on ITV by myself where I held my own but was regarded as a worthless piece of meat by some – and worse) and two radio interviews in USA all in one week. Our local church picked up on the FB posts and told us we weren’t welcome, that got our small town seriously involved with death threats etc. and the head honchos of our church in Oregon had a conniption and banned us from everything related to our church. Death threats flew from the UK (I’m a Brit) plus disgusting comments about me, and my husband (of course).

With nothing more to lose, we went on Dr Phil’s show. The 90-minute recording was cut to 40 minutes for the broadcast and instead of having the support of a leading researcher and a local therapist as we had been told, Dr Phil brought our foster child of 10 years ago on stage. Three years after she left our home she had brought accusations of sexual molestation against my husband. These had been investigated and dismissed for lack of evidence. Just 2-years ago we had met her again when she had told us that she knew that nothing had happened. Five months later she was interviewed by an independent photojournalist from the UK and said “Nothing had happened.”  “I love them. They are wonderful people.” However, to Dr Phil (and the world) she bumped up her accusations and was reported as saying that I was disgusting to let this (sexual abuse) go on in my house, and do nothing. Contrary to Dr Phil’s reputation, he does not do his homework well and not only did he not mention anything about us seeing her two years earlier and about the reporter’s visit, but, when I asked the producers that day to ask him to include a reference to the information contained in the reporter’s unbiased, official audiotape when the programme was aired, he did not do it. He did however put doubt in the audience’s mind as to whether or not she was telling the truth, and the studio audience of 250 people heard the truth about our educational goals with pedophilia, and I believe had their own aha-moments.

For the next few weeks I woke up under a heavy pall. Not only was my husband an evil, good-for-nothing (and worse), I was equally bad and being judged unfairly also. Neither of us had actually committed a crime. It was a very difficult time. However individuals did call, did write, did text their support and, as Christians, we learned that many were praying for our physical safety and a good outcome. That was important to us.

Now, almost three months down the line, life is better. Sales trickle in through Amazon as people buy “UNTOUCHABLE – reaching the most despised with God’s love”, a book I wrote about pedophilia from the Christian, lay-person’s perspective that was published a few weeks before we went on Dr Phil. An article about pedophilia and God that I submitted in August 2016 is to be published shortly. It discusses how Christians should act if they profess to truely follow Christ. More people are connecting with ASAP, the Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention (asapinternational.org) and seeking therapists and support in their journey. Adults who were molested as children have asked us why we weren’t there to help their molester before they acted on their attraction with them. They get it –and this gives us hope.

As you can imagine, this is a huge topic that has no end, so I’ll finish by answering three questions.

  • What is a like to live with a man who has admitted to being sexually attracted to children?

With the caveat, in my case, is the fact that he has not acted on that attraction. This diminishes what I expect would be a much worse scenario that would lead down a very different path if it weren’t so. Yes, being married to a person with a sexual attraction to children is an uncomfortable thought, but acting on that attraction is wrong. Having the attraction is not wrong. I believe that having this attraction though, often overwhelms him and increases his tendency towards depression and even towards suicide. This is something that should be treated by a medical doctor and should not be shameful. Counseling too will help if one can find a counselor who understands pedophilia and how to help a client live a healthful, fulfilled life without acting on that attraction. When one of my children told me she was gay, I felt that it was insignificant. If I can deal with a minor attracted spouse who doesn’t act on that attraction, I can deal with a gay child. It felt a little like “chicken’s feed” – when in reality it is not an easy truth for her, or for me to accept. I would like both truths to go away, but neither will, so I need to keep on top of them and be strong, select carefully who I tell what to when, and not allow myself to be destroyed but these truths that are tied so firmly to who I am.

  • How can I educate the public?

I have an advantage here, although it could be a disadvantage too, because I have a graduate degree in public health, health education and have had a life-time in education in one form or another. Being a free-lance writer is another string to my bow, so I am forced to keep busy because it takes time and effort to find opportunities to educate people, one person at a time, about the truths of pedophilia. The public isn’t ready to listen, usually but I hope that in the future schools providing education in the classroom about sexuality will include pedophilia with LGBTQ issues and that this will filter through to parents, youth leaders, health care providers, counselors, politicians, church leaders and individuals so that state laws and national laws will be reviewed and changed so that people recognizing they have a sexual attraction to children will be able to access professional help and support, and not have to go through the fire we have been through –and are still enduring. Our new normal should not be their new normal.

  • What did you learn about going public?

I learned that hate exists in some churches (and love in others) and in the public forum. I learned that ignorance on this matter (and on any other matter) makes for bad decision-making. I learned that people cause pain that is unremitting and that I can’t change the past. I learned that I can deal with the fall-out, however if I was still working full time, the outcome could be terrible (loss of job, position etc.) even though I am not the person who admits to pedophilia, but I am related to them and willing to stand with them. Some said we are pioneers, others said we are stupid –I guess there is a bit of both in us, but two things: if you want to go public, be prepared – it is a bad world out there and secondly, contact me/us for support. Life will be very challenging but there is a tiny light at the end of the tunnel and I am making my way along it with those who want to change how we understand pedophilia, who want to protect children and with those who are non-offending pedophiles –so that I can give them a big dose of hope.

Tabitha Abel