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Child Abuse

Confessing

08/21/2000

Question:

I am the one who asked the question titled "Ashamed" a few days ago. Thank you for your response. The nature of the abuse was not forceful in any way--not rape or sodomy or anything. More like adolescent sexual curiosity on my part. Still, I feel extreme guilt over this, to the point of letting it affect my current life and hope for a happy future. Do you think it would be wise to go ahead and confess what I did when I was 13, just in case she does remember in the future, or should I just try to go on with my life and hope she doesn`t remember? Does what I did make me a horrible person? Do other people who turn out completely normal do things like this when they are young and naive, or was I abnormal? Thank you for your time.

Answer:

It is clear that you have genuine remorse for what happened a decade ago. Without knowing what occurred it is not possible to comment on it directly. A certain amount of sexual exploration commonly occurs during childhood and adolescence for many people - though usually with peers. There is no evidence that this has lasting harmful effects. Without knowing more about the situation, we can not tell you what to do. However, I would advise you not to confront your relative with your confession out of the blue, as this is likely to be traumatic. If she should recall what happened, then it is important to disclose fully and honestly what you remember happening. This helps to clarify what may be hazy or fragmented memories and validates what she can remember. Based on what you have said, it is possible that this single episode has not left any lasting negative effects. Frank Putnam, MD

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Response by:

Robert Shapiro, MD
Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati