When I was seven, an evil man paid me to have sexual relations with him. At that age, I did not have a clear understanding of what I was doing. My parents didn’t know anything about it. It happened a few times until one day my father found out and tried to kill the man. After that, I never had that kind of relationship with anyone.
Today I am thirty‑three years old, married, with two beautiful children; but I still cannot talk with anyone about what happened. Every time I am reminded of it, I want to turn back time; I think of myself as repugnant, and wish it had never happened. My greatest fear is that someday my children and my wife will find out about what happened to me. I take extreme caution with my children to make sure this never happens to them.
I would like for you to counsel me about this situation, for I have carried this cross a long time.
One of the reasons we chose yours as the “Case of the Week” is that we know you are not the only one who has a secret like this. Unfortunately, there are thousands of adults today who were molested when they were children. Like you, many of them have carried this secret for years, too ashamed to tell anyone.
Guilt can be a good thing when it causes us to recognize what we have done wrong and then have a chance to make up for it, and ask forgiveness if necessary. However, all guilt feelings do not come from true guilt. Sometimes guilt feelings come as a result of misinformation or irrational thinking. It is irrational to think that any child (at least to age twelve and sometimes even older) is responsible for what any adult causes him to do.
It doesn’t matter that the man paid you to do it. Nor does it matter how he convinced you that it was OK. An adult tricked you and took advantage of you. You had not yet developed the mental ability to be able to figure it all out. So you are not the guilty one. The guilt feelings, the shame, and your intense need to keep this a secret all come from an inaccurate perception that you are responsible for what happened. That does not mean you are guilty.
If an adult tells a three‑year‑old child to pick up a heavy glass flower vase and carry it across the room, whose fault will it be when the child drops and breaks the vase? God’s plan is for children to be born into families specifically because all children need time to grow, not just physically but also mentally, before they can be responsible for their actions. Adults are supposed to protect children from dangerous activities until those children are old enough to protect themselves. This is one reason that your father tried to kill the guy; your father felt guilty for not having been able to protect you.
The apostle Paul showed us in the first century that he understood the gradual intellectual development of children, when he wrote: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1) You, friend, reasoned like a child during this horrible episode of your life. Now that you are a man, you have put the childish ways behind you. It is time to also put behind you these irrational guilt feelings that have tormented you far too long.
Your greatest fear is that someone would find out your secret. Yet we believe that this secret has power over you specifically because you are guarding it so fiercely. Once you accept that you did nothing wrong, we suggest that you tell your wife what happened to you. She can help you remind yourself that this was not your fault. And once you share your secret, it will lose the power it has over you.
1 1 Co 13:11