Coworker is a registered sex offender and I'm having a hard time dealing
September 20, 2016 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I recently found out my coworker is a registered sex offender - plead guilty to molesting a 7 yr old girl. How do I get over this?

My coworker and I have worked together for 5 years. I considered him a close friend at work.

He's middle-aged, married with kids, goes to church, conservative. His personality is a bit shy and awkward.

Two women at the office (who no longer work there) had mentioned he seemed creepy. I dismissed it and said they were overreacting and he was harmless.

Now I feel dumb because I recently found out he is a registered sex offender and on parole for 10 years for molesting a 7 yr old girl. I was bored one day and googled him. Dug deeper and found the court documents. I've lost sleep over it.

We work in a professional environment with no children.

I'm fairly certain my company does not know, and I have not told anyone. I'm having a hard time dealing with this and no longer want to work around him.

I catch him looking at my breasts or another woman's body and it grosses me out. He sat in my office the other day and did that thing where he opened and closed his legs real fast almost like to stimulate himself, and I felt sick to my stomach. Occasionally, I change in the bathroom after work to jog at a nearby park and he locks the front office door when I go to the bathroom and "helpfully" meets me at the door to unlock it, the whole time staring at me in my shorts.

He's never done anything blatantly inappropriate, and I'm sure my perceptions of him and our interactions are now tainted by the knowledge of his past, but there is something off about him.

I'm almost tempted to anonymously report him to management as I'm pretty sure the company does not know. Somehow, I think this will make me feel better but I don't know. How do I move on from this knowledge?
posted by amme to Human Relations (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm almost tempted to anonymously report him to management as I'm pretty sure the company does not know.

Don't do this. Surely someone else has googled him and knows. If he's on parole, your employer knows.
posted by listen, lady at 6:51 PM on September 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm almost tempted to anonymously report him to management as I'm pretty sure the company does not know

If he's done something inappropriate to you that warrants reporting to HR and management, do so.

Did you notice any of these behaviors before you knew he was a sex offender or only after? What are you hoping will happen if you report to management of his past history? That he be fired? Reporting to management that he has a past history in which he has gone through the criminal system and is otherwise obeying the law and is presumably abiding by the terms of his release (i.e. register as a sex offender) seems unfair.

If you feel uncomfortable around him because he has done something inappropriate, and some of the incidents you cited may qualify, go to management with that.
posted by Karaage at 6:51 PM on September 20, 2016 [15 favorites]


If he is on parole, chances are very high his employer is aware of his conviction and his registration. Most local parole supervision includes keeping close tabs on offender's employment status.

If you see him staring at you, tell him firmly and directly to stop, preferably when other people are around to witness the exchange. Otherwise avoid him as much as possible. See if you can get your own office door key or change somewhere else.
posted by zdravo at 6:52 PM on September 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


"Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done" -Bryan Stevenson
posted by Doc_Sock at 6:59 PM on September 20, 2016 [22 favorites]


The bathroom thing - "Thanks. However I'd prefer to handle the door myself next time."

I'd be weirded out too. However... Your management knows about this already. There's nothing to be gained from "telling" on him.
posted by samthemander at 7:04 PM on September 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Was his apparent creepiness a factor in the two women leaving? Did you notice any of this before googling him and say Ah, that makes sense or have you only been creeped out post-googling?

I would not be ok with noticing anyone looking at my breasts at work, full stop. What's your relationship like with your manager? I think (I like to think) that in a similar situation I'd go to my manager and say XYZ behavior is a problem, let's talk about how to stop it. I also think that my manager would hear me and be willing to come down hard on someone for say, ogling me, and I don't want to assume yours would.

Talking about his current behavior seems much more helpful and actionable than something abstract or a past crime which the state has weighed in on and is (presumably) no longer being committed.

I wish you the best regardless. All my questions are rhetorical, you don't need to answer.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 7:14 PM on September 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Are you 100% sure it's him? Lots of people have the same name.
posted by fshgrl at 7:22 PM on September 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


Please keep in mind that a lot of people plead guilty to crimes because they literally have no other option (read some of the recent public defender threads on the blue). I'd also echo (Over) Thinking and say that if you only noticed this kind of attention AFTER you found out his status, that it could be confirmation bias.

I will also nth that you should NOT tell your employer.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:35 PM on September 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


DO NOT tell your employer. Understand, too, that, in many locales, it takes very little to become accused of molestation. Sometimes seemingly innocent actions. And, it's quite often the better path to simply accept a deal rather than be dragged through a trial. Unless you know every little fact regarding the case, you really need to simply come to terms with yourself in this matter.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:59 PM on September 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


He sat in my office the other day and did that thing where he opened and closed his legs real fast almost like to stimulate himself,

...what? Is that a thing? I don't see why that would be inappropriate or how someone would derive stimulation from that.
posted by FallowKing at 8:20 PM on September 20, 2016 [26 favorites]


He has been punished and is on parole and registered. He is your co-worker. Judge him on the merits of his work and behavior as a colleague. Questions like, what are you doing/what are you looking at, can reinforce boundaries & provide peace of mind when timely.

My dad accidentally killed my uncle (hunting accident) as an older teen. When I learned that as a child, I had to process that, but he's still my dad & on a practical level, it didn't change much. We kept on keepin' on...
posted by childofTethys at 8:50 PM on September 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


This from guster4lovers cannot be over-emphasized:

Please keep in mind that a lot of people plead guilty to crimes because they literally have no other option


Someone I'm close to was arrested last year and—despite not being guilty as charged*—was advised from the very first meeting with her lawyer to plead guilty to a lesser charge, although innocent of that charge, also. Going to trial was deemed too risky, given the possible consequences for a felony conviction. (*Completely different, i.e., not sex-offender, charges.)

It was a rude and disturbing awakening to the realities of what passes for the "justice system" these days.
posted by she's not there at 9:02 PM on September 20, 2016 [17 favorites]


He sat in my office the other day and did that thing where he opened and closed his legs real fast almost like to stimulate himself...

Agreeing with @FallowKing. I'm male and I don't know this "thing." It doesn't sound stimulating. Sounds more like nervous energy to me than anything sexual.

How often do you "catch" him leering at breasts? Are you certain that's what he's doing? Maybe he was looking at someone's necklace. Maybe he has trouble making eye contact due to shyness.

I'm not saying he doesn't give off a creepy vibe or that there isn't anything "off" about him. I can't say from here. But judging by the fact that your discomfort only began after you found out about his past after knowing him for five years, I suspect you're reading a lot into this.

He's served his time. Hopefully, he's in psychological treatment. Sure, give him a wide berth, but until he does anything truly inappropriate, leave him alone and let him try to rebuild his life.
posted by Leontine at 9:10 PM on September 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


If management already knows then reporting that to them anonymously won't hurt him. I disagree with a lot of the comments here, sounds like you have some strong instincts about this guy being a threat. Do what you have to do.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:09 AM on September 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel that many replies in this thread are gaslighting you by suggesting that you might now be retroactively calling him creepy just because you read that he's a pedophile. As if maybe this creepy person who leers at your body isn't actually creepy after all because.... the poor guy may have had to take a plea deal as a child molester? What?

Women call men creepy because they are evaluating a constellation of behaviours, including body language, word choice, eye contact, proximity, being followed, being stared at, posture, and other kinds of non-verbal and hard-to-describe information that they are - accurately - picking up from every interaction.

I have never once in my life thought someone was creepy and later revised that assessment to "oh, he's not creepy at all, he just took a plea deal one time, whoops, I was wrong!" If she feels creeped out by him it's because he's being a creep. That's why. Period.

Whether or not he's a pedophile is almost immaterial- he is being creepy to YOU, and that's more than enough info to justify wanting to distance yourself from him. But how strange that a possible sex offender conviction is the piece of info that made people in this thread want to defend him?!

His behaviours with you are inappropriate, and it sounds like he's also been inappropriate with other women, which is why they too find him creepy, because they too are drawing that conclusion after experiencing the creepy things he did. It doesn't matter if you liked him for a few years, once the leering starts, once he's following you to a door he locked so he can look at your body, you don't have to like that man any more.

I don't know what you should do professionally; given that you don't work with kids, I don't think you need to go to management at this point, as doing so wouldn't be protecting any kids. But when he ogles you, go to HR - it is fair to protect yourself. And if your workplace does plan an event that will have kids present (holiday party)? you might feel a moral obligation to say something- personally, I would say something in that case. If they already know, it won't hurt him, and if they didn't know, you could be protecting a kid.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:27 AM on September 21, 2016 [65 favorites]


It sounds like he's seriously creeping you out and I think you should talk to HR about it. Locking the front office door for no good reason is creepy. What if there was a fire or another emergency situation, and he had locked the front door but wasn't standing next to it yet because he knew you probably wouldn't be coming out of the bathroom for another 10 minutes or so?

I think we, as women, are taught to ignore our instincts, downplay our discomfort, and not make waves. I also think that our instincts are right a lot of the time, particularly when it comes to people who are making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. If this guy has already seriously creeped out two other women, then it sounds like this is not just you. Have you ever read the article about the missing stair?

I also agree with Potomac Avenue. I think you should anonymously report him. Either the company already knows this, and so your telling them won't make any difference. Or they don't know because he hid the information from them during the hiring process, and they would probably want to know. Most companies I've worked for want to know if you have any kind of criminal record.
posted by colfax at 12:29 AM on September 21, 2016 [16 favorites]


There was a convicted sex offender in my workplace a few years ago who worked for a contractor. Someone found him on the sex offender registry and reported it to his management who did not know about his past, reported that he lied on his application and dismissed him. It is absolutely not certain that his employer knows about his past. I'm sort of torn between the idea that someone should be able to rehabilitate into society and thinking that being cast out for certain offenses is the whole point of having a society in the first place.
posted by Lame_username at 2:31 AM on September 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


The stuff you've experienced is inexcusable: staring is harassment and locking you in a room(does he have the only key?) is imprisonment.

Nthing pseudostrabisimus and colfax.
posted by brujita at 3:44 AM on September 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ethically the only thing that matters is his current behavior. If you would report someone you didn't know was a sex offender for behavior like his or even if it's borderline, you should report him. His past offenses against children are not relevant given his current role does not expose him to them.

Given other woman who didn't know he was a sex offender thought he was creepy/harassing I wouldn't reflect too hard on if you are being influenced by your new knowledge, even though I do think it's a reasonable question and not gaslighting.
posted by JPD at 3:56 AM on September 21, 2016


I'm not really sure why lots of other replies are so blasé about this situation and basically making it seem like it's YOUR fault that you're creeped out by a convicted child molester, but it's not your fault! That's fucking really creepy! Go tell management if you think they don't know! None of the other people posting work there or know the particulars of your workplace, but you do, so listen to your intuition. Also, listen to both your intuition and the facts which you have verified - this person is a pedophile and you have every right to feel uncomfortable around him. I would probably be so upset in your position that I would find a new job. I'm sorry you're having to deal with this!
posted by tatiana wishbone at 4:10 AM on September 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, I just wanted to add: I think it's possible to be sort of creeped out by someone while also being in denial about it, just because you don't want to make waves or whatever, and then have something happen that makes the scales fall from your eyes. So just because you were okay with him in the past, that doesn't mean that you are wrong now. For instance, when I was 22 and in my first job, I had a co-worker who I jokingly called "Sketchy John" when talking to my oldest friend in order to distinguish between him and another John who was perfectly fine. I even considered myself to sort of be friends with Sketchy John. That went on for about 2 years. The thing that made me stop and go, "What the hell have I been doing?" was when he asked for my number so he could put me in touch with another supposedly-helpful work contact, and instead spent that evening alternating between sending me long dirty jokes about pussies getting wet and asking why I wasn't responding to him.
posted by colfax at 4:49 AM on September 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm not really sure why lots of other replies are so blasé about this situation and basically making it seem like it's YOUR fault that you're creeped out by a convicted child molester, but it's not your fault!

Its totally reasonable to be totally creeped out by a child molester. What's totally not reasonable is to take actions that knowingly might get that person fired for no reason other than the fact he was convicted of a molesting a child. He did something horrible and served time for it. He's already been punished, you shouldn't want to punish him again.

However - in this case the dude is creepy and leering and creating a hostile workplace environment, so blow him up.
posted by JPD at 7:24 AM on September 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


One thing I don't see mentioned yet: you say that you considered him a close friend. As far as your coworker and former close friend is concerned, he is still close friends with you, and I suspect the boundaries he might feel he needs to respect with you are based on his belief that you and he are close friends. Things he is doing are probably based on whatever sense of propriety he would have with a close friend, as opposed to someone who feels hostile towards him. If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, to reset his behavior with you, you may wish to go up to him and say, "I'm going to say one sentence and walk away -- and this is simply not up for discussion. We are not friends anymore, and from this point onward, I want you to only interact with me as our job demands." Modify as you see fit or safe.

I think we owe any released criminal the right to participate in such basic roles as earning money to shelter and feed themselves. We should not drive them out of jobs, homes, etc.

I say this not because I am not a pedophile, but my opinions on this have been somewhat informed by learning that someone I once knew decades ago grew up to become a pedophile.

He was caught before he could hurt anyone, but it made me consider the practical applications of how a pedophile can live a life. I think what they do is one of the most atrocious crimes possible, but I also think that it's our duty as a society to live alongside those who were processed by our criminal justice system -- murderers, pedophiles, etc. -- and treat them at the very least as we might any other stranger we might dislike but have to work alongside.

To do otherwise risks placing them in roles of severe desperation. No human handles desperation well, but one might successfully argue that people processed by the criminal justice system in particular do not handle desperation well.
posted by WCityMike at 8:22 AM on September 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


You have every right to be creeped out by a child molester. And you have every right to either call him out on boundary-crossing actions or bring them up with HR.

I don't know about the leg thing as self-stimulation for men, but if it looks like he's flashing his crotch, or staring at women, or meeting you at the bathroom door?!? I would definitely say "yes, you have every right to be uncomfortable."
posted by zippy at 10:17 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm sure my perceptions of him and our interactions are now tainted by the knowledge of his past, but there is something off about him.

This seems like a nutshell of the situation. Nothing bad has happened to make you dislike this close friend at work for five years. Until your coworkers' pointed (and bullyish) comments made you second guess your judgment. From what you've written, your discomfort is new, and prompted by something other than this person's behavior. The consequence is that you're potentially seeking inappropriate cues where before you saw none.

Have you read through this Ask A Manager article?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:17 AM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Women are much more likely to make excuses or overlook bad behaviours in such a way as to protect creepy men than they are to falsely accuse men of sexual crimes. This is easily proven by how many men we personally know are creeps who nonetheless flourish in every single workplace and family; and how few men we personally know who've had their lives ruined by false accusations. If 25% of women get sexually assaulted- but you don't think even 5% of the men you're friends with are sexual assaulters- well, someone's doing it! Literally every woman I know has been sexually assaulted. I think I know 2 men who have been taken to court for sexual assault. So maybe once again you see that women tend to be overly lenient when calling men out on shitty behaviours. If it's bad enough for multiple women to comment on it, it's bad.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:51 PM on September 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yeah, it's actually much much more likely that someone who molests a 7 year old gets away with it than it is that someone who didn't do it got wrongfully convicted. I'm not saying the latter doesn't happen-just that statistics are very clearly in the other direction. Our criminal justice system, whatever its other flaws, does a pretty crappy job protecting children.

I can't speak to your question much as I think pseudostrabismus and others have hit the nail on the head. I can tell you to pay attention to your gut here-and if your office has things like office parties where families are invited-man, keep a close eyes on your kids. I am fully in support of him being able to work and support himself-but he doesn't have a constitutional right to play Santa at your Christmas party.
posted by purenitrous at 6:43 PM on September 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


If this person does anything inappropriate to you, then report only that fact to management.

If you don't feel comfortable being friendly with this person due to his possible historical behavior, then stop being friendly. Simply avoid him and answer his questions as briefly as possible and redirect whenever he tries to be friendly.

Otherwise, you actually don't know what happened, and he has already served a sentence so this part, however uncomfortable it makes you, is not your problem or your business at work. I recommend exploring the reality that you actually don't know the whole story. He may be a monster, but you don't know that. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a world of witchhunts.
posted by latkes at 12:48 PM on September 22, 2016


OP posts that he locks the door to the office ( is it the kind of lock that needs a key on both sides of the door?)after hours while she's changing in the bathroom ( does the bathroom have its own lock?) and stands too close to her when she's trying to leave.

THIS IS NOT SOMETHING TO MINIMIZE.
posted by brujita at 2:39 PM on September 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yes but that's creepy whether he's a pedophile or not.
posted by JPD at 5:40 PM on September 22, 2016


amme: Occasionally, I change in the bathroom after work to jog at a nearby park and he locks the front office door when I go to the bathroom and "helpfully" meets me at the door to unlock it, the whole time staring at me in my shorts.

brujita: "he locks the door to the office ( is it the kind of lock that needs a key on both sides of the door?)after hours while she's changing in the bathroom ( does the bathroom have its own lock?) and stands too close to her when she's trying to leave. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING TO MINIMIZE."

Just to show you a different interpretation, the way I read this was that the women's bathroom could be walked in on while she's trying to change, so the man she's talking about locks the front office door so that people do not enter and walk in on her in the women's bathroom while she is trying to change -- but that she was now creeped out by being near him in a state of lesser dress.
posted by WCityMike at 11:18 AM on September 23, 2016


So what, during the day they lock the office front door to avoid people walking into the ladies' room right off the street?

No, it's incredibly inappropriate and creepy and that is what the OP should address.
posted by winna at 3:42 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's perfectly reasonable to be creeped out by this guy's behavior (the ogling, door locking, etc), regardless of his past.
posted by Neekee at 5:01 PM on September 23, 2016


Final update from the OP:
It's been several years but an update...Shortly after posting this, I went to HR with my concerns. They were not aware of the felony and he was let go two days later. Company was a bit embarrassed but appreciative.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:42 PM on January 20 [3 favorites]


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