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Pedophilia in Marriage

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I just discovered that my husband has been abusing our 6-year-old niece. What should I do?

I won’t go into details, but I have solid evidence that my husband has been sexually abusing this sweet, innocent child. He isn’t yet aware that I know, and I’m ashamed to say that I feel tempted to look the other way. I know I need to do something to protect my niece. But I’m afraid that if this gets out, everything in my life will be destroyed. And I’m scared that family and friends will treat both of us as outcasts. Should I report my husband — and how? And do you think there’s any chance to save our marriage?

 


ANSWER:

You’re in the middle of an agonizing situation, and our hearts go out to you in your pain, anguish, and fear. It takes courage to ask for help, and we commend your boldness in reaching out.

Before anything else, turn to God

Pray. Hold onto faith. You’ll need God to give you strength and courage to successfully navigate this difficult path.

(Do you know Him? The one true God has always known you and loved you. And when you have a personal relationship with His son, Jesus, you can be confident that He will redeem everything that has gone wrong because of sin. Until then, we as Christians find comfort in the truth that He sees our tears.)

Realize that your emotional response to your husband’s behavior is normal

Anyone in your position would experience the same fears, doubts, temptations, and feelings of confusion and disorientation. After all, among other things, your spouse has broken faith with you. He has violated the marriage covenant, and he has destroyed the innocence of a precious child with his abusive and criminal actions.

And when trust is destroyed, the relationship between husband and wife inevitably suffers. So if you feel like you’re going crazy, take heart. That’s a normal response to a crazy-making turn of events.

But while the situation is agonizing, there’s a sense in which the decisions you face are not. Something needs to be done about your discovery. Your emotions might be paralyzing and clouding your judgment right now, but somehow you have to find a way to get past them.

Step back and do your best to take an objective look at your husband’s secret life of sexual abuse. It doesn’t matter what your friends and relatives think; there’s no reason to assume that you will be blamed or vilified for your spouse’s actions. In fact, you can’t be implicated in his guilt — as long as you make up your mind to do the right thing before it’s too late.

You need to act now for the sake of your niece and for the sake of your marriage.

Ensure your niece’s safety and care

Make sure she’s in a safe location

Right now she probably feels isolated and completely under the control of her abuser. If you are the child’s legal guardian, the first thing to do is get her away from your husband.

Place her under the care of a trained Christian clinician who specializes in sexual abuse

Do whatever it takes to get her medical and psychological help. You don’t have to play detective, and you shouldn’t push her for details. Instead, you may need to let her know that you’ve learned about the sexual abuse she’s been subjected to. Express your sorrow over what’s happened to her.

A therapist will know exactly what to do. It’s important that your niece receive help as soon as possible. In instances like this, there’s a huge difference between immediate assistance and delayed assistance when it comes to overall effectiveness. If she represses the memory of her ordeal until she’s older, her symptoms will likely be far more severe, and she’ll face a much longer recovery.

Report the abuse to law enforcement or Child Protective Services

Nationally you can call 1-800-4-A-CHILD. And each state has its own reporting line, which you can find with a simple web search.

We can understand why you might be reluctant to take this step. But if you don’t report your husband, you could possibly bear some degree of legal culpability (depending on your state’s laws regarding reporting requirements of child sexual abuse).

If your niece isn’t under your direct care, you’ll probably want to bring her parents or foster parents into the loop right away. Take them into your confidence and tell them what you know and how you know it. Then encourage them to contact the authorities and connect your niece with a qualified counselor.

If you don’t believe that they’re competent or responsible enough to take these steps, you might have to act on their behalf. From your niece’s perspective, having the love, reassurance, and support of wise and caring adults will make all the difference in the world.

Turn your attention to your marriage

Here, too, we don’t believe you have any other choice than to bring the truth to light and take immediate action.

If you’re afraid or hesitant, think about this: What’s likely to happen to your relationship with your husband if you turn a blind eye to his behavior? The bitterness, anger, and disgust you’re feeling toward him at this moment will continue to grow. In short, your marriage will be destroyed if you don’t reveal what you know.

Confront your husband

Love and trust depend on honesty — and in this situation, honesty requires a direct confrontation.

Talk to your husband and find out exactly what’s been going on. Ask him pointed questions about the frequency and duration of his involvement in pedophilia. He might respond with intense denial or defensiveness, but it’s critical to bring up the issue regardless of his reaction.

Keep in mind that most pedophiles and perpetrators of sexual abuse share several distinct personality traits:

  • They’re usually seductive, manipulative, and highly controlling.
  • They’re also nice, friendly, helpful, and extremely good at charming their way into other people’s good graces. That way they can persuade those same people to do what they want them to do.

These qualities are essential to a typical abuser’s secret double life — to their ability to seduce their victims. This means that when you confront your husband with your discovery, you’ll probably find that he’s very good at looking you straight in the eye and saying something that will cause you to doubt yourself.

That’s why it’s so important to stand firm and get the help of a few supporters who won’t be fooled by deception or smooth talk. If you think your husband may respond to your confrontation with anger or would downplay the situation, bring other affected and trustworthy people into the discussion. Your niece’s parents, a pastor, or a trusted Christian friend are good places to start.

Remember that your goal is to convince your husband to get help

Your goal in all of this is to persuade your husband to meet with and be assessed by a competent licensed clinician who has been specially trained to deal with sexual abuse and addiction.

In most cases, pedophiles and sexual abusers are sexually broken themselves. Many were abused or victimized by others earlier in life. To make matters worse, they tend to marry someone who has also been sexually broken. We’re not suggesting that’s the case in your situation. We’re only pointing out that there’s a good chance that both of you will be tempted to minimize, rationalize, or deny the seriousness of the situation.

A wise therapist can help you sort all of this out. They can evaluate your husband’s overall attitude — for example, is he truly repentant and sorry for his actions, or does he refuse to admit that he’s done anything wrong? The counselor will also be able to gauge how open he is to treatment.

Move forward with your eyes wide open

And now to your last question: What are the chances that your marriage can survive this crisis? The answer depends on several factors.

One important point is that there will be legal consequences for your husband’s actions. Exactly what form this will take is likely to vary from state to state. There’s no standard way of handling pedophiles in our court system. So we highly recommend that you consult with a reputable attorney to find out what your options are.

If your spouse ends up serving a lengthy prison sentence for his crimes, this is obviously going to have a serious impact on your marriage. The good news is that this might be the best way to get him the help he needs: If the case comes to trial, and if he is convicted, the judge will probably order him to undergo personal therapy.

Get professional support for yourself

Here at Focus on the Family, we are committed to doing everything in our power to save and restore broken marriages. But we’re also aware that it’s important to be realistic. We live in a flawed, fallen world, and some wounds simply won’t be healed until the Lord comes again.

Pedophilia is a severe sexual dysfunction, and many reputable experts don’t hold out much hope for the average abuser’s rehabilitation. With that in mind, consider the profile of the typical pedophile we mentioned earlier, ask yourself some serious questions about the future of your marriage, and work through them with the help of wise counsel.

God hates divorce, and we would hesitate to recommend it as a first option even in terrible scenarios like the one you’ve described. However, we’re also aware that there are times when the wounded partner of an unfaithful spouse simply must face facts.

We don’t have all the answers — and at this point, no one can know exactly what’s going to happen. Your marriage might be healed, but it might not. Only time will tell. Whatever happens, though, we want you to understand that it’s not your responsibility to sacrifice everything else in your life to save this relationship.

We’re here to help

Our staff counselors would welcome the chance to talk with you more about your situation. And they can give you a list of reputable and qualified counselors working in your area for ongoing support. Call us for a free over-the-phone consultation.

 

Resources

If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Why and How to Report Child Abuse

Caring for Sexually Abused Children: A Handbook for Families and Churches 

Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Marriages in Crisis

Fool-Proofing Your Life: How to Deal Effectively With the Impossible People in Your Life

Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair

Referral

Child Help USA

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Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

Focus on the Family

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