I live with my boyfriend of nearly five years, and we have a pretty good relationship. Not long ago I came across a picture CD that was with some items of his that had been in storage. The CD was titled "pixxx." Curiosity got the better of me and I put it in the computer. However, I was horrified to find that they are photos of very young girls, children, in their underwear and in sexual poses. They appear to have been from various sources and likely downloaded from the Internet. According to the file creation dates, they were burned to the CD about six years ago. My question to you is: Do I confront him and see what he says, or do I just bring it straight to the police? Do I turn him in or do I drop it off anonymously? I am torn because I am having a hard time accepting it is his CD. I didn't think the man I love could be that way. Maybe it could have been an old roommate's CD? This is horrible and devastating, and I need a little advice. Thank you.
--Sad and worried
This is a delicate subject. Matters of child pornography should be taken very seriously (possession is a federal offense), but you are also talking about someone you love and live with. You're well within your rights to give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt here, though the odds are against him that the disc is not his. That said, it's best not to jump to conclusions without talking to him first. Give your boyfriend a chance to explain before you go reaching for the handcuffs. I would tell him what you found in a straightforward manner, ask direct questions, and then leave it to him to fill in the details. Don't generalize, suggest that the disc belongs to someone else, or make accusations. You can never know for sure what's going on with him mentally or emotionally until you ask him.
There isn't a direct correlation between consumers of child porn and pedophilia. In other words, if your boyfriend did download those pictures, it doesn't necessarily mean he has ever sexually abused children or will. Although, one could definitely argue that taking pleasure in viewing child porn makes the viewer complicit in the sexual abuse and in supporting industry that harms children. Regardless of whether your boyfriend has a serious sexual behavior problem, the CD is obviously a warning sign.
What else can you do? Stop It Now, an advocacy organization, offers professional guidance, resources, and an anonymous Helpline that can help you answer questions and plan a course of action. One of its downloadable pamphlets, "Let's Talk," suggests you lead the conversation with something along the lines of, "I have been struggling with how to talk with you about this. Let me start by telling you how much I care about you. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't ask you about this."
Depending on how the conversations go, you can then decide what's the best course of action for you to take. If you want to file a report, you can do so with the local police. You can also contact the Congressionally-mandated CyberTipline, either online at www.cybertipline.com or by calling 1-800-843-5678. You can also file a report through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which will then be forwarded to a law enforcement agency for investigation and action.
You should know that you're far from alone. I urge you to seek out help and support systems available to you as you're figuring out how to navigate these troublesome waters.
Want to ask Anna an anonymous question about love, sex or dating? Email your quandary to email@example.com.
Need to give your dating life a boost? Sign up for RedEye Dating. Pick dates, not people.