Is a certain type of sexual play between children considered a reportable offense?

Dear Stop It Now!,
I am a school counselor. Two six-year-old males and a 4-year-old male were simulating intercourse fully clothed. When the mom caught them, one of the six-year old boys was saying, "Your turn!" and the youngest was on top of one of the six year old boys, bouncing up and down. The boy on the bottom has behavioral issues, including running away from home and having to be restrained at school. They were all giggling and having fun. I wouldn't be worried, but because one of the boys has had other concerning behaviors, I am wondering what should be done.

Dear Concerned Professional,
Please share your feedback You are describing sexually inappropriate behaviors that do not appear to be sexually abusive between the children at this time. However, you are correct in being concerned, and seeing these behaviors as possible warning signs of either sexual abuse or other stressors in the children’s lives is very reasonable. 

By understanding that one of the children has already known behavior problems, the need for heightened supervision and prompt and protective responses  can be highlighted to all involved adults. Additionally, while children this age do have natural curiosity about their bodies, this activity shows an awareness of a specific adult activity that is not age-appropriate.

The parents of these children should be aware of their children’s need for supervision, education and guidance regarding healthy sexual behaviors and play.  All concerned adults should be aware of our warning signs to help them understand their children’s behaviors.  And certainly, these children should all be supervised by adults, with healthy limits and boundaries clearly laid out for them.  Hopefully the parents of all the children recognize the need to take these behaviors very seriously, and to address safety planning in their homes.

I would also suggest that the children’s home environment be explored for risks for the children in terms of potential exposure to adult materials, the presence of stressors in the family and other at-risk activities, behaviors and situations. While I am hopeful that all the parents involved do share a healthy concern regarding their children’s behaviors, if by any chance they do not respond to their children with safety measures, including supervision, additional supports may need to be sought.  For example, if a child who is 6 years old is able to run away from a setting and act out sexual adult-like activities, I would consider consulting with your local child protection service (CPS) to see what they recommend.  To locate your local CPS, contact ChildHelp at 1.800.4ACHILD (1.800.422.4453).

The resources I've included below can help support the parents as they plan for safety.  Please share with them, and certainly they are welcome to contact us directly if they have any questions. 

I hope this information has been helpful, please do not hesitate to contact us with any additional concerns or questions.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 1st, 2012