Dear Wendy: “I Found Pics Of Young Girls On My Boyfriend’s Camera”

I’ve been seeing my boyfriend for about nine years. Yesterday morning as I was getting ready for work and he was still in bed, I noticed his camera sitting on our table, and I turned it on so I could look at a picture that was recently taken of us. However, when I started flipping through, I saw that he had taken numerous pictures of young — about 11 to 12 years old — girls in their bathing suits at the pool. They were taken from far away with a zoom lens without the girls’ knowledge. When I confronted him about them, he told me that he didn’t know what was wrong with him and he had “had these weird feelings for awhile now.” I told him that he needed to get counseling before he did something that got him into trouble. He agreed, but he doesn’t have insurance of his own so he can’t afford regular counseling. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if I should dump him. I love him and we’ve built a life together, but I’m disgusted and angry with him right now. And I’m feeling depressed and bad about myself since I feel like he’s lied to me and I’m questioning if he’s even attracted to me since I’m not a “little girl.” To top it off, he’s now acting like I should forget about it and move on … but this just happened a few days ago!! I’m also worried what he might do eventually if he doesn’t get help. I would die if I ever found out he had hurt a child. — Messed Up

I have to be honest and say I really don’t know for sure how to answer this letter. I considered not replying at all since I didn’t want to give the “wrong” advice, but then decided this woman is in such desperate need of help, maybe even some words of support from readers will mean something. So, here goes.

Messed Up, my first inclination is to tell you that for as awful as this situation is, you’re lucky you aren’t married to this man and that you don’t have children with him. If you can find any sense of peace, I hope you find it there. And obviously, most people — including me — would advise you to break up with him. Nine years is a long time to be invested in something that doesn’t work out, and it will most certainly not be easy to just walk away, but the alternative is even more difficult to fathom. Where do you go in a relationship from here? How do you re-build trust? What happens to your sex life? These questions are hard enough to answer when the other party has been caught cheating, but when you’re dealing with a potential pedophile — a word I’m going to guess you haven’t even allowed yourself to label your boyfriend or you wouldn’t still be considering a future with him — it adds layers so thick and complicated, I don’t know how you begin addressing them.

Do yourself — and your boyfriend — a favor and end the relationship. But if you care about him — and the welfare of children he may come across in the future — don’t shut yourself out of his life. Help him find a support group or an affordable counselor (you can start by calling community counseling centers/services in your area that often charge sliding scale fees and asking for recommendations) and as much as you can, be his friend while he seeks help. Your presence in his life, despite what you now know about him, will be a reminder that there must be enough of good inside him to fight his demons. Why would you remain in his life if there weren’t?

But you need to make a clear distinction between remaining in his life and remaining his girlfriend. The former means you’ll be there to lend emotional support and to be a link to normalcy. The latter means you haven’t made yourself and your own emotional needs a top priority. To do so, find a counselor to help you process what’s happening. Create a life for yourself you love living. Go on vacation and get a change of scenery. And remember that what you know about your boyfriend isn’t your imagination and it isn’t your fault. He has mental problems and as long as he seeks help for them, he doesn’t have to be a “bad person.” But if he refuses to seek help, I’m tempted to tell you to inform authorities about what you know. If you go that route, though, it would be wise to make sure you’re safe — that you live in a secure home and have friends or family who can be there quickly if you need them. If your boyfriend is sick — and it certainly seems that he is — I wouldn’t underestimate what he might be capable of. Good luck.

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