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Dr. Saltzman-

I have been with my boyfriend for a year now and we were a pretty happy couple until yesterday he told me he was convicted of a sex crime 20 years ago when he was 16, he sexually molested a 6 year old while babysitting. He said he only touched her and it happened three times. He was arrested and served a few years in jail. He told me he was sexually abused as a child at the age of 8 as well and witnessed his sister being sexually abused many times at the same time. He says he has never done it again and is very sorry and would never do it again. My problem is we are getting pretty serious and talking about marriage. Now I am afraid to marry him because it will always be on my mind and I don't want to have to fear my husband will sexually abuse our children. I too was sexually abused once as a child (only touching), so it hits really close to home for me. Help I don't know what the right thing to do is?



Dear Magda--

To begin with, I admire your boyfriend for sharing this information with you instead of waiting until it came it in some other way. Of course, I know nothing about him beyond what you have written, but his honesty in this matter suggests that he values your relationship highly enough to want honesty between you two, and that he wants to be loved for his whole self, not just the "acceptable" parts.

Unfortunately, you are now very upset and worried, which is completely understandable. I think what is needed to heal this mess is a few sessions of premarital counseling. In those meetings you would both have the opportunity to talk about many things which might not come up in your everyday conversations. By relying on a trained counselor to keep the conversation both meaningful and relatively safe, you will be able to explore your hopes for, and fears about the upcoming marriage, including, but not limited to, your fears that your boyfriend's previous sexual behavior could recur, even with his own children.

Given the level of your concern about this, I think you should not even try to work this mess out between the two of you alone. After all, Magda, what more can your boyfriend do at this point than to repeat his promise that this could never happen again? Since those words are not enough to satisfy you now, there is little reason to believe that they ever will. That is why I suggest so strongly that you go for counseling now. If your boyfriend really has moved beyond child-molesting as he says, I think you will feel more secure after exploring the matter with the help of a good professional who will know how to go into it in a deep way. And if your boyfriend has more of a problem than he realizes, a good counselor should be able to point that out to him, and give him the kind of help he needs.

Be well.

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