I think that my ex is a child predator. What can I do about it?
August 12, 2019 4:36 AM   Subscribe

My son is weirded out by some of the things that his father (my ex) is doing that are similar to some creepy things that the ex did in the past and I suspect that the ex is an online predator.

I left my son's father (I'll call him "Wayne", not his real name) when our son ("DS") was an infant. Wayne had exhibited creepy behaviors back then, enough so that the courts allowed only supervised visitation between him and DS for 6 months and then Wayne had to have regular home visits afterwards to assure that DS was safe. Such creepy behaviors were concerning but couldn't be proven to be criminal and included:

-Posting photos of his dick to 4chan with full knowledge that kids were on that site. (If it matters, Wayne was 40 years old at the time). I have screenshots of the posts and took them to a lawyer but she said that it would be too hard to prove that it was him in the photos and also him who posted them.
-Chatting with young boys and asking if they would like to see his dick. I have a transcript of one of the chats but it's just a plain .txt file from back in the IRC days and wasn't from a chat provider. Again my lawyer said that there was no way to prove that it was Wayne in the transcript or that I hadn't just typed up the transcript myself.
-Wayne would try to get me to have sex with him in public parks when it was likely that kids would be around. I never did but he told me that it was something that he did in the past with other partners.
-Once when Wayne was getting rid of an old computer he bought an electromagnet to use on the hard drive before he threw it away. I asked him why he didn't just format or dismantle the drive and he said that there was stuff on the drive that he wanted to make sure no one could lift. I questioned him further and he just said that it was "some work stuff" but he didn't have a job and hadn't for years.
-He once admitted that at any given point in time that there was likely child porn on his computer but that it was just the result of "pranks" from online friends.

That was then, and it's now 11 years later. DS has started reporting that Wayne acts "suspicious" and is on the computer until all hours, sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning (DS has caught Wayne when DS wakes up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom). If DS catches Wayne at the computer then Wayne immediately locks (ctrl+alt+del) the screen. Twice now DS saw that Wayne had Roblox open and was chatting, but DS couldn't see what was being said. DS asked Wayne why he was playing a child's game but Wayne denied that that he was and assured DS that he was seeing things.

Wayne is also highly concerned about privacy, more so than most casual internet users. He will only use FireFox as he says that it's the most secure. He uses a VPN for all internet use. DS once wanted to bring a Google Home Mini speaker to Wayne's house and Wayne was completely freaked out by that and refused to allow it (DS constantly uses the Google Home devices at my house for help with his homework, check weather, etc. so DS didn't feel that it was an unusual request).

I strongly suspect that Wayne is grooming and/or harassing children online via Roblox and possibly other sites/chat clients. Is there anything that I can do about this?

Additional information:
-Wayne and I have shared custody and live close by, in the same city.
-I have a laptop that DS has used at Wayne's house and it has a stored connection to Wayne's wifi network.
-Wayne now has a job where he works directly with vulnerable (neuro-atypical) children.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you have a responsibility to report him. I'd start with his local police, his state police, then to the FBI here.
posted by jennypower at 5:39 AM on August 12 [18 favorites]


Your mention that you have a laptop used by DS that has a stored connection to Wayne's wifi suggests the possibility of using that to gain access to his data. If you have any thoughts about you or DS trying that, do not do that. There are no homegrown solutions here. I doubt if you will get any advice here other than what jennypower said — report what you know to the police.
posted by beagle at 5:47 AM on August 12 [18 favorites]


As a fellow person with no idea what to do in this situation, I'd call the police non-emergency number and tell them that you have concerns, even though don't have any proof. They will at least give you guidance on what to do.

If his job is working with vulnerable kids, I would also want to let them know, but with no evidence at all, I'm not sure there's anything you can do. But the police might have suggestions for that, as well.

Also, Carolyn Hax always recommends the Child Help Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD, for anyone with questions about how to proceed about suspected child abuse. They might have resources and/or suggestions for specific actions you can take.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:57 AM on August 12 [11 favorites]


Yes, call the police, FBI, 1-800-4-ACHILD, and also a family lawyer. If you are aware that Wayne is possibly abusing children, you could actually be at risk of losing custody of your child for failing to protect him. You have strong evidence of previous misconduct by Wayne, and your suspicions seem reasonable at present, so you must take steps now to protect yourself and your child, as well as others. I’m sorry you’re going through this.
posted by stillmoving at 6:19 AM on August 12 [15 favorites]


Definitely the FBI with your suspicions about child porn -- and also DCFS in your state. The bar for "indicating" someone for child abuse is a lot lot lot lower than the bar for a criminal conviction, especially if he's working with children.

When you make the report to DCFS, make sure you emphasize that he's working with vulnerable children
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:09 AM on August 12 [17 favorites]


I would put all of this in writing - with as much details as possible (with dates, places etc.) and then present to your local police and/or FBI. Having it in writing in a chronological manner will probably be helpful to start the process of keeping an eye on him!
posted by rglass at 8:07 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Please, if possible, get your child out of this situation. Get your lawyer involved, go to the judge, and file for sole custody. Even if you feel confident that your ex would never directly hurt your son, exposing your son to that kind of abusive behavior is no ok.
posted by mai at 8:27 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Police and a therapist who specalizes in child sexual abuse to work with your son.
posted by medusa at 8:27 AM on August 12 [5 favorites]


Definitely speak to the attorney who has handled your custody/parenting matters in the past. If there was not one, find one now. Even if your son is not in the direct path of harm, it seems changes to that agreement are necessary.

One thing I see a lot in my work with domestic relations courts is a troubling reluctance of parents to return to court for changes to parenting agreements or support agreements even when there is a clear reason to do so. I understand, when things are more or less working and you're not partners anymore, letting sleeping dogs lie can be a valid choice, even when it means giving up something you could have that works better. In this case, however, you might really want a court, with a variety of social services resources, looking at whether changes to how and when Wayne interacts with your son.
posted by crush at 8:28 AM on August 12 [7 favorites]


"In this case, however, you might really want a court, with a variety of social services resources, looking at whether changes to how and when Wayne interacts with your son are necessary at this time"
posted by crush at 8:29 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Twice now DS saw that Wayne had Roblox open and was chatting

"Wayne" is grooming victims while your kid is in the house. This is the time to go nuclear for full custody and if your current lawyer doesn't have the steel for it, get a new lawyer.

You know exactly what is going on. You have to do something about it.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:39 AM on August 12 [21 favorites]


It's also worth bearing in mind that Wayne might attempt to throw your son under the bus and blame him for any porn, etc., that is found. Nuclear. Now.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 9:58 AM on August 12 [6 favorites]


I strongly suspect that Wayne is grooming and/or harassing children online via Roblox and possibly other sites/chat clients. Is there anything that I can do about this?
Yes, please report it online to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and contact the police.

Considering:
- Wayne has a sexual interest in children and is increasingly acting on this interest lately
- Wayne has access to extremely vulnerable children through his work

The children Wayne works with are at urgent risk of abuse. You are the only person who can help them. As a parent of a young child myself, I beg you to make a report now. Just paste in the text of this question and they will make sure it gets sent to law enforcement and child welfare organizations.
posted by pocams at 10:48 AM on August 12 [11 favorites]


This is hard. Wayne sounds predatory towards children. He sounds addicted and unsafe.

As a parent, I would try to keep your child away from Wayne. For that, you need a lawyer, and your lawyer needs to be aggressive. I don't know what level of evidence is required for a search warrant, but it doesn't sound like this is sufficient. Your lawyer would not generate such a warrant, that's a police matter, but your lawyer should know the law in this area. Also, this might sound unkind, but you may be inaccurate in your assessment, and you need a professional 2nd opinion.

Please be very cautious about allowing DS to be aware of these concerns, report to you, etc. Having a parent who may be a violent sexual criminal is horrible and DS wants to love and respect his father. It's a painful and potentially damaging conflict. Also, in some states children can choose which home they want to live in when they are 13 or so. Adolescence is hard enough, and kids can make weird choices. Having an adolescent around a molester is not safe. Honestly, if it were me, I might try to hire a forensic private detective. One thing your son might be able to do, worth the conflict, is allow a person into that home, and access to the computer.

I'm so sorry you and your son are going through this.
posted by theora55 at 11:46 AM on August 12


I missed the part about Wayne's job. You should contact them and share your concerns, ideally in person as well as via email and in as much detail as possible. I am a teacher who works with neuro-atypical kids and I would 100% want to know if one of my employees was not a safe person to have around children. I would take immediate action on information like this and I hope they will do the same.

One thing you can do is make a report to child protective services, and ask for a copy of that report, and share it with Wayne's workplace.
posted by mai at 12:25 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


I agree that you should report Wayne and ideally try for full custody, but be aware that the same "proof" issue will arise if your custody arrangement goes to court (if no hard evidence is found through investigation, or if there is no investigation). Also yes please report this to your ex's place of work immediately via phone email, or in-person, any official investigation report (if one happens) can be a followup. It's unfortunately typical predator behaviour to seek employment where they are around children who may be especially vulnerable.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you and your son. Feel free to memail me if you want to chat.
posted by DTMFA at 3:51 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


You need to speak to one, or ideally two, family lawyers experienced in your jurisdiction. You should be very worried about parental alienation accusations from your ex, or about a custody change for the worse.

I can say that I 100% believe you and your ex sounds awful, and like a possible sexual predator. However, the evidence you are able to access, by itself, is in no way slam-dunk convincing, sorry. Given that, you should make sure that you are not painted as a vengeful or unhinged ex, trying to put a wedge between your son and your ex. This can go bad for you if you get the wrong advice or the wrong judge, and you need expert, local advice.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:45 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


. Having a parent who may be a violent sexual criminal is horrible and DS wants to love and respect his father. It's a painful and potentially damaging conflict

Agreed with this. What I'm thinking here about this is how your son's radar *also* and importantly seems to be going off regarding his dad's potential predatory nature. What's interesting about this is that:
A. At that age, I could usually tell a good person from a bad person without having hard facts on my hands. Because your son is so young, it's unlikely he would be able to cook something as specific up about his own dad being a predator. I myself knew bad people existed at that age, but was not aware of what it meant, at all, for someone to be a predator like this. The fact that it's his own dad and he's reporting these things back to you tells me that he feels uncomfortable enough around someone he's "supposed" to feel safe around and love is not insignificant. I'm sure it's incredibly hard for him to bring these things up with anyone at all. Leading to:
B. I'm so glad your son trusts you to tell you his observations. This is wildly monumental. I'm not a parent so I don't know the appropriate way to go about this, but it's very important that your son feel safe going forward repeating any details to you about his experiences around your ex. Seems you've done a good job so far. But, minimize if you can any blowback or retaliation your son may experience if your ex connects that your son "tattled" in him. So maintaining safety for your son is key, key, key.
C. As someone who actually was sexually abused by a parent with kids my own age around your own son's age... These do sound like warning bells to me. My own predator radar would be pinging wildly. Your son is very brave to bring it up, and so are you for handling this, which is every parent's worst nightmare. Take care of yourself.
D. Again I'm not a professional but proceed with extreme caution. Let's say the ex catches wind of this and covers his every track. It makes more sense to tiptoe to avoid tipping him off and thus giving him a chance to cover his tracks. Ex sounds like he could be addicted / possibly arrogant (which works well in your favor) at this time. So... No blow ups. I'm sure it's hard. I would be freaking out too. As we've learned from so many predators (men?), their arrogance is often their downfall.
E. I also hate to say this but it may become worse, much worse. Your son is a hero.
F. And so are you. The wife of the person who sexually abused me growing up had led on to him (this was relayed to me BY THE PERPETRATOR) that she suspected he was a pedophile and serial abuser but as far as I know did nothing about it. It took me acting years later as a young adult to do something about it, completely alone and overwhelmed. If she had followed her instinct, my entire life would be so different. (I did get the person who abused me convicted and jail time, if this helps. But it could have been done so so so much sooner, when I myself was a kid.)
H. Good luck. Good luck. Good luck.
posted by erattacorrige at 6:57 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


There are some great books for kids about dealing with difficult parents and adults. Nothing quite so specific as "My dad is creepy, help" but there are books about handling difficult secrets, kids recovering and thriving post abuse, relationships with divorced parents when one parent is abusive, and how to be mindful of your emotions and trust your fear/feelings that are age appropriate for pre-teen kids. IMO, you have to basically read the book first to gauge if it's helpful to your particular situation. These can at least give you starting points for conversations with your son and tools for him about how to handle the visits and navigate them safely so he has a plan and some emotional tools for a scary and difficult situation.

I would report him too, but I would not tell my kid I reported their dad - they're going to feel in the middle, and also put them and you at risk if they tell the dad out of loyalty. I would phrase it as "I talked to some grown ups for advice and I'll keep talking to them to get some more help for you. I'm glad you can talk with me about something this difficult, and I know you love your dad and also have other strong feelings that are hard to handle right now."

Another tactic, depending on your area, is your son's growing age. I was told that when my daughter got to around his age, we could try custody again because her preferences for sole custody would be taken much more seriously. A lawyer might be able to suggest other strategies to limit custodial time or bring back supervised time so your son feels safer.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:00 AM on August 13


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