When I was barely fourteen years old, my stepfather would get my mother drunk and then come into my room to touch me inappropriately and convince me to do indecent things. As a result, I got married before turning fifteen. I am now twenty-five years old, and I still hate my stepfather the same as the first day he did that to me. What can I do?

Dear Friend,

We are so very sorry to hear about the way that your stepfather violated you! Unfortunately, there are too many mothers who knowingly or unknowingly facilitate the sexual abuse of their teenage daughters. When your mother married your stepfather, she probably would never have believed that he would sexually abuse you, and therefore took no steps to protect you. Other mothers actually find out about abuse that is going on, but still do nothing to protect their daughters. Those mothers are just as guilty as the abusing men.

You do not say whether or not you told anyone about this abuse. We are going to guess that your stepfather threatened you in some way, so you never revealed his dirty secret. Or you may not have told your mother because you didn’t think that she could handle it.

Either way, we believe that the secret is the thing that is fueling your hate. You may believe that your stepfather should be punished for what he did, but since you probably haven’t told anyone, he continues to live comfortably as he always has. He may be abusing other family members, neighbors, or the children of friends, but continues to go unpunished. Your hate is the only perceived way that you can “punish” him.

Unfortunately, your hate doesn’t really punish him at all. Instead, it punishes you. Your hateful thoughts have caused changes in the chemicals in your brain, and those chemicals cause more hateful thoughts. It is a vicious circle that keeps going around and around.

In addition, those negative chemicals are not good for your brain or your body in general. They can cause anxiety, depression, weight gain and chronic disease. Your own body and mind are being damaged by your hate.

We don’t know your current circumstances, but it may be best for you to reveal your secret. Of course, because so many years have passed, there is the risk that people will not believe you, and that could cause your anguish to be even greater. But if other children are in danger, you may need to take the risk.

Either way, for your own health, you must forgive him. That does not mean having to see him or say anything to him. Instead, you can forgive him through prayer. Tell God that you choose to forgive even though the man doesn’t deserve it. Let God have the responsibility for punishing him. Every time your stepfather comes to your mind, say, “I choose to forgive and to let God handle it.”

Jesus taught that we must forgive others if we want our own sins to be forgiven.(1) Your stepfather’s sin likely seems much more evil than your own sins, so you might feel that it isn’t a fair exchange. But again, God is the one who knows, understands, punishes, and forgives. He can handle it.

It won’t be easy, but you can do this,

1 Mt 6:15