'Yours sincerely, 4 heart broken families': Relatives of men suspected of accessing child-abuse images pen public letter

The families of four men suspected of accessing images of child abuse online have written a public letter to describe the effects on their lives. Raids were carried out on their homes in 2016, and electronic equipment was seized.

RTE's Joe Duffy read out their letter on Liveline today, as a follow-up to a programme on Monday where a wife wrote in to speak about discovering her husband had been accessing child abuse images and videos online and the horrific chapter in her/their lives that followed.

The letter read out today details how once the doors closed on the Garda raids, each family felt "isolated, shocked and lost in finding support or help; each family member of each home (was) looking at their loved one, who was now an offender. These were people’s sons, brothers and fathers."

The letter describes the families' isolation, shock, shame and fear, and asks for the public's understanding that the families are trying to protect children in supporting the suspects in treatment.

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The letter sent to Liveline is below.

To the listeners of the Joe Duffy show;

Following on from your show last Monday where a wife wrote in to speak of her harrowing shock in discovering her husband had been accessing child abuse images and videos online and a perpetrator speaking on the show Tuesday. Myself and a group of others have felt obliged to write to you to tell you our collective story.

At different stages in 2016, four houses where raided by the Gardaí on the suspicion that men (both young and old) living in these homes with their families where suspected of accessing child sexual abuse images/ videos online.

In each house when the Gardaí finished seizing computers, lap tops and phones left, and the front door closed, four families descended into what I can only describe as hell and disbelief. Each family feeling isolated, shocked and lost in finding support or help, each family member of each home looking at their loved one, who was now an offender. These were people’s sons, brothers and fathers.

Each family sat alone in their homes, not knowing what to do or where to go, each putting on their brave face to continue numbly with their jobs, relationships and obligations as they could not talk to their friends, family members, employers etc for fear of judgement of being ‘guilty by association’ or ‘how could the family not know what was going on’, fear for their safety should a vigilante group learn of an offender residing in their community or a local community.

We collectively feared that our offending family members would be found dead after taking their own lives.

Families torn apart, in disbelief, experiencing hatred for someone they loved just the days and hours before that knock on the door from the Gardai. We grieved for the person we once knew, now we had what felt like a stranger in our home. We blamed ourselves ‘what did I do wrong?’, ‘how could I not have seen the signs this was happening?’

We all were very fortunate to find the One in Four organisation, that offered a treatment plan for offenders as part of their prevention strategy for child protection, they hold this at a secret location – again for fear of offenders being attacked. They offered a family support group for offenders engaged in this program and this is where we found each other. Finally after 18 months of group psychotherapy we understand that WE (FAMILY MEMBERS) DID NOTHING WRONG, WE ARE NOT TO BLAME.

It took us that long to accept we are innocent secondary victims of someone else’s abusive behaviour, but society won’t see it like that.

Despite our offending family members being caught within a timeframe of 5 months, we are all at different stages of the court system, one of whom is currently serving a sentence in prison for his offences. We are all still afraid for the safety of ourselves in our homes when our address is publicised in the national papers / apps/ circulated on social media and the safety of our offending family members in prison or when at home.

We are all living a life full of shame and fear. I would plead with the public to consider instead of inciting hate, try and understand families trying to ensure this never happens again by supporting the person in treatment and committing to a life of supervision of a family member to protect children, not hurt them.

In addition to our story we would like to highlight to the listeners who may have children with Smartphones, in today’s age of teenagers, it is common place for young people to swap naked pictures between themselves. Greater awareness to young people and parents that young people with naked pictures of under 17 year olds are in possession of child pornography, and if they send to a friend, it’s a distribution charge added to that. Child protection is struggling to keep up with technology and we need to do everything we can to educate and protect the children / young people of this country.

Yours sincerely,

Four heart broken families

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