Charm v Reality


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Photo by Adriaan Greyling on

‘He was like a breath of spring’ the woman said. ‘He came into my life and changed everything.’ Yeah right, well he would wouldn’t he? I thought. He’s got his modus operandi down to a fine art, like all of them, and you are too needy to be able to see through the charade.
The woman I’m writing about was the mother of one of my clients, a seven year-old girl. Her real father had fled the home a couple of years before, leaving the mother lonely and struggling to pay the rent on her council home. She wasn’t a bad person, but like many other women her age, (under thirty), she was a victim, with her man vulnerability being unable to afford a decent lifestyle.
Then John (not his real name) came into her life. Unlike many other men in her social circle, John had a job and a car. He could afford to take her and her daughter on day-trips, he bought both of them presents and he paid compliments to the mother about her appearance and how pleasing she was to be around.
He moved into the family home, and the couple were soon talking about marriage. Then the bombshell came. The Child Protection social services, where I worked, got a call from the police to say that John had been in prison for a sex offence against a young female child. When I approached the mother with this, she said it wasn’t true, because he was such a good person and she had never seen him behave any other way but appropriately towards her daughter. Still under the spell of his courtship, she clearly found it painful to see that his attention towards her was not to enjoy her company but to gain access to the biggest prize of all – her daughter.
The child had to be placed on the Child Protection Register. At the first case conference, the mother reluctantly agreed to ask John to leave her home. This might have been the end of it, but for the fact that we had evidence to prove that she hadn’t given him up and that he was still making visits to the home. When confronted with this, she said that we were persecuting John. By then, she had come to accept that he had sexually abused a child in the past, but she maintained that he had served a prison sentence for this, which meant he would never do it again.
Many times, I and the police told the mother that sexual offenders almost always re-offend. They might do a sexual offenders course and learn how to control their behaviour, but even that couldn’t be banked upon to stop the urge to re-offend. In other words, John wasn’t like a burglar or somebody who had committed physical assault, done a stretch and decided never to break the law again. His behaviour was addictive. It was connected to a sexuality shaped in adolescence, rendering it fixed and impossible to change. A piece of rock can’t be turned into gold, if you paint it yellow. It is what it is and that’s it.
We were almost at the point of taking the case to court but events intervened. John let slip to a man in a pub that he had been convicted of sexually abusing a little girl. Like most offenders, he denied it, and like most offenders, said he was fitted up with the crime. Two days later, half of the neighbourhood laid siege to the home. They smashed the windows and daubed ‘pervert’ on the walls. The upshot of that was, John lit out and was never seen again.
It ended well for the child, in that she could remain with her mother. The mother’s demeanour in the aftermath, however, told us that she would take a long time to get over knowing her shining knight was, in fact, a highly damaged predator.

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