Husband sexually abused my 7 yr old daughter

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My husband and I have been together for 4 years. We have 2 sons and I have a daughter from previous relatioship. He is her dad, has been the only dad sahe has known. Last summer we were seperated and I left out of town leaving my daughter with family. A week before I came home, my daughter went back home. My husband wasnt coping well with the thought of losing his family and I dont think he was thinking clearly. He sexually abused my 7 yr old daughter for 2 nights. He rubbed his parts against hers until he finished. The 2nd night he had her get into shower and kissed her down there. After that it stopped, a few days later I returned. She told me and I took her to the dr, no signs of penetration. I left him for a few weeks and ended up going back. I know that he is sorry and he says he doesnt know why he did it. It hasnt happended again and we all sat down and talked about what happened and I continue to talk with her about how she is feeling and if she wants to stay with dad or not. She says she forgives him, her behavior hasnt changed. She seems fine, for now. DO you think it is possible to move on past this and be a family or do I just run for the hills? Could it have been his state of mind at the time? Im so confused whether or not to try to make this work. Am I stupid for staying or is there a chance to save our family.

A; I can only begin to imagine all the conflicting things you are feeling. What your husband did was sexual assault on a 7 year old. He may not have “penetrated” but he violated your trust and introduced your daughter to sex in a potentially very damaging way. I’m surprised the doctor didn’t report him to child protective services. He should have. Yes, I understand that your husband wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. But people who are upset don’t generally act out sexually on a helpless and trusting child. He made a terrible choice that isn’t excused by being “upset.”

I think your family needs more help than talking it out together. Your husband needs some counseling by a qualified therapist in order to understand why he would even think about harming your child and how he’ll prevent such a thing from ever, ever happening again. I know he says he won’t do it but how can either of you know that? You never in a million years thought he was capable of this in the first place.

In the meantime, you need to keep your children safe. If it’s possible, I usually suggest that the man leave the house until he’s done his therapeutic work. At the very least, he should never be left alone with any of the children. (People who abuse kids sometimes abuse both boys and girls.) I also think it’s important to have your daughter evaluated by a qualified child therapist. At 7, I question if she knows what “forgiveness” means. It’s possible that she is saying what she thinks you need her to say. She certainly shouldn’t be made to think that what she says determines whether her father stays or leaves. That’s simply too much of a burden to put on someone so young. I understand that you have good intentions in talking with her but I’m concerned that you may be unintentionally making things more difficult for her.

In answer to your question; Yes, I think it’s possible for a family to get past even something as serious as this. No, I don’t think you’re stupid to try. But I think getting everyone beyond this takes more than good intentions, talk, and promises. It takes willingness to face the problem squarely and to do the hard therapeutic work. You made a positive first step by writing to us here at Psych Central. Now, please take care of your children and your family by following through and finding the professional help you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Mar 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Husband sexually abused my 7 yr old daughter. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/03/14/husband-sexually-abused-my-7-yr-old-daughter/