I am a twenty-four-year-old woman. My two brothers sexually abused me when they were thirteen and fourteen years old and I was between six and seven years old. I feel guilty because they would give me some money or a piece of candy and I never told on them.

Please help me know if I am guilty, because I feel badly. But I have forgiven them.

Dear Friend,

I am glad that you asked about this. There are many other people who have suffered abuse and now feel guilty about it. They too may have been bribed in some way so that they would not tell. Here is what you need to know: Children who are abused are never responsible for what happened to them. Never! It makes no difference what your brothers gave you; you were not mature enough to handle the situation.

God designed families so that children could grow up in a protected environment. Parents are responsible for the actions of their children, precisely because children do not have the maturity to avoid dangerous situations. Left alone, some children will run in front of traffic, some will burn themselves on the stove, and some will eat candy for every meal. And unfortunately, as you experienced, some young adolescent boys will experiment sexually with their younger sisters.

Parents usually believe the best about their children, and do not expect that bad things will happen. Your parents may have even left your brothers to care for you while they were working, not realizing the potential danger. Your brothers may have been well behaved and trustworthy in other ways, so your parents wouldn’t have expected that their normal adolescent sexual curiosity would lead them to abuse you.

Most of the time, young boys who experiment sexually go on to lead normal lives, marry, and have families. However, in a small percentage of cases, the experimentation leads to long-lasting abnormal behavior and the boys can turn into adult sexual predators. If you suspect that this could be the case with either of your brothers, then you need to tell your family what happened to you. A new generation of little girls and boys must be protected.

God does not hold you responsible for what you allowed when you were six or seven years old. But the fact that most children do make bad choices when they have the opportunity is evidence that every one of us has a tendency to sin. No one has to teach us to do wrong. By nature we are always experimenting to see what we can get away with. Even babies learn the word “no” many months before they learn the word “yes.” That’s just the way we are. The good news is that God understands that we will sin, and so if we ask Him to forgive us, He will do it. His Son Jesus Christ took the punishment that we deserve, and wants to give us eternal life instead.

I wish you well,