My wife’s uncle was convicted of child sexual abuse this week. He was tried on three counts and convicted on two of them. Yesterday he was sent to prison for 6 years.
I didn’t know him well. He’s a reclusive alcoholic and I first met him when he was critically ill in intensive care. Everyone thought he was about to die. I went to support my wife, but ended up becoming fond of him myself.
He played a big part in my wife’s life when she was growing up. Her dad was a herdsman, so worked long hours and wasn’t around a lot. Her uncle visited most days and spent a lot of time with her and her siblings.
My wife and her brother and sisters all categorically say their uncle didn’t abuse them when they were little. For some reason, this has the family (aside from my wife – who has a healthy and realistic skepticism) convinced that he is innocent. They’re of the opinion that the family who accused him are trashy and fabricated the allegations.
Of course, this is plausible. But I don’t believe that anyone can say for sure whether he is guilty or whether they’re lying. Only him and the child know what really happened.
He was convicted of touching a 6 year old boy inappropriately and also forcing him to have oral sex. These incidents apparently occurred in his flat, when the two of them were alone.
I have no idea whether he did it or not. But a trial ran for three days, and a jury voted 10 -2 that he was guilty. I suppose I like to assume that I can have faith in the judicial system.
It makes me furious that anyone can assume a person is innocent in this way. It incenses me because that is exactly why sex offenders get away with their crimes again and again. Nobody wants to think these things happen. They’re particularly prone to denial when the accused is someone they love and think they know.
That’s why my brother escaped any consequences when he abused me. My mum witnessed it happening, so they knew for a fact that it took place. But my family convinced themselves that he’d transgressed, but he wouldn’t do it again. He just made a mistake. And still today, they tell me he’s not that person anymore. His baby son is definitely safe.
Nobody can say that little boy is completely safe. At the age of 16, my brother was capable of grooming me, educating me about sex, and then gradually ramping up the sexual assaults over a period of months. The assaults were increasingly violent. I have no idea how bad it would’ve got if my mum hadn’t walked in that day.
My wife’s uncle going to prison this week may potentially have saved a child or multiple children from an experience like this. But none of her family see it that way. They want him to appeal the verdict. They’re angry at his barrister for not defending him more effectively. And tonight they are sat in my house, fondly talking about their memories of him.
It’s hard to sit here and listen. As a victim of abuse, I know the devastating impact it has. I desperately hope that none of it happened, because otherwise I’d be devastated for that child. And the other children he might have harmed. And it really upsets me that none of them take this into account. They know my history. They know how much I have suffered. But they still don’t consider the other side of the story.
That’s tough because I love them. And I don’t want to fall out with them. But this is painful to listen to. It feels like a rejection. Like they are minimising what happened to me and maybe that little boy too. I hate feeling like people think it doesn’t matter. I hate hearing them give the accused offender the benefit of the doubt. And I absolutely cannot stand the assumption that this child is lying.