Should I be worried that my daughter's game of "truth or dare" included sexual aggressive behaviors?

Dear Stop It Now!,
My daughter, age 11, and another boy, age 12, were on the school bus playing "truth or dare". They dared each other to pull their pants down and they did; but then the boy dared my daughter to perform oral sex. Well, she put her mouth over his penis, and he put his hands on her head and made her stay there. Is this a problem or normal behavior?
 

Dear Concerned Parent,
Please share your feedback The behaviors you described are very concerning. It seems that your daughter started out playing this game, possibly knowing that it was forbidden territory, but then quickly found herself way out of her depth. It must have been very scary for her to feel trapped by the other child’s physical force. She will benefit from your acknowledment of how frightening the experience must have been for her, as well as your support and comfort. She will also benefit from guidance from you regarding peer pressure and healthy sexuality.

Prioritizing your daughter’s need for information regarding appropriate sexual behaviors and personal boundaries will provide you with some next steps. Some articles that may help you prepare what to say to your daughter are Stop It Now!'s Understanding Sexual Behaviors in Kids and Talking to Children and Teens; and Getting Started: Helping Children and Parents Talk by Advocates for Youth.
 
Gathering additional information about the situation may be very helpful.  Some further questions you may want to ask include:

  • Has anything like this happened before with your daughter ?
  • Have there been other incidents with this boy?
  • Were there witnesses to what happened?

You may also want to find out more about the type of supervision provided on your daughter’s school bus.

Consider having your daughter see a counselor as well. This can provide her the opportunity to share more about what happened and how she is impacted by this event. She may also be facing difficulties at school seeing the boy there or even with potential witnesses on the bus. Additional supports for  her may be very helpful and this may provide a support to you as the parent in helping to understand what your daughter needs in terms of information and guidance regarding healthy and safe behaviors.

Additionally if you pursue counseling for your daughter, this therapist may feel that this is a reportable incident and you can work with the therapist through this process. To find counseling resources for youth, you can check with your insurance provider, primary care physician or your daughter's school counselor may have some resources.

Talking with this boy’s parents should be strongly considered. He is potentially putting himself and other children at risk for harm with his behaviors and when parents can speak up to other parents about children’s concerning behaviors, then steps can be identified and acted upon to better protect the children. 

The supervision on the bus needs to be addressed and this can present an opportunity to review your school’s policy on how they handle child on child sexual behaviors. I do not necessarily recommend at this time that your school respond with a full-fledged investigation that could potentially become very public and possibly damaging to your daughter’s sense of safety and well-being.   

Do you have information on how your school responds to these types of situations? Are you comfortable partnering with your school to help design a response to this situation that does not further traumatize your daughter, or put her or the other boy at risk for unwanted (and unproductive) exposure? I would review these questions with another trusted adult as you determine your action steps with your school. 

However, should your own exploration determine that there are ongoing behaviors that are sexual and unhealthy in that they are aggressive, unwanted and are not age-appropriate, you may want to make a formal report to the police and your school. The possible impact on your daughter of bringing this into the open at school so that other children are made aware of what happened does need to be considered.  

If you do decide to follow up with your daughter’s school, include a conversation with the school principal to find out what steps the school can take to minimize the risk that such an incident could happen again, and what steps the school will take to see that supervision is improved on the bus. If you are not satisfied with the answers you are getting, you have the option of meeting with the Superintendent of Schools in your district. Our prevention tipsheet, Nine Questions Parents Need To Ask When Selecting A Program For Their Child can  help you formulate your questions and think about how your school’s environment can be as safe as possible.

This is a complex situation because it contains typical behaviors, as well as concerning behaviors that involve sexual activity and physical force. However you respond, your daughter will benefit from you taking her concerns seriously and in follow up activities to help protect her from further inappropriate and potentially dangerous situations.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 3rd, 2012