Wife’s anguish over child porn
BY MELISSA CUNNINGHAM
10 Apr, 2012 04:00 AM
BEHIND the blissful facade of marriage to her high school sweetheart, Belgrave resident Emma held a disturbing secret that haunted her quietest moments.
Fear and repulsion were entwined with moments of a false sense of security - denial that her husband’s pornography addiction was real, and a glimmer of hope he was committed to seeking help.
But as time went on, the grotesque nature of the material he was viewing worsened.
Her life fell apart in 2002, when Emma (not her real name) was told by an IT consultant and friend that he had discovered pornographic images of children hidden in folders on her husband’s computer.
She didn’t know when the hurt would fade. “It was the most gut-wrenching moment of my life. I just wanted to die - before that moment, whenever I’d found anything I’d ask him about it and he would weep and promise that it wouldn’t happen again, and I believed him because of the intensity of his emotions.”
In the wake of the Australian Federal Police’s Operation Belfort - an investigation into a nationwide child exploitation network that included the arrest of two Maroondah men last month - Emma launched PartnerSPEAK, an online forum offering support for people whose partners have been involved in child exploitation.
To her knowledge it is the first of its kind in Australia. "When it happened to me I was ostracised by [her husband’s] family and friends and felt like I had nobody to turn to.
"So when I first read about the operation, I rang a women’s health organisation, a sexual assault organisation and a government department that deals with community services and said to each organisation, ‘These men have families and wives struggling to deal with this, what is Australia’s response?’
“They all said, ‘Great idea, but we’re not doing anything’.”
While Emma would like to reveal her identity to share her story, the Weekly is unable to for legal reasons. After attempts to contact the Victoria Police sexual offences and child abuse unit and her local police to make a report, Emma felt she was being classed as a “disgruntled ex-wife”.
“They basically told me they would look into it, but he was never convicted. I offered them the name and contact number of the mutual friend that discovered the material as evidence, but when I continued to contact them they said that my complaint would be kept on record and if something came up again it would be used against him.”
Women’s Health East CEO Kristine Olaris said it was important women like Emma had a space where they could privately disclose their emotions. She urged women affected to also call the Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault.
“It might be that there is no abuse occurring, but the actions of the person are still impacting others close to them.”
For Emma, the future exists in helping other vulnerable women in this situation.
“The raw grief of the realisation that the man I married and loved had demanded the molestation of children - by seeking out and accessing exploitative and abusive images - has slowly healed itself,” she said.
“I now want to stop other women from feeling alone and being ostracised by society because of the behaviour of their partner.”
Visit the PartnerSPEAK forum at
www.partnerspeak.org ECASA can be contacted on 1800806292.