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Child Abuse




When I was 13, I sexually abused my then-4 year old relative. It happened only once, and I repeated what I had inadvertantly seen on a dirty movie my older brother had left out. I am now 24 and completely and utterly horrified by this. It haunts me everyday. I still see my relative a lot and she doesn`t remember. She seems to be a normal teenager. I am terrified that she will remember or be scarred by this. Please give me advice. What are the chances she will remember or somehow be affected by what I did? It would kill me for anyone to know this happened.


Without knowing the nature of the sexual abuse and the degree of force involved it is difficult to say what the consequences might be. A single act of sexual abuse by someone who is not a primary caretaker and that did not involve significant physical force or pain may have no discernable consequences. It is also possible that someday she may remember and confront you. If this does happen, it is important to tell her honestly what you recall about what happened. When child victims later confront their abusers they are often looking for confirmation that what they recall really did happened - and for an apology.

Frank Putnam, MD

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Response by:

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