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.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on March 14, 2010.