I am a thirty-year-old man in love. A few years ago, I found out from an uncle that my girlfriend was raped when she was a child. About the time I told her that I love her, she confessed to me herself that a family member had molested her for a period of four years and, when she became a teenager, she ended up pregnant and her family took her to have an abortion. I love her for who she is and for all that she has overcome, but I didn’t expect this! I feel honored that she trusted me enough to tell me, but I am angry over what happened to her. Help me. How should I act?

Dear Friend,

Congratulations! You are the kind of man for other men to emulate. You are mature enough to understand that your girlfriend was the victim of a crime and that she had no responsibility for anything that happened to her. You had the wisdom and sensitivity to respond appropriately to her confession, and those qualities are probably why she trusted you enough to tell you about this horrible evil that she experienced.

You ask how you should act. Most importantly, you should do what you are already doing. Reassure her that what happened to her does not change your thoughts about her or your feelings for her. Frequently girls who have been violated suffer from a lack of self-worth and from insecurity, so she may need to hear your reassurance many times before she can actually believe you.

You don’t say that your girlfriend has any difficulties with getting close to you, holding your hand, or accepting your gentle touch. At this stage of your relationship, you would have reason to be concerned if she had such difficulties. However, should you decide to marry her, we suggest that she consult with a medical doctor regarding any remaining negative feelings or reactions that she might have to physical intimacy. Your patience and understanding will be extremely valuable in helping her overcome any obstacle.

Your anger is justified. Of course you are angry with the person who did this to the one you love! We hope that your girlfriend’s family reported the violation as soon as they found out about it, and that the perpetrator is being punished for what he did. If not, we would encourage you to report this man and make sure that he cannot hurt another girl. Families that cover up this kind of abuse are misguided, at the very least. A cover-up can prevent a girl from feeling loved and supported, and instead can make her feel isolated and worthless.

When her brother raped the daughter of King David of Israel, their father, David, although furious, didn’t do anything to punish his son.(1) As king, David had the responsibility to condemn his son’s action and to order an appropriate punishment. But King David let his love for his son keep him from doing the right thing. In the case of your girlfriend’s family, if they have allowed their love for their family member to influence their judgment, and they have neglected to report what happened, you can be the one to stand up for her and protect her (and other girls) by reporting this crime to the appropriate authorities.

We wish you well,

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