Friend was fired 'cause she's involved w/a sex offender. What do I say?

This is really a question I kinda know the answer to, I just… I dunno, I’m hoping some Solomon will show up and give me the precise correct thing to say to my friend.

Like the title says, my friend, uh, let’s call her Shelley, has been involved with this guy, “Rick,” for like… many years. Gotta be at least five now; it was before I ever knew her so I’m not sure of the details.

Shelley is a sweet young woman (mid-twenties) who’s lived a sheltered life and lives in Tinytown, Illinois, which to me, the way she describes this place, is sort of a combination of the town in The Lottery and an Amish village. Super-small, super-religious (but not Amish), and super-everyone’s-so-nice-but-they-secretly-hate-each-other. She adores kids and has been working as a babysitter and child-care/nursery school teacher for a few years now.

From all my dealings with Rick (which have been solely via email/phone), he seems like a normal, smart, nice guy. Except for one big thing that I only know because Shelley told me and I subsequently looked his name up: he’s a self-acknowledged pedophile (by which I mean he acknowledges the mental illness), and was convicted of sexual assault against a minor about ten years ago. This he does not acknowledge; that is, he admits the conviction/registration because, duh, he can’t hide from it, but he says it was a frame job from his sister’s husband; the victim, or alleged victim but he was convicted so I’d say just victim, was his sister’s child.

Anyway I don’t even care what his deal is. The point is that Shelley has been going out with the guy, who’s been out of jail or whatever for at least eight or nine years, and they’re now basically living together. She totally believes Rick’s story. Fine. Shelley adores children and she’s very very good with them, and as I said, she works in this nursery school.

Or she did until today. Somehow the school found out about her relationship with Rick (I don’t know how–I suspect a former friend who also works at the school spilled the beans) and her employers quickly announced a policy that disallows employees from… I’m not sure how they worded it, but I guess it’s fraternizing with registered sex offenders. Shelley was given notice at once.

I can’t say I blame them. Illinois is an at-will employment state so they could fire her for having black hair if they wanted to, much less for something that, if it got out, could taint Shelley by implication and therefore the school itself. It does seem unfair because it’s not as if she has the kids over to her house or interacts with them in any way outside school. Still, a school can’t take chances because any parents who learned this would raise holy hell. I do blame the ex-friend for being spiteful enough to rat on her (assuming my guess is right), but it’s really nothing that the employers couldn’t have found out on their own if Shelley ever told them her BF’s name.

My question, after this huge long tale, is… Shelley’s left me a message and I’m supposed to call her back to lend an ear, and… what the hell do I say? Clearly not what I’m thinking, which is “Hon I’m sorry but what the fuck did you expect, you’re working with kids, and your boyfriend’s on the Sex Offender Registry, you think that wasn’t gonna have an effect on your employment? What about when you get married?!”

I suppose I’m just venting-by-proxy here. What I’ll likely say is “I’m sorry, sweetie, that sucks, it’s a difficult situation, I really wish I could help…” and similar platitudes. But is there anything else I can say? The option “Dump this anchor” is not on the table. She loves him. And honestly, part of me really doesn’t like the idea of someone never getting a second chance. By all accounts, for the past ten years the guy has never reoffended and he’s going to his required check-ins with his P.O. or whatever the heck he’s supposed to do.


P.S. There is a non-zero possibility that I’m writing this post just to put off this phone call. I am that big of a wimp.

I cant think of anything else to say either but good luck. if you are the type of person who wants to lend an ear to people, as am i, sometimes you get a difficult story. the thing to remember i think is that just by listening, in a case this difficult, you are helping. not a lot of people would have the patience to talk about this much and try to help someone else.

“I’m really sorry and I hope everything eventually works out.” Then shut up and let her talk.

If she’s interested, you might talk to her about other employment options, since childcare/teaching are going to be out for her. Does she have any other career interests she might pursue that you could ask about, to help steer her in a different direction? After your “Sorry, that sucks,” I would try to make the conversation about positive things she can do for her future.

I’d just say her employer’s an idiot, and did she ever think of moving to a bigger town?

Thanks Robert163, kunilou, SpoilerVirgin and LinusK, I really appreciate the bucking up. I do tend to be a shoulder for people to cry on, and I try not to be judgmental toward them (even when in my head I’m judging like a mofo). Focusing on the “okay, what can we think of for you to do next?” is a good idea, SpoilerVirgin, because you’re right, this is always gonna be a problem for her as long as she’s with Rick. And it’s terrible because of how much she loves working with kids. Couldn’t have picked a worse combo platter of boyfriend and vocation.

LinusK, funny you should mention her moving; she did say in her email to me that she wants to leave IL altogether. I think just moving to a bigger and less… weird-ass town would be a help. Seriously, everything she tells me about it, the place is just odd. She attended classes in a one-room school house, the boys had to be separated from the girls, a teacher once forced Shelley to tear up a story that she wrote about a boy and girl dating, Harry Potter was naturally Of The Devil… I’m pretty sure this town is only accessed via a secret wormhole to 17th century Salem.

Sigh. Better make the call now. Thanks again.

“Leave Illinois and go to some less reactionary, less medieval part of the country where you can’t get fired just for associating with someone outside of work (which is none of an employer’s business).”

Really, the flyover part of the country is tiny-brained Bigot Land, and whatever temporary fix she might cobble together for this situation, she’ll be in the same situation again soon. Tell her to move to a medium-sized town in Oregon with her boyfriend and start over.

(I would also tell her to do something proactive re her employer, such as getting them to treat the circumstances of her dismissal as confidential–how, I don’t know; maybe some kind of blackmail.)

I’d really like to hear more about this town and school and the things that allegedly happened there. How old is she? When did she attend this school? If her story is credible, it sounds like some sort of bizarre religious cult.

Desert Dumpster, I would definitely not be so harsh about the midwest, or even just small towns. There are pockets of bigotry everywhere, and let’s face it, this situation–this topic–is always going to be a hot-button issue for people. And with good reason, much of the time. But yeah, it does seem inappropriate to fire someone for an association with someone who’s not involved with the school and who isn’t even allowed within like 500 feet of the school in the first place (I think… I don’t actually what the exact rule is regarding Rick’s ‘no-go zone’ or whatever it’s called).

I just spoke w/her, and she sounds okay, mostly in shock because they gave her no notice, it was just “hey, you’re outta here.” She couldn’t even say goodbye to her students. Nice way to think of your kids’ feelings, asshats.

Accidental Martyr, I know, right?! Whenever she gives me more nuggets of info about the town I just file it away for future use in a book I’ll write set in some dystopian land where the Elders consist of the John Lithgow character in Footloose and Mrs. Lovejoy from The Simpsons.

I believe she would’ve been in school from… er, mid-1990s through 2006, I suppose? I only even know how bizarre this school’s setup is because she was showing me some story she’d written and she had a character who was a senior in high school studying things like Algebra and Geography. I was like–uh, unless this 18-year-old is making up for some lost years, he should be way past Algebra by now, and I’m not sure a senior would be taking Geography anymore, either. She said, “Oh I don’t exactly know what normal high school grades are supposed to study. We didn’t divide up like that 'cause we had so few people.” I asked her, “How many were in your graduating class?” “Four.”

Four. I think there were more people in Laura’s classes in the Little House books!

Like others have said, Shelley and Rick need to move on to bigger and better things! But she might well have problems in the future if she wants to work with kids, so I’d suggest perhaps some retraining or further education to make things easier employment-wise.

Truly, it sucks that self-confessed paedophiles have to go through all this shit for the rest of their lives. Blaming him personally for faulty brain-wiring only rings true when he succumbs to that wiring and assaults kids. That he has been doing everything required since his release from prison can only bode well for the future.

Wish them both luck from an anonymous poster on a messageboard please!

If she decides to move can her man move as well? If he is seeing a parole officer can they not allow him to move? They might want him to move away or they may decide to force him to stay as further punishment.

I can think of a few things that I’d say to her.

  1. James may genuinely be a peach of a fellow, but it’s not uncommon for a pedophile to ingratiate himself to someone with access to children to gain access themselves. Has that occurred to her? Is she certain that is not the case here? Why?

  2. James says he is merely an innocent self-confessed pedophile who somehow found himself wrongly accused of sexual assault of a child and imprisoned, and she believes him wholeheartedly. Since she believes that he was wrongfully convicted and has never actually acted on his urges towards children, does she believe that it is safe for him to be around children? How about unsupervised? Does he?

  3. She adores children and is very, very good with them. How serious is she with James? Does she foresee children in their future? Does he? Has she thought that completely through?

Has James ever picked her up at work? I would guess there are rules about how close he can be to childrens’ facilities.

And honestly, I don’t think “bigotry” is the word you want to use here.

I concur with this. While the school’s reaction may seem extreme, keep in mind they are merely protecting their interests, as well as (on the surface at least) protecting their students from possible harm. Perhaps James the ex-molester is genuinely repentant (unless he was convicted of something really dumb like teenage sexting, which shouldn’t be a crime at all) or perhaps the OP’s “friend” may be blinded and misguided by a criminal’s manipulation. It’s impossible to know for certain, since people who are closest to this type of situation are often most ignorant of its reality – sorry to say it, but that’s the truth.

I was thinking the same thing myself. :dubious:

Yeah -

I’d have to pretty much second everything said here. And I’d also be interested in knowing if James is ever at the workplace? Pick her up, drop her off? Bring her lunch?

And how do you know if a he is or isn’t acting on his sickness? Sounds pretty scary to me.

While I enjoy the James/peach wordplay, the nom de pédophile is Rick. Let’s keep our narrative straight. :slight_smile:

I’m also a tad irked by buddha_david’s scare quotes around “friend.” If you take nothing else away from this thread, for GOD’s sake please don’t assume Shelley is me. I’m a 47-year-old New York author/editor who grew up in a normal (if obnoxious) Long Island high school. Not a 20something chick who grew up in a town populated by Stephen King characters in love with a pedophile. I thought it was pretty clear that my feelings on the matter are that she’s daft to be involved with a guy whose predilections, to say nothing of his history, are so apposite her own career goals.

I’m fairly sure Rick couldn’t have ever picked Shelley up from work because as I mentioned, he has a restriction about where he can go, and that includes “no schools,” because, well, duh, pedophile. Also, my impression is that he doesn’t have a car, although I could be wrong there. (Total aside, but neither of them even have regular access to the internet at home. And it’s not due to any restrictions on his part–that’s totally what I assumed for months–but because Shelley doesn’t like the distraction, and plus, most people in this freaky little town only use the internet at the library. Did I mention that they live in some weird timewarp?)

All of the questions you guys ask about “how do you KNOW he’s not screwing with kids” and “would Shelley be comfortable with Rick being around kids” are definitely good ones, but they’re beyond my knowledge because I’m not that hugely close to Shelley and I don’t feel comfortable asking them. I also can’t imagine how I’d bring it up. (Oh, though I can say that I think they were involved before Shelley started teaching. I could be wrong about the timeline but she was about 19 or 20 when they started going out, maybe? He’s about the same age as she is. It’s fuzzy because despite the fact that I know this ridiculously personal and skeevy info about Rick, I don’t actually know that much about mundane things like birthdays, how they met, when they met, when she graduated school, and so on.)

“Bigotry” was Desert Dumpster’s word, I was just tossing it back at him. As I said, I think the school has a point about being worried regarding what would happen if a parent found out, I just think they went about this in a shitty way. Plus, given Rick can’t go anywhere near the school, and that Shelley only sees the kids in school, I just feel bad that Shelley is the unfortunate collateral damage born of the school’s understandable caution.

My apologies if I come across as skeptical, but…you know, Internet.

The key problem here is that “Rick” has already been caught molesting children once. Statistically, he’s at very high risk of re-offending (something close to 45%, I think.) And giving him the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean he won’t be tempted to commit his crimes again – like a drug addict, if you cross that line once, it becomes much easier to cross it again, and again.

The fact that Shelley works with children and “loves working with children” makes the situation far more perilous.

Frankly, my disbelief comes not from doubting your words, but from why you would involve yourself with these people to begin with. The whole thing sounds like a recipe for total disaster. So the only advice I can offer is to stay away, far away, if not physically then at least emotionally. As for how to offer her comfort, sorry but I really can’t think of anything else to say.

choie, first of all, remember that you can’t fix this problem for Shelly. As much as you might want to, you can’t. You can be there for her to vent and make encouraging sounds. That’s about it.

Do we know that? The OP just says he was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor. How old was this minor - closer to 6 or 16? If the latter, “molesting children” is needlessly sensationalist.

Heh, fair enough. :slight_smile:

True. It sucks. Though I’m holding out hope that it was a false alarm on his sister & her husband’s part that led to the conviction. I think it’s possible that they were very very understandably grossed out and wary about the fact that Rick was an “out” pedophile who had admitted his problems to his family, and (I hope) the b-in-law/sister mistook something that happened. That’s my private best-case scenario. Not best-case for Rick, obviously, but all in all I’d rather hope there was no molestation in the first place.

Also true.

I’m not really involved in their personal lives emotionally, except hers, and it was… well, it started as a working relationship (I edit her writing) and, as will often happen with clients, she told me stuff about her life as time went on and one project turned into a second project, then a third, and so on. You learn stuff about people when you work with them, y’know? And I feel sorry about her losing her job mainly because I’m annoyingly empathetic. But that’s pretty much the limit of our relationship. Slightly more than just colleagues, but not really friends.