How do you know if childhood sexual behavior is abusive?
Hey Amy! I am a counselor of a 26-year-old man who just disclosed that he and his sister (2 years younger) did sexual “stuff” together from age 6-11. The sister is feeling victimized. I don’t have a lot of details or specifics.
Do you know folks who work with adults around this issue? Do you have recommendations about how to move forward with the client? I am feeling lost partly because I don’t have details and because they were both so young and close in age.
I would love to hear your perspective.
Nancy the Therapist
Sexual behavior between kids isn’t automatically sexual abuse!
Howdy Nancy the Therapist!
Thanks for reaching out.
Depending on what they did, how often and whether he was forcing, coercing or sexually taking advantage of her will help you both determine if what happened was, in fact, full on sexual abuse.
It is very common for siblings in this age range to engage in sexual behavior with each other. It usually starts out of curiosity and can become more adult-like as the kids age. This, of course, is not okay or safe in pretty much any way, but it happens.
Because most people don’t fully understand sexual behavior in children, the automatic assumption is that the behavior (which is often a “game” of some sort) is abusive. As we grow up, this is the only possible explanation for what happened. When the reality is that the game was consensual, playful and exploratory in nature.
That being said, if she’s feeling victimized…she probably was. Or not. Yay gray area!
And your client, who was a child at the time and not in puberty (important factors) should learn all he can about this so he can decide/understand the nature of their experimenting.
I would have him (and you) contact Stop It Now. You call them and talk to them, they are super!
They will be able to guide you both to some help and support. They are a sexual abuse prevention organization, but also work to support folks like your client.
You may need to refer him to someone else in your area who deals with sex offenders (but don’t call them that!! He’ll freak out). They just have the know-how to deal with this!
Finally, because he is willing to talk with you about it and is looking for help and support, this makes me think he did not consciously molest or sexually abuse his sister.
You’ve got this!
Gotta question? HelpMe@BirdsAndBeesAndKids.com