I was eight years old when a boy of about seventeen sexually abused me. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my mother. Since that time I cannot trust men.

I am now twenty‑one years old. I have a lot of male friends, but I can’t stop distrusting them, for I have a lot of fear, fear that someone will once again put their hands on my body. A lot of guys would like to go out with me, and have even told me they want to marry me, but I don’t want them to get too close to me.

Is there some way for me to get over what happened that day? I don’t want to hate men forever. I want to be able to be close to a guy without being afraid that something bad will happen. What can I do?

Dear Friend,

We are so sorry to hear of the horrible experience that you went through thirteen years ago, and of the consequences that you are suffering now. The first thing you need to know is that what you are experiencing is a common problem found in the victims of sexual abuse. Thousands of victims have been able to conquer their fears, and you will be able to as well. Recovery is not easy and it is not quick, but we believe you can attain it.

One of the problems in your particular situation is that you didn’t tell anyone. As a young child, you were trying to protect yourself by keeping the secret. But as an adult, the secret must come out so that you can deal with it. If you have a regular doctor, she is the first person you should tell. She can give you a referral for a professional therapist who is trained to help the victims of sexual abuse. However, if for whatever reason you cannot see a therapist, it is absolutely necessary that you find someone else to tell. If there is no family member who you can trust, then a mature girlfriend will have to do. Choose someone who is a good listener and who can keep a secret. Plan ahead and arrange a time and place to talk to her about what happened to you in a completely safe environment, where you don’t have to worry about anyone else hearing or noticing.

As an eight-year-old, you knew that what happened was wrong, but you did not possess the logic to understand that it was not your fault. As an adult now, you can understand that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You did nothing wrong. You have nothing to feel guilty for. So there is no reason to keep it a secret from those who love you. After you tell one person, it will be easier to eventually tell anyone in your family or group of close friends.

Because you say you have lots of friends, we can assume that you are reasonably well adjusted in most other areas of your life. Many girls who have been abused lose their self‑respect and as a result they often fall into a promiscuous lifestyle. We are so happy for you that this didn’t happen to you. That kind of behavior piles new problems on top of the old ones, ending many times with an unwanted pregnancy or a life‑changing disease.

It is a good thing for an unmarried girl to protect herself from being touched by guys. You have saved yourself for the one special guy who you will marry someday. But before even considering marriage, you must get to know that guy so well that you can be completely honest with him without fear. He needs to know what happened to you and, if he is the right one, he will respond with such patience and gentleness that you will be able to trust him. In the meantime, demand that guys respect you enough to give you the space that you need.

There is another One who you can talk to at any time, without any fear. He already knows what happened to you, but He is waiting for you to ask for His help now. He created you, loves you, and has deep compassion for what has happened to you.(1) Talk to God today in prayer. There is no reason to wait any longer.

May you find healing,

Linda and Charles
1 Ps 145:9