Standing by a partner convicted of a sexual offence is never an easy decision to make and as Julia’s story shows, can impact on many areas of your life.
My husband Gary and I had been married for 12 years when he was convicted of a sexual offence. I had no idea that he’d been downloading and viewing indecent images of children and from the moment I found out, I went through a whole spectrum of emotions.
I had moments of intense anger towards him but I blamed myself too – why didn’t I see what was happening? Why was I so stupid? The truth is, I thought we had the perfect life; a beautiful home, wonderful holidays and fulfilling jobs.
My initial instinct was to leave him and for a while I did, staying with my mum and dad. My husband and I were both teachers, working at the same school and for a while I tried to continue as normal. However, following the police investigation most of my colleagues and many of the parents became aware of what Gary had done and although my colleagues were supportive, the parents were much less so. Going to work became unbearable and so I handed in my notice.
Although I felt let down and deceived by Gary I still loved him. I couldn’t condone what he’d done but his conviction enabled him to confront some underlying issues that he’d never spoken about. So I decided to stick with him and give our marriage another go. Little did I know that this decision was the easy part.
There’d been a lot of publicity about Gary’s conviction, not least because he was a teacher. Whilst friends, family and neighbours were happy to help me when they thought I’d left him, once they knew that I was going to stand by Gary I was treated like a leper.
We felt that the only option we had was to move away. It actually wasn’t that difficult a decision to make, neither Gary nor I had a job and my beautiful home felt tarnished because it was where Gary’s offending had taken place.
Once settled in a new area we started applying for work. Gary was barred from working with children but very quickly found a job in a warehouse. The basic salary wasn’t that great but there was plenty of opportunity to do overtime which bumped up his salary. That June I was offered a teaching job with a planned start date of September. It was great news and I began to think that we could start to move on. That was until I received my DBS certificate because right under the ‘additional information’ section the police had chosen to disclose the details of Gary’s conviction.
In the past I’d never been concerned about my DBS certificate and perhaps niavely I’d not considered that my certificate would be affected by Gary’s conviction. My first instinct was to ring the school and tell them that I wouldn’t be taking up the job offer. If I wanted to avoid having to explain Gary’s conviction that seemed the only thing to do. I picked up the phone to make the call several times but just couldn’t do it. I knew that once I’d rung, there’d be no going back and I would have accepted an end to my teaching career.
If anything, the experiences I’ve had over the last few years have made me a much stronger person. I’d done nothing wrong, it was Gary’s conviction, not mine – I needed to confront it head on and then deal with the consequences whatever they were.
And so, I made an appointment to meet with the headmistress, telling her I’d received my DBS certificate and wanted to have a chat with her.
It was an odd situation to be in. Essentially the headmistress wasn’t looking at my DBS certificate to consider my abilities as a teacher, she wasn’t even assessing the risk I posed to the children. She was judging my character and questioning why a woman who’d spent years educating and protecting children would choose to be married to a convicted sex offender. The difficulty is of course that I made the decision to stay with Gary using my heart and that’s hard to rationalise in a professional employment setting – goodness knows it was hard enough explaining to my mum and dad.
My disclosure didn’t go quite as planned and at one stage I got quite upset. Throughout my declaration the headmistress said nothing, the expression on her face remained the same (even when I was crying) but when I’d finished she said:
That was a really brave thing you’ve done.
At the time I assumed she meant my disclosure but I know now that she was also referring to my decision to stay with Gary.
As I’ve just intimated, I did get the job. I was fortunate to meet a headmistress who was experienced and sensible. She knew there was nothing that legally stopped me from teaching and that Gary posed no risk to the kids at the school. I know the decision to appoint me wasn’t just hers and that she had to fight for me – I can’t thank her enough.
I’m not looking to leave my job anytime soon but I’ve heard recently that if I ever needed to apply for an enhanced DBS check in the future I could consider contacting the relevant police force and making a request that they don’t disclose the details of Gary’s conviction. It’s good to know that this process exists and it may be something for the future.
By Julia (name changed to protect identity)
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