“But they must have known”: Am I getting this wrong?

This blog was written by an individual from the UK who wanted their story heard but wishes to remain anonymous.

This is a blog in a continuing series about the impact of the arrest & prosecution of individuals convicted of having Indecent Images of Children on their families (please see a previous blog by a professional and a family member). The author of this blog has wished to remain nameless, but please be aware that the individuals who contribute to these blogs, while anonymous, are different individuals. Kieran

The “But, they must have known!” blog presented the story of an ex-partner of an IIOC and her experience and emotions in the five years since ‘the knock’. My situation is almost identical, just five years on, and I wanted to highlight how the focus on the event and the immediate aftermath is not enough, and how the situation continues to evolve, and even heighten, as the years progress. I am an ex-partner of a man arrested for IIOC offences 10 years ago. He received a community sentence and 5 years on the SOR. My children do not know. 

On the night that my ex-husband was arrested, my 2 sons (3 and 6) were playing in the living room. We had a great family, the kids loved their dad, and contrary to what people may imagine, there were no signs, we were very happy, and for the children, that meant an unexpected decimation of the family. Ten years on they still don’t know about their Dad, but this is what I imagine THEY FEEL.


Every day after the knock my eldest asked me: “What did Dad do wrong?” Every day I distracted him with: “Look what your brother just did”. One day, about a year after the arrest, he asked me: “Did Dad kill someone?” and I vowed that the next time he asked I would tell him the truth. He never asked again! I struggle to imagine another situation where, what appears to be a happy and stable family unit would be terminated without the permission to grieve or to talk about the trauma. I told my children (and friends and family) that we decided to separate because we weren’t making each other happy. When people say: “The children will be better not hearing the arguments, or living with the tension”, I envy those families because my children were not better without the arguments or tension because there were no arguments and there was no tension. Is it akin to the death of a parent? I imagine in that situation there is permission to talk about Dad and how great he was. The children don’t have to see their Dad unemployed and broken, but silent as to why this has happened. It’s a world based on lies, deception and, ultimately, a disengagement, because the topic cannot be discussed. I hope that they are too young to dwell on the inaccuracies and the contradictions, but I fear that may be false hope.


I think my children feel scared. When your world falls apart in an instant, one of the outcomes is hyper-vigilance. Within a day their mum turned from a laid back, happy person to someone who panics at the sound of the phone or knock at the door, who over-reacts when school phone to tell her you have done something wrong, and who often breaks down at things she never did before – without explaining why. While mum used to have lots of friends, enjoy a glass of wine and relish the chance to mix with other adults, she makes excuses to avoid seeing people, she rarely goes out and she doesn’t talk much anymore. For the (ex)partners of IIOC offenders, the crime has a life sentence – the lies, the deceit, the fear,  it consumes you to a point where the safest option is to retreat, and for my children, that overnight transformation must be terrifying.

Do they know?

I think that one of the hardest parts of being the remaining safeguarding parent is projecting every emotion you feel onto how your children might feel. Are they scared or is that my emotion? Are they confused, or does this all wash over them? And feeling the intense and unrelenting desire to tell them why their life changed so dramatically, but all the time knowing that, once said, that cannot be unsaid. These are thoughts, emotions and behaviours that are not recognised or supported by agencies set up to deal with offenders, victims or children of prisoners (the overwhelming majority of IIOC offenders receive a community sentence). For my children, and for me trying to parent them, there is no guidance or support, and the overwhelming feeling I have is: “Am I getting this wrong”.

Prevent It – meeting and treating users of Child Sexual Abuse Material online

By Elin Söderquist, Allison Park, Charlotte Sparre, Katarina Görts Öberg, & Christoffer Rahm.

“There is definitely a way to stop viewing CSAM, and I wish this study will lead to a wider effort to help those stuck in the same pattern as I was a few months ago”

-Prevent It participant

The need for new preventative initiatives working to prevent child exploitation online are acute. With the rapidly increasing numbers of shared material, especially during Covid lockdowns, we need to take action in every way possible. What if some of the users of Child Sex Abuse Material (CSAM) actually want to stop viewing pictures/films of prepubertal children, and just need some qualified help to do so? This is what experiences from Stop it Now and other help lines suggest, and this is where the idea of Prevent It comes in.

Prevent It is an anonymous international online therapy for people who want to stop using CSAM and want personal professional support. It is being tested with the best available scientific method, a blinded randomized clinical trial, designed to evaluate its effects, the change in consumption of CSAM.

Online recruitment began in April 2019, first only on onion sites dedicated to the spread of CSAM, sometimes called the “darknet”, and later, in the beginning of the summer 2020 recruitment expanded to also include discussion-forums on the open parts of the internet, sometimes called the “clearnet”. Prevent It is unique in that we are able to reach out to all corners of the world.

Due to understandable reasons, individuals with ongoing CSAM use are very concerned with their privacy. Therefore, the Prevent It treatment platform is accessible both through traditional web browsers and TOR, specifically designed to protect the integrity and safety of the user and used to access onion sites. We never ask for identifiable information or personal contact details. Recently we also made the treatment program no longer require an e-mail address when signing up nor require the enabling of JavaScripts.

The anonymity gives individuals an opportunity to seek care and be more open and truthful than they might be with an in-person therapist. In this way, we also reach out to individuals that law enforcement often does not.

The treatment contains weekly module content, assignments between modules, as well as weekly individual therapist feedback over eight weeks. Repeatedly, the participants are also asked if they know about any at-risk children, and it is clearly stated that any such information is immediately reported to the Swedish Social Services.

Many participants that apply to Prevent It describe that they suffer from psychological ailments such as anxiety, depression, and sometimes even suicidal thoughts. They also explain what a release it is to speak openly about their sexuality to someone – sometimes for the first time in their lives outside of the CSAM- chat forums. This study is already giving us new unique knowledge about this group that the research community knows so little about. Or as one participant said:

“Going through this treatment helped me understand my own sexuality more and helped my anxiety in that I felt that I could just talk about what I felt and thought to SOMEONE at all who wouldn’t judge me in a way I fear others close to me would.”
-Prevent it, participant

For more details please visit the following links:

Prevent It homepage: https://www.iterapi.se/sites/preventit/ Study pre-registration ISRCT

Prevent it registration link:

Swedish Ethics Appeal (Reference No.: Dnr Ö 1-2019)