When you have children or care for children, there is nothing worse than the thought of someone touching them inappropriately.
But, if you find yourself accused of such an offence by parents, the police or childcare workers, it can throw your entire world upside down and cause a rare kind of panic.
And while you may feel scared and alone throughout this ordeal, it is important to keep your wits about you and take the correct steps towards building your defence against this devastating accusation.
Panicking seems to be a common response for people accused of sexually assaulting a child. You will have instant concerns about your job, your family and your position in the community. But, the key thing to do is not panic.
Write down what you can remember about your encounter with the child and then seek legal representation.
When you are choosing someone to get advice from, it is best to seek out an experienced sexual offence solicitor. They can highlight your rights and advise you on which steps to take next to help them build your defence.
Aim to follow their advice and be sure that during meetings with them that you are as clear and honest as possible.
Make no statements
If you are accused of sexually assaulting a child, people in your life will likely find out, such as your boss and members of your family.
And while it can be cathartic to tell your side of the story (especially if you are worried about how it will impact your job), you should refrain from doing so.
There are many reasons for this; mainly that the person you are talking to may try to turn over a transcript of the conversation to law enforcement. And, of course, it can incriminate you further. So, simply state that you cannot comment and leave it at that.
Gather evidence (if possible)
In the modern world, there are a wealth of ways you can collect evidence to defend yourself in such cases.
If you are a daycare worker, for instance, and are accused of assaulting the child at the place of work, ask your employer for access to CCTV footage if it is relevant. If the child you are accused of touching inappropriately is older, look through emails and text messages in which you may have been misled about their age. This may not always be beneficial due to laws around consent, but it may help your legal team in proving that you were misled and were making your decisions based on evidence that you had, rather than malicious intent.
It is very tempting for many people accused of such a crime to try and solve this kind of issue themselves. Namely by contacting the family of the child that they are accused of assaulting to explain themselves and to offer clarity.
Under no circumstances should you do this; it can make things worse and lead to the family then assuming that you are trying to silence or intimidate them. If they contact you during this initial period, simply refuse to comment.