Katie* was eight months into her pregnancy when her partner Alex* was arrested for sending sexual images to an underage girl. Although disgusted by his actions, Katie explains how she came to a decision many may find shocking – that she would stay with Alex. She also reveals why she believes him when he says he isn’t a danger to their baby girl.
On the first morning of my maternity leave, instead of the leisurely lie-in I’d planned, I awoke at 7.20am to loud banging on the front door.
I shouted from upstairs to my partner Alex that I hadn’t bought anything online – he’d recently chastised me for ordering too much ahead of our daughter’s arrival.
Suddenly, police officers poured into our home, taking Alex into the living room while one female officer kept me in our bedroom.
I sat down on the bed, confused, as she bluntly said that Alex was being arrested for sexual communication with a child, namely a 12-year-old girl.
Unable to believe my ears, I felt immediately nauseous. Paralysed by shock, I couldn’t bring myself to think it could be true.
There I was, heavily pregnant, in my pyjamas, with sleep still in my eyes, being interrogated about the possibility that my partner was a sex offender.
They wanted to know every detail of our relationship: How well did I know Alex, what was his daily routine, where were his electronic devices?
When I told the officer we’d been together nearly two years, she raised her eyebrows as if to imply that I barely knew the father of my child.
Meanwhile, Alex was taken to a police station and I worried about how scared he must be.
I just wanted to see him – I needed answers. At that point, I refused to consider it was true. I felt like I was watching a film unfold as our dining room was searched and his work computer, games console and phone were seized as evidence.
One sympathetic officer enquired what I planned to name our baby but I didn’t answer – such a normal conversation seemed ridiculous while my life crashed down around me.
An hour on, they finally left but couldn’t confirm if Alex would be coming home.
I frantically googled ‘sexual communication with a child’ and felt terrified reading the sentencing guidelines and news reports of paedophiles committed to prison.
I felt sick to my stomach reading how abuse by these paedophiles had gone on for years. It didn’t seem possible that Alex, the sweet man I adored, could be compared to these monsters. Surely it was a misunderstanding?
Next, I called my best friend. When he arrived, his face went white when I told him the real reason I needed him with me. He joined me in hoping that it was all a mistake.
Eventually, at 3pm, the police called to say that Alex was being bailed and asked if I would be happy for him to come home.
Immediately, I said yes – I wanted to see him. I still loved him and I needed to hear his side of the story, hoping he’d have a simple explanation and things could go back to how they were.
Denying my daughter her father doesn’t seem like the right thing to do
I know some people would instantly cut their partner out of their lives but while I was confused by my feelings, I knew I needed him – and I felt strongly that our baby needed their father.
A nondescript car pulled up and Alex stepped out, his face covered in tears; I’d never seen him so broken.
Despite what he was accused of, my instinct was to look after him. But the shame he felt was written all over him. This was no mistake. My heart broke.
He mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ as he approached me cautiously.
The police came in with him and handed me his bail notice, with stringent conditions around using the internet.
‘When your baby comes, Alex will need to be in alternative accommodation. He cannot have any contact with your child until social services assess you. He is a risk to children,’ one officer said sternly.
Alex, who had always been my protector, was now deemed an animal – a sex offender. He sat silently until the police left.
As soon as they had left, Alex buried his head in his hands and wept. He apologised and confessed he’d been messaging a girl online before it moved to WhatsApp.
I grilled him for the whole truth.
He said initially, conversation had been mundane and she had told him she was 12. After a few days they spoke about sex and he sent images of himself.
My stomach lurched at the very thought. Cheating aside, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t cut contact the moment he realised she was a child.
It turned out the ’12-year-old girl’ was in fact an undercover police officer.
I knew nothing would be the same between us again but I felt sad for Alex – and for myself. I deeply felt the loss of the perfect family unit I’d dreamed of.
Telling other people was the thing I dreaded, and still dread, the most
It might seem unbelievable to most women but, in those moments, I couldn’t throw him out. I was in a state of shock. And in truth, I was scared. Whether I threw Alex out or not, I was going to be on my own with our baby because he couldn’t live with us.
My head was all over the place. It all just felt like such a big mess, and through no fault of my own I was stuck in the middle of it. I was angry – I couldn’t believe the man I loved so much could do this.
‘We had everything – the house, the baby – that wasn’t enough?’ I yelled.
He couldn’t answer, just apologised repeatedly.
Everything felt hollow as reality sank in. I cried myself to sleep.
Next morning, dread weighed heavily on my chest. Alex lay next to me – awake – he hadn’t slept.
I only really started truly thinking about what he had done a few days later as we threw ourselves into finding him alternative accommodation, speaking to solicitors and familiarising ourselves with his bail conditions.
As the days went on I asked more questions. Everything from the exact words used to what he sent in pictures, to why he’d done it and asking him again and again if he was sexually attracted to children. Alex replied to every single question, no matter how much I asked.
While I found his actions abhorrent, I wanted to know all the details to understand what could have led to him doing this – and to taking a sledgehammer to our life.
He told me he wasn’t and isn’t attracted to children or teenagers sexually; which may seem at such odds considering what he’s done.
He told me he never meant for it to happen or go that far, and that he’d gone from looking at porn websites to talking to girls on apps. It had just become about looking for another thrill or risk.
The underage element of it wasn’t part of any of that, he said. I believe him. Since the day it happened I have researched and read online for anything that could help me understand this. Many psychologists have offered explanations but overwhelmingly they state that this isn’t typically about an attraction to children. It’s about an attraction to risk, to doing something taboo and unfortunately, because it is typically acted out online, it can make those doing it believe it’s not real.
Soon, I was contacted by social services. They would now be a firm part of mine and my child’s life, and they needed to come and assess us – weigh up everything about us, including how protective and caring a parent I could be. The point of this was to conclude if I could protect my daughter, and potentially protect her from her own father.
The overwhelmingly implied narrative from both the social services and police is that I should leave Alex
The initial conversation with them reduced me to vomiting. They thought Alex could hurt the child we had been so looking forward to meeting. He wasn’t seen as a father to be, but a monster capable of abusing children.
The overwhelmingly implied narrative from both the social services and the police is that I should leave Alex, and have a life as just me and my daughter. Yet I still cannot bring myself to do that – I can’t believe he is the monster they kept painting him to be.
Our relationship before this was honestly perfect; our personalities complemented each other nicely. We’d bonded over our shared love of music and food and we fitted into each other’s lives, families and friend groups with such ease. He was the first partner I’d ever brought home that I never worried about my family liking, he was an instant hit.
I have never been happier than when I found out I was pregnant, and Alex and I couldn’t wait to enter the next phase of our life together.
I loved his kindness, his patience and how safe he always made me feel. It’s why it’s so hard for me to comprehend that he is the same person accused of this crime.
Telling other people was the thing I dreaded, and still dread, the most. I feel like I’m being judged for it as though I’m the one that has committed the crime. I don’t know if that will ever change, and if I will always feel like I have to justify my love for Alex and my reasons for standing by him. I do understand the reactions of others though, and had I not been in this situation myself then I would probably have felt the same. It’s different when you’re in it though.
In the first week, I told my family, starting with my sister initially as she has a young son and I was legally bound to inform her so he was not at risk. That felt awful. She didn’t say much, mainly from shock, but she did ask if I was OK. She and I are still sisters, but at times we don’t feel as close now. She can’t understand my decision to stand by him.
Next I told my parents, and then my brother. All were appalled and have made it clear they will support me and my baby, but haven’t so far extended that to Alex.
Social services said only immediate family needed to be told, and as such, I haven’t told any of my other friends. My best friend, who was with me on the day, checks in on me and has seen both of us since but has said he finds it hard to face Alex knowing what he has done.
When those who don’t know ask about how excited me and Alex must be getting I feel like a fraud. I smile and glaze over the details, as though I’m still living the life I should have been; the one where my happy family still exists.
I know my decision to stay with him is something many will find hard to comprehend.
In all honesty, if this had never happened to me I would have had a very black and white view too – that a crime such as this is so heinous that there is no way I could face my partner after it. But now that I’m in it, it feels like so many shades of grey.
If Alex had ever actually harmed a child then I think my decision would be different. I think because he is classed as a ‘non-contact offender’ it makes it easier to try to understand and help him.
The police have checked on Alex’s welfare regularly in the weeks since the arrest – many people charged with sexual crimes take their own lives. Alex came close. He told me he had looked at different ways he could commit suicide and even to the point that he had a plan in place. The idea of losing him like that, despite what he’s done, would be devastating.
In terms of the future, we are stuck in limbo. Devices take months to be checked and cases like this can take upwards of 18 months before getting to court. The wait is agonising. It impacts everything, including social services as they won’t make clear steps forward about Alex’s contact with our daughter until he’s gone to court.
Alex might be imprisoned for this, but equally he might not. Suspended sentences can sometimes be given, but even those come with stringent conditions and our lives will never be the same again.
Denying my daughter her father doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. She has a right to know him, and he has a right to prove to us that he is not the beast people believe him to be. I know he will be a brilliant father to her.
When I look at him, I see the clear remorse he has. He can’t change what he’s done but he can prove how he plans to change.
*Alex and Katie are false names
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