Allegations of Sexual Abuse

Question:

I have recently broken contact between my 4 year old and his father as I have safety concerns about the child whilst in his father's care. There is an order in place for overnight contact but I feel this is unsuitable as there are allegations of sexual abuse from my ex's 6 year old step son towards our child as well as my ex's 13 year old son from a previous relationship stating he saw the child reenact what he does to his little half sister who is now 16 months old. I've contacted the authorities and referrals have been made. Police contacted too. Unfortunately my ex believes the allegation concerning the little girl aren’t true so our child won't be believed sadly. How do I protect my child and will a judge punish me for the contact order not being followed?

Answer:

Allegations of sexual abuse are one of the most difficult situations to deal with.

If someone is concerned about an allegation of sexual abuse, then making a referral to both social services and the police is the correct thing to do.

As I understand it from your question, you are aware of allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by the 6 year old step son of your child’s father against both your child and his 16 month old half sibling. There is some evidence from your child’s father’s 13 year old son to support that possibility.

In the circumstances a court would take a precautionary approach until the matter had been investigated. That is to say, that your child should not come into contact with the child against whom the allegations have been made. If the father will not agree to this being a condition of his contact with his son until investigations have been carried out then I can see little choice for you at this stage but to deny contact. If a contact order is in force you should apply to the court to vary that order on the basis of the allegations. It would be better to do this than wait for the father to seek to return the matter to court to insist on his contact. Likewise, it is better to try to reach a compromise before hand e.g. contact at a contact centre or in some other circumstances where you know that your son will not come into contact with the alleged abusive child.

If the police and social services investigate the matter and do not take any action you will have a choice. If there is some evidence to suggest that the allegations are true, then any court considering the contact dispute may seek to investigate the matter further and reach a conclusion as to whether some inappropriate sexual behaviour has occurred. They would do this in what is called a ‘Finding of Fact’ hearing. I have written more about how family court’s deal with factual disputes
here.

What you must appreciate is that in a legal setting the facts that a court basis it’s decisions on are either true or not true. There is no middle ground. Suspicions are not enough. If the court concluded that there was inappropriate sexual behaviour on the part of the 6 year old, then the case would proceed on that basis, in all likelihood with a prohibition on that child coming into contact with your son and a requirement on the father to accept and act on that conclusion. On the other hand if the court concluded that the 6 year old did not behave in an inappropriate way then the case would proceed on that basis i.e. contact would be in all likelihood ordered to re-start with no restrictions relating to the 6 year old, and you would be expected to accept that decision.

I am sorry I cannot be more specific. Some of the most difficult cases I have been involved in revolve around allegations of sexual abuse (both true and untrue) and they are usually complicated and difficult to unravel. I would definitely suggest taking advice from socials services as to how to proceed with respect to contact and getting the help of an experienced family law solicitor if you are unhappy with social services’ conclusions or the father’s reaction to social services’ advice.
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