Collateral damage — learning to live without regret: Part III

See also: Part I  Part II

Part III: And it all came tumbling down

By Daisy . . . It was early in the morning on that summer day in 2003 when we heard a knock on our apartment door. As young, success-minded individuals, we were living above our affordability range in an apartment within a beautiful brick home in a trendy area of our city. The people at the door announced themselves as the police. They pounded on the door of my perfectly crafted life, each knock sending tremors that would eventually topple my inner building to its foundation.

The presence of strangers now searching through all of our drawers and closets and cabinets caused the initial cracks in the facade of my once well-constructed being. They rushed in and took everything we had: every computer, every CD, every floppy disk. Alan, being an unabashed connoisseur of all things tech, had two computers—one that he had built himself for school and another that he had used for gaming. They were gone. All of my electronic schoolwork and documents. Gone. All of the papers that I had ever written. Gone. All of the sexy photos that I had taken of my 23-year-old self for Alan in the privacy of our own bedroom. Gone.

“Alan, we have evidence that you downloaded child pornography,” the investigator told him sternly as I watched helplessly from the other side of the room. Alan, who was sitting on the couch, became pale and actually fainted, and I remember rushing to get him a glass of water. After they left with all of our technological possessions in tow, we remained seated on the couch for what seemed like the entire day as we attempted to process what happened. How do you proceed after something like that? How do you interact with anyone? How can you possibly pretend that everything is still normal? What does it even mean to possess child pornography and what are the ramifications of that?

We had no idea.

I can look back and see how that day—how the impending doom of his certain conviction—completely and utterly paralyzed us both. I had just graduated from college with that shiny degree and was working at a retail job while looking for full-time work related to my discipline. But now I was suddenly stopped in my tracks. Like a slowly deflating balloon, I found myself shrinking socially, emotionally, and even physically. We were both pulled into a devastating downward spiral of depression and ill-health. My husband—forcefully disenrolled from college and declared persona non grata on campus—attempted suicide later that year just before the holidays. Thankfully, he was not successful in choosing the right kind of pills, and doctors were able to reverse the effects.

Alan was charged with five counts of possession of child pornography, though the investigator claimed in the preliminary hearing that he had “thousands and thousands of images” on the computers they took during the search. We certainly had thousands of photos that we took with a cheap digital camera that I used (and certainly one of the crime lab investigators saw the risqué photos I took of myself) as well as a bunch of downloads of what were essentially memes and “funny pix” as I called them back in the day. Those “thousands and thousands” of pictures were not child pornography, the investigator explained during the hearing, but they were evidence that Alan was someone who was apt to curate legions of images for personal use, as if having scanned childhood photos, personal photos from our camera, innocuous internet downloads, and even computer system images was indicative of someone who would collect pictures of child pornography on an equally grand scale. The investigator stated that child pornographers typically do not delete images that they acquire and, after the crime lab completed their search, they found a total of five illegal images on his computer. Alan was also charged with criminal use of the university’s IT system since he used his school login to dial up to the internet when he downloaded the pornography.

Nearly one year later in the early summer of 2004, Alan was convicted of now just one count of possession of child pornography (“Sexual Abuse of Children,” they called it—an umbrella term that turned my stomach) and one count of criminal use of the university’s IT system. Just days before my 25th birthday, my husband was given the shameful, reprehensible, and ignoble title of sex offender. Sex Offender. Alan was now a Convicted Sex Offender. The idea that he was a sex offender shook us both to our very core. How could Alan possibly be a sex offender? He was smart, kind, sweet, and polite. He was a good kid—a harmless nerd! He was certainly not a sex offender! These were the early days of child pornography charges, and the judge said she would “make an example out of him” despite the fact that he was a university student working toward a degree and never had any problems with the law in the past. She wanted to make sure others just like him knew that they were not immune to charges like this. He was placed on probation and was required to register under Megan’s Law for 10 years. And thus it began.

Exactly one year after his conviction, we were evicted from our apartment as a result of our landlord finding Alan on the Megan’s Law website. Alan, of course, was jobless as a patently unemployable registered sex offender, and the landlord knew that money was tight since we were behind on our rent. I was still working my low-paying retail job as I couldn’t seem to gather any courage to find anything better. I was simply existing.

Our landlord at first said that he would be okay with us staying around as long as Alan could find work—which seemed absolutely impossible for anyone with that kind of conviction, but we would try. Things were calm for a few days until our landlord’s wife developed deep concerns that Alan would “snap” around their grandchildren when they visited later that summer. The idea of him “snapping” and abusing a child was a disgusting thought to both of us, and we realized that the people we were renting from truly did not know who we were as human beings. They clearly didn’t realize that it could be possible that the label of “sex offender” didn’t exactly apply to Alan.

To add insult to injury, that very landlord admitted that he had looked at child pornography too, though somehow he himself was exempt from “snapping” around children. We scrambled to move to a large apartment complex in order to gain anonymity while deliberately omitting Alan’s name from the lease, which meant that he had to be very careful about being seen. I remember wishing that I could just fold him up and put him into my pocket so no one could see him and hurt him.

Part IV, Barely surviving, will post Friday, June 7.

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Charlie Charlie 1 week, 3 days ago.

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  • #56314 Reply
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    admin

    See also: Part I  Part II Part III: And it all came tumbling down By Daisy . . . It was early in the morning on that summer day in 2003 when we heard
    [See the full post at: Collateral damage — learning to live without regret: a story in seven parts]

  • #56317 Reply
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    John Rackman

    I do not understand something here. Do you not understand that what your husband did was wrong? It does not seem as if you believe this. Kudos for sticking it out, but you seem to make excuses for him and downplay his behavior. In order for there to be child porn, a child had to be abused, which is horrible. By downloading that content, your husband created a market for the further abuse of children. This should not be about how you were victimized by a system that rightfully held your husband accountable. The system acted in accordance with the law and common sense and decency. If you play stupid games (your hubby certainly did here) then you win stupid prizes.

    • #56464 Reply
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      citizen

      Are you at all certain of what actually is “child porn” under any conscript of the law? You would show yourself as completely ignorant if you assumed that it exclusively contains images of abused children. In many states simple photos of families at nudist colonies are considered child pornography (and before you tell me it’s not true, I know from first hand experience.) In many states all that is required is that the child’s genetalia be exposed. This sounds rational until you consider all the nudist websites and even tourist ads from different countries that don’t share the same values of keeping all our clothes on at all times.
      Secondly, if you don’t know the exact parameters of the man’s conviction, how can you assume, at all, the content of the evidence? If he was forced into a plea(and many of us are.) Then the images could have been elephants. My point is YOU DON”T KNOW JACK!! so stop shaming people and get a real life.

      • #56484 Reply
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        John Rackman

        There is something to be said about anyone who has pictures of children at a nudist colony just sitting on their devices – especially when the children pictured are not their own. Even if the children ARE their own, there is something to be said about exposing your own children to nudity in such a way and keeping pictures handy of your own nude children.

        Those are both very large red flags.

        None the less, taking responsibility for one’s actions – such as downloading and possessing child porn and admitting to deviant desires – is a lot healthier and therapeutic than justifying the negative behaviors.

        • #56492 Reply
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          citizen

          Maybe you feel better about yourself to claim that anyone else is sick minded or has deviant urges. I say there is something to be said about the arrogance and self righteous attitude that western cultures posses. Should the directors of movies with child nudity be considered abusers? Should most European and East Asian families be declared sick because of the photos they keep of their nude children? Should your parents and many other American parents that have pictures of their children in the bath be prosecuted for possession of child pornography?
          Just because you have prescribed your life to certain values doesn’t mean that they are the values that everyone else has. Or, that your values are even natural. To tell someone that they have intentions of abuse solely because they have images that make you feel uncomfortable (and possibly sexual) does not mean that everyone else sees them that way, nor does it make the action inappropriate just because it causes you to have a moral dilemma.
          Further more, as I said before the images could be anything at all if the subject of an accusation admits guilt to possession of child pornography. To take the argument even further; There is something to be said about the actual possession of child pornography. There have been stings in the past where men were targeted and pressured by police agents to commit crimes and receive images that they thought were exploitive images (in some cases they ere told after the images were sent that these were supposed to be underage individuals.)
          Lastly, there is something to be said again about a person who automatically assumes that everyone is as guilty as you are. If you are feeling shame about something and you need to release it. then take it to your god. Not to some stranger that you only know from a story. The man in this account has had enough shaming for a hundred life times. If I’m to guess at all.

        • #56496 Reply
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          John Rackman

          I am surprised at the vehemence of your post.

          The question is, why put yourself in harm’s way by possessing or producing nude images of minors, considering today’s climate? Why subject yourself to legal issues by subjecting your children to nudity, be it a nudist club or what have you? Can you think of any legitimate reasons to possess naked pictures of children or to purposefully expose children to nudity? If anything, you would have to heavily justify any reasons you would come up with, because in Western society – OUR society – those acts are criminalized. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world does… it only matters what we do here.

          There is no justification for downloading child porn, even if it is on accident, then keeping it. That is what happened here. The gentleman in question knew what he had, and kept it. No one downloads something, then doesn’t open it up to see what it is. He knew what it was. If it wasn’t actually child porn, then the State would have no case and his attorney would have advised him to take it to trial. This isn’t a ‘he said, she said’ touch case – there is physical evidence in the form of child porn. He plead guilty because they had the evidence to convict him.

          You gave an example of ‘sting’ operations, where people are goaded into receiving images that they think are exploitative. Whether the images are actually child porn or not does not matter; the individual was trying to receive and was expecting child porn. Even having the desire to see child porn is extremely problematic. You do see that, don’t you?

          I know it is hard for our spouses and family to deal with what we have done, both on a personal cognitive level and on a legal/social level when it comes to the community – that is what the article is supposed to be about. However, it does way more harm than good to brush-off the problematic behavior and pretend that our family is suffering ONLY as the result of outside forces… they are only in that position in the first place because of what WE have done.

    • #56465 Reply
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      Lynn Smith

      As someone who has a spouse with the same conviction, I totally understand Daisy’s point of view. Jonathan is correct in the fact that it is hidden (especially in adult content) and that is how viewers end up seeing it for the first time. There is something about the internet that is addictive that keeps one coming back to it. How many times have you sat down at a computer telling yourself you will stop shopping in a few minutes or get off that site in a few minutes?
      I agree that abusing children is horrific. I do not agree, however, with the overused cliche of “creating a market” for it. First, all of this can be found on the internet for free. Second, I watch every real life crime show out there; am I creating a market for murder? This is a cliche used by politicians and lawmakers to help their agenda. I have no doubt that with today’s technology that law enforcement can track where these images are initially being loaded and created. Why aren’t resources being focused on that?
      Yes, I completely empathize with Daisy. Her world has been torn apart. Tnis does not diminish my empathy for the children.

      • #56486 Reply
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        John Rackman

        The images were still on the young man’s computer. They were not deleted. If they were downloaded on accident, why not delete them? If he did not wish to posses these images, he wouldn’t have been found with them. This young man had a deviance and downloaded child pornography to satisfy his wants. He kept the pictures because he wanted to keep the pictures.

        Your murder analogy does not track. People are not murdering other people for the specific purpose of providing entertainment for ‘murder junkies’… but people do abuse children with the specific intent of sharing those images and videos with those interested. If there was no one interested, then there would at the very least be less images shared and most likely less abuse on camera as well. Unfortunately, some people want child porn, therefore it is produced to satisfy those deviant wants. This is a fact. I am sad that as a rational human being, that you do not understand this simple concept. I understand your wish to defend your spouse, but not at the expense of common sense and decency.

        • #56494 Reply
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          citizen

          John Rackman. Are you a troll? Even if you delete images they are still on your hard drive and prosecutable. I hope you know how difficult it is to get rid of any file in your computer or anyone else’s computer.
          You are just spouting uneducated, judgmental nonsense. If you don’t agree with the passages here and you come to a moral injunction because of this story then either wait for the next part to understand the details of this persons life, or go somewhere else.
          Ass for me (and hopefully everyone else.) I’m going to ignore you from now on. You are clearly here for the sole purpose of antagonizing people who need help and support. Hope you have nice life from under your bridge…

  • #56324 Reply
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    Jonathan Waters

    There are cases where pornography of the sort is hidden or disguised in files that people may not see and are downloaded in memes and such which are hidden and the like… Actually, this can happen to anyone. This is why I’m very leery about accepting files or opening up emails and the like from people and/or firm of whom or entities I do not know. Try to hang in there. Press on…

  • #56336 Reply
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    Mp

    I appreciate you sharing your story. Sharing what you have been thru is important and helps. I also understand that it is possible to have understanding of the difficulties your husband and you are up against and still understand that there are real children involved. Most of us get that. It is not one or the other. Both can be understood at the same time. There can be empathy for both. In sharing we learn. In learning we bring about change. With change comes less pain for now we learn how not to hurt but to help. I look forward to reading the rest of your story.

  • #56549 Reply
    Sandy Rozek
    Sandy Rozek
    Admin

    I feel that with a few of these comments, the conversation is going off-track. Daisy’s story is not about whether or whether not what her husband did was wrong or wise or whether or whether not he should have been called to account for it. It is about a system that is set up to foster failure, fear, and isolation rather than rehabilitation and restoration in those who have gone astray and have no intention of doing so again.

    I do not see Daisy’s story as an attempt to justify or excuse her husband’s behavior. I was the editor for the story; I spent hours with it and in communication with Daisy. The story is about the non-productive effects that follow a sexual offense conviction in America today. There is no research whatsoever that validates the current policies as effective for healing of victims, rehabilitation of offenders, or betterment of society. Rather, research finds these policies to be detrimental to all. This is what Daisy’s story is showing us.

    • #56552 Reply
      Charlie
      Charlie
      Moderator

      Thank you Sandy, I think you are correct, there has been some drifting away from the central point of collateral damage. If we choose to only focus on the “worst thing someone has done” at the exclusion of all the unnecessary consequences artificially imposed by a vengeance crowd and group think, we miss the humanity of the story. Bottom line, there is an artificiality to the punitive nature of the registry that masquerades as consequences. It’s not for each individual to decide when someone’s punishment is sufficient. That was supposed to be here role of a court sentencing, and it must end at that. Pointing out someone’s crime repeatedly after the fact has no redeeming value what so ever.

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