True Story: My Father’s In Prison For 16 Years On Child Pornography Charges

Father in prison for child pornography

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is ‘Jennifer’. I’m 27 years old, from a city in the southeast US. I’m a grad student, a poet, and I’ve worked as a cashier, book reviewer, tutor, receptionist, and actress. I love dinner parties, water balloon fights, board games, and picnics. I have two younger brothers. We grew up lower middle class.
Tell us about your dad.
He’s bilingual, well-traveled, gregarious, loves the outdoors and spontaneous adventures, big into community service, well educated, loves philosophical discussion and puns, and an avid reader of The New Yorker. He grew up upper-middle class and was working his way up through the ranks of a big company when he quit one day to start his own business.

What is your parents’ relationship like?
My parent’s relationship was always tense, and now it’s near non-existent. My mom is practical, hard-working, and affectionate whereas my dad is an emotionally-distant dreamer. I don’t know what they were like when they got married, but I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did (almost 30 years). They didn’t fight in front of us but they were constantly on the verge of divorce.

How did he get into producing child pornography?
Honestly, I don’t know. Until he was arrested a few years ago none of us had any idea he was doing anything like that. When we first heard he was arrested we all assumed it was for something like tax fraud. If I had to guess, I’d have to say it was a combination of trying to avoid leaving a trail and his interest in amateur photography.

Do you believe your dad is a pedophile?

But! Being a pedophile doesn’t mean he’s not human. I hear that a lot. I understand it makes it easier to deal with the horror of what they’ve done if you say or believe that, but I’m sorry to say it’s just not true. My father is a human being. He gives good advice and generous birthday gifts, doesn’t wear sandals, cooks well, loves the mountains, and is a pedophile. It’s just the way life is. I wish like hell that last bit weren’t there, but it is, and my family and I have to deal with that.

How was the child pornography production discovered?
Someone saw him taking photographs of children skinny-dipping. The ensuing investigation uncovered the rest. He’s been in some sort of jail or prison since that day.

How did you and your family react to this
Initially, we were in shock. I threw up.

Our house was pictured on the news, so my mom stayed with us for a few days. Later, in a sort of panicked daze, we did all the little stuff like taking his name off joint accounts, disconnecting the landline, telling people who needed to know, etc. My mom got her own lawyers and starting working toward a divorce and protecting her assets and herself.
My dad’s siblings and parents, who live in a different part of the country, came to stay a few times to help out and also so we could all support each other. My mom lost friends and we all whittled down our social circles to people we trusted the most.

The FBI seized my dad’s business and a few personal items. Even though I think it was right that my dad was arrested, I’ve lost trust in government police agencies. My brothers, on the other hand, are both currently working toward becoming members of our local police force.

What was the trial like?
I distanced myself from the details on purpose, so I have only the vaguest idea. I can say it was long, complicated, and exceedingly stressful. He faced state and federal charges, so there were actually two trials, back to back. He confessed right away when he was arrested or else I’m sure it would have dragged out for years. He was sentenced to a total of about 16 years.

How have you and your family dealt with your dad’s sentence?
My own life mostly continues as though he’s dead. I even went through the stages of grief.
But I do talk to him on the phone every few months and a couple times a year I visit him. My brothers visit him regularly, my mom not at all. We’ve put a few of his most important possessions in storage and have been slowly discarding the rest. There’s a real chance he’ll die in prison.

The arrest itself, and hearing that he had confessed, was much harder than the sentencing. In a way, the sentencing was a relief because it offered a sense of closure.

Do you think that this has affected your feelings about sex or relationships at all?
Yep. While I have a healthy sex drive and stopped engaging in risky behavior immediately after my dad’s arrest (yay!), I’m extremely hesitant to tell my sex partner about my personal fetishes (which aren’t even abnormal or unusual). I haven’t been able to start, much less maintain, a serious romantic relationship, and I’ve severed ties with a handful of close friends and lots of acquaintances. It’s harder for me to make friends, too.

What advice would you give to others who have parents who engage in illegal, unethical behavior?
Find support of some kind, whether it’s friends, family members, an online support group, or a psychiatrist.

Examine how you really feel about what they’re doing. Sometimes illegal behavior isn’t unethical; sometimes unethical behavior isn’t illegal. You’ve got to decide how you feel about it before you can do anything else. If you decide it’s bad, you’ve got to decide how bad and what steps need to be taken.
Do you need to tell law enforcement? Do you need to confront your parent/s? Can you tell other members of your family? Would it be possible or helpful to have an intervention of sorts? You may have to decide whether or not you want to maintain a relationship with your parent/s.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jennifer.  Do you guys have any questions for her?

P.S. Other true stories: my husband died of a brain tumor & my mom made me smuggle drugs.

photo by meesh / cc

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

True Story: I Did Teach For America

True Story: I Did Teach For America

What's it like to do Teach For America? Would you ever want to become a classroom teacher in a low-income area ... after five weeks of training? That's exactly what Samantha did! This is her story. Tell us a bit about yourself!  My name is Samantha. I'm from Michigan,...

read more
True Story: I Reinvented Myself at 50

True Story: I Reinvented Myself at 50

What does it mean to reinvent yourself and your life at 50? I know sooooo many people who feel trapped in their lives or career and they're not even 35! I LOVED this interview Judy and I think you will, too. Tell us a bit about yourself! Hi! I'm originally a New...

read more
True Story: I lost my hand, leg, and sight to sepsis

True Story: I lost my hand, leg, and sight to sepsis

How would you navigate life if you lost your leg, hand, and eyesight to a surprise infection ... while you were pregnant? How would you cope with re-learning how to walk, parent, be a partner after something like that? That's exactly what happened to Carol in 2008....

read more


  1. Reflections...

    Hi Jennifer,

    First of all, you are an amazingly courageous woman… not many people would have bravely given an interview about this. Thank you so very much and kudos to you…

    Secondly child pornography is a very serious issue. I hail from India, and there some of these stuff that are not even reported. You are right about the part that your dad is a human being after all, and it's true… unfortunately he is also a pedophile,and I know he's your dad and stuff, but I am kinda glad he got arrested…

    I really hope you find the closure you need and hoping your family copes with it. My prayers are with you and your family.

  2. Creole Wisdom

    "Sometimes illegal behavior isn't unethical; sometimes unethical behavior isn't illegal"

    This is really good.

    Maybe because I'm spiritual, I'm not sure, but I see the unethical as more severe than illegal.

    I know a family where the father molested the children as well as a few of their friends. He's yet to do much jail time. I think we live in different states, but I just find that interesting that your dad would end up spending so much time in prison for photos, while someone I know is out after abusing children. There's a lot wrong with our legal system and the way sex crimes are handled.

    I really admire your strength to come forward and share your story. It sounds like you are doing well and trying your best to overcome the entire experience.

    • Anonymous

      My father literally just got hauled off for this two hours ago… I kind of feel the same way I did when my mother died. Almost to a T.

  3. Anonymous

    My uncle is in prison for child pornography as well. He didn't produce anything, but at the time of his arrest, he had apparently accumulated (and distributed) one of the most complete records of child pornography in his state's history. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison and is still there today.

    It has been so, so hard on me and my family. My 85 year old grandmother has sunk into a horrifically dark depression, complete with alcoholism, hoarding behaviors, and self-neglect. My father is slowly following suit–half in an attempt to make my grandmother feel less alone, half because he is struggling as well.

    What people don't understand (and what I didn't understand until it happened to us), is that crime affects every single person the criminal is connected to. It has wrecked my family, and my husband has to deal with the repercussions of that as well.

    I have felt so very alone in this struggle, and reading that someone else is in a remarkably similar situation feels oddly comforting. So thank you 'Jennifer' for sharing your story. Please know that you're not alone either.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. Your response is the entire reason that I run posts like this. <3

  4. Jessica

    I can't say that I agree with the criminal/not criminal, ethical/non-ethical part. Yes, people do bad things. Those things might or might not be criminal. However, when learning about what someone has done, drunk driving, assault, whatever. There's a great deal of self-justification from the person who did it. I wouldn't keep silent. I couldn't keep silent, I'd take a stand. When something is happening, one does have a responsibility. And by that I don't mean to grow overly protective either and see crime lurking every- and anywhere.

    My (now) fiancé was hit by a drunk driver some years ago. He lingered in a coma for weeks, surviving only due to the fact of a bike helmet. The driver fled. It was a relative of the driver that went to the police. I will be forever grateful. Not because the driver got a long prison sentence, but because the relative had the decency to take a stand.

    My best to you and your family!

  5. RMb

    Thank you for having the courage to share your story. I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse which lasted for ten years, so I understand how alienated you feel. I think it's important that you share your experience because silence is what allows things like this to continue.

    It, unfortunately will most likely affect you in some way for the rest of your life (at least, my situation affects me daily- and it's been almost fifteen years since it ended). I would strongly encourage you and anyone else to seek professional counseling. That's been tremendously helpful to me.

    Like the anonymous commenter said- you are not alone. This is part of your life, but it doesn't define who you are. Your courage and your strength to be able to deal with something as scary as this is clearly proof of the amazing person you are. The same goes for the anonymous commentor too.

    I wish you the best of luck with everything.

  6. Christy@SweetandSavoring

    Wow. I applaud your courage and willingness to talk about this! Wishing you and your family peace.

  7. Sara Rose

    One bad blip in your life won't define it forever. I understand how you've had to protect yourself from the hard parts and in turn it still makes some parts of your life lonely or hard to deal with. But one day, it does get better, although you don't always see it at first.

    My dad was an abusive addict. A fairly terrible guy to his wife and daughter, he didn't have very many redeeming qualities- but like you said, still a human. He fully embraced the idea of accepting people from any walk of life (like, I didn't actually know homosexuality was a 'thing people have problems with' until we moved to where I went to high school), he loved dinner parties and camp outs, and would send me roses when I had a bad day.

    That said, he still trapped my mom and I in 2 decades of terrible addict/abuser behavior until he committed suicide. It sounds terrible to say, but 12 years later? My mom and I are so much better off. She's married to a gentle and kind man who has been sober for 20+ years. I have a husband, 2 wonderful kids, and a career I love. There are still moments. Yes. But yes, it got better. It will for you too.

  8. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this. These situations are never as cut and dried as people who haven't dealt with them would like to believe. What I've learned is that it doesn't make you a bad person to continue to love someone who did something unforgivable. Loving them doesn't mean you condone what they did.

    My grandfather went to jail for molesting my cousins. He's been through treatment, and has been out for several years now, and my grandma is still married to him and my mom still loves and visits him. Like you said, he's still her father. Even the daughter whose children he molested still has contact with him (though her husband and children don't). My mom and I just had a conversation the other day where she was trying to explain how she deals with knowing that he did something really terrible, and still loving him as her father. It's obviously hard for her. I'd just as soon never see my grandfather again, but that would mean not seeing my grandma, either. I just want to do what's right by the victims, but sometimes it's hard to know what that is.

  9. Anonymous

    Hi Jennifer…I'm Renee from the previous True Story: My Father Is a Pedophile. ( I'm so glad you shared your story here because I feel that it helps people understand that pedophiles are not just the skulking, shifty characters who live alone. They're our dads. They're our uncles. They're our teachers. Not to be alarmist, but I think it's important to realize that sometimes the people doing the most dangerous things are the ones living among us that we would never suspect AND that those people aren't necessarily bad people apart from the unethical behaviours that they're engaged in. In my case, my father isn't just a pedophile, he's a high functioning psychopath (typical CEO type personality) so between those two elements, of course it's safest for me to stay as far away from him as possible.

    BUT, he did raise me and people ask me how I turned out ok. Well, like your dad, my dad was really smart, had an excellent sense of humour, loved to cook, was well-travelled (a pilot!) and took me many places (I wasn't a victim of his – he liked boys), and was very entrepreneurial. I learned so many great things from him despite the fact that he was a horrible father otherwise who treated me like a possession rather than a daughter. To paint someone as "evil" or "bad" is to completely miss the humanness in them. We miss out on the lessons. I'm sure there are murderers and horrible people out there that this doesn't apply to, but my belief is that our dads fall somewhere in the greyscale in between.

    I don't condone anything he's done – it horrifies me – and I will never speak to him again. But I'm damn sure going to take away every possible positive thing I can from being raised by him so that I can continue to build a happy life for myself and be a source of support for anyone who's been through anything similar. Thanks so much for sharing. I wish you all the strength, peace, and happiness possible.

    • Drew Adare

      I firmly believe we all have a specific type. Some people are attracted to men, some to women, some to black, some to large, etc. I believe some people are attracted to small children and that its not any more abnormal than any other attraction. BUT… It is against the law to be attracted to minors or any other being who cannot give consent (even animals) for sexual activity (or photos). I think of pedophilia as just another type of sex drive, a very unfortunate one.

      • Anonymous

        I agree 1000%

  10. H.

    Thank you for sharing. On March 14th, my dad was arrested for child pornography. It’s been difficult and only made worse when it came out that my 14 year old sister and i (17) were on the videos. We don’t know how long it will be until trial because he has yet to plea, but financially it is difficult as his name is on everything and he refuses to sign power of attorney.

    These times are very scary and dark. It is (for lack of a better word) nice to be able to read someone else’s POI. This is something that when googled, search engines block. I’m surprised I found this blog. I hope that I’m able to be on okay terms with him again.

    I wish you the best in your life,
    H from Florida.

  11. g

    my family may face the same problem

    any advice on how my mother can protect her assets

  12. Anonymous

    Hi Jennifer.
    Thank you for telling your story. I’ve been wandering around lost, for weeks. Very recently my dad was arrested for felony possession of child pornography and possession of an assault rifle. As someone who writes creatively, I’ve been searching for a poem, song, story, any words to even come close to touching, let alone grasping the turmoil with in me. Finding your story has helped me, you’re so courageous for sharing and I admire that. I also admire your strength in deciding to and being able to stay in contact with him. I don’t think I will ever reach that point. He’s called me 57 times from jail, I’ve never answered once. He’s written me 6 letters, not one has been read. He transfers to prison soon, and I have no clue how to handle this for the rest of my life. I obviously know that other people have to deal with stuff like this, but reading your story made that more real, and not that I wish it on anyone, there’s small comfort in not being alone with certain hardships in this world. I hope one day I can tell my story like you have, and not as ‘anonymous’ in a comment.
    Again, thank you. You have no idea what reading your story has done for me.

  13. Mr. C.

    As a victim myself who was abused as a child by his own brother. I honestly don’t feel bad for anyone getting caught. I get pure satisfaction when they get caught. I wish nothing but the worse for pedophiles. I hope they all die a slow painful death. I hope they suffer just as much as us victims have. And just so you know, the victims still die a little each time their photo and video is downloaded and shared.

    • Steph

      Thank you for sharing. I just found this so I’m a little late, but I felt I would say a few things. I have to, especially given that last comment.

      About ten years ago (!) in high school we found out that pictures of me and my boyfriend had been shared, eventually getting online, through a friend. It was embarrassing, honestly even more due to the case that came from it. A parent found out, it all led back to us… my boyfriend admitted that he was the one who took the pictures to the parent and after I confirmed to the police, he admitted to them too and he was ultimately convicted of producing child pornography. He was tried and convicted as an adult, and though he got a “light” sentence (three years, plus ten more on probation and lifetime sex offender registration), it still seemed shocking when we found out, even to the parent that complained. I didn’t want to say anything against him but the prosecutor implied I could get in trouble as well. It turned out that my boyfriend was the one that originally shared them (we had since broken up amicably). None of us thought it would end up the way it did.

      He killed himself a couple of years ago.

      I was angry in high school. Angry that he had shared them without telling me (moreso at the other guy that uploaded them), angry at the prosecutor for threatening me and putting us in the news, angry at myself for having a part in it (I was both a victim and basically a slut, at least according to the police and some former friends) and guilty too. It turned more toward guilt in college, around the time he got out of prison. I never spoke to him or contacted him again. He had a Facebook account that he started using again but that got deleted when someone saw his name on the registry and told Facebook. I didn’t know anything from about five years ago until he died. But, after, I reached out to mutual friends and his family. His mom hates me, but there were a few that did keep in touch with him and told me some of what he went through. I had thought about it, but I had no clue. I literally couldn’t have imagined. I don’t blame him for ending it.

      I used to think he deserved it. At least that’s what everyone told me. I never thought he deserved something so extreme, but I was still mad. But I was also mad at myself for playing a part in getting him convicted. At the time I was scared. They told me it wouldn’t be that bad and that we can all move on after, over and over that I was a victim and that he was dangerous and I needed to do the right thing. But I realize that the right thing isn’t so clear.

      On one hand, it isn’t really my fault. But on the other hand, he didn’t really do anything that bad and they killed him, and I helped. The prosecutor refers to it as another one of his many successes and that he was “merciful” with the sentence. A good, pure person was tortured to death.

      And that wasn’t the end. Our pictures are still out there and sometimes I actually get notified if someone is arrested with them (they have a computer that matches the image). I’m even able to sue for damages, though I don’t. My face isn’t in any of them and I don’t want to be involved in any of that anymore.

      I looked them all up last week. One of them killed himself not long ago. He was convicted of possession of child pornography (he had a mixed collection of porn he found online and never hurt anyone). No record. They said he wasn’t even a pedophile. He’s dead. The judge justified (another “light”) sentence by bringing up people like me. I’m just going to be straight here, it made me sick.

      So I guess now I’m prowling around online. Despite it being a former so, these people weren’t my family. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you. You said he’s still a human being. You know that he is. You said you still talk to him every now and then. He probably doesn’t want to worry, but please, don’t ignore him. If he’s really going to be in there, and even if he gets out, he’s going to be so alone and scared. It’s hell. I’m not saying ignore what he did, but see it with some perspective. It sounds like he loves you and you love him and he still deserves that love and needs it now more than ever. Don’t ever let him die alone.

      And to the previous commenter calling for the torture and death of a huge collection of people: Grow. Up. I have never been abused and I was going to start off with that and give you credit and space, but it’s not warranted. The person who hurt you isn’t any of those other people that get caught up in this. Many of them if not most of them as far as I’ve come to know are good people and would never hurt anyone, and some aren’t even pedophiles. Many are kids themselves! I’m lucky I guess that I wasn’t prosecuted too. I don’t think I would have lasted as long as my ex.

      The people calling for hellfire are part of the problem. Actually, putting actual rapists and abusers (again to be fair to you, different situation, but that’s my point to you) to the side, they are the main problem. They are the ones causing the most damage to all of us. I get the emotional and moral outrage and how it just blinds people to everything, but it has to stop and we have to be better and stand up for what’s actually right. That means with each other and also with politicians and judges and prosecutors most of all. We can’t claim to be part of a society that holds people accountable when we don’t hold ourselves accountable.

      • Anonymous

        How terrible for everyone involved. I’m so sorry for all of you. Our justice system is so messed up. I really do hope that we can somehow improve our system to be about restorative justice rather than punitive.

  14. Debra

    Hi my name is Debra i want to make a comment yes i believe any shape form or fashion any person watching kiddy porn should be punished but i kinda didn’t read about the wives im one of them i had no idea my husband was into that .i caught about 24 pictures of little girls on computer he said it was a pop up me not knowing i said ok I’ll forgive but wouldn’t forget life was great for about 9 months then i found it again i cofronted him said i was calling the police next day and i was drunk i cried myself to next thing i knew police waking me up he deleted my proof i was arrested then went thru 19 months of hell akle monitors probation jail 5 more times long story short my case was dismissed they kicked in door 5 deep got his computer and gun what i didn’t know is it takes up to a yr to go thru meanwhile he’s out somehow manipulated my kids againt me and im still in shock all this has caused me to have a stroke i cant work i live with my daughter who blames me for this where is my support group ?

Pin It on Pinterest