Is it normal for teen son to take stepsister's underwear?

Dear Stop It Now!,
Two pairs of underwear (belonging to 17 year old stepsister) were found in my 16 year old's drawer. This has only happened once that we know but my stepdaughter's mother thinks this will lead to him being a child molestor. Is it normal that he did this or should I be alarmed?

Dear Concerned Parent,
I consulted with Steve Brown, Psy.D., Director, Traumatic Stress Institute of Klingberg Family Centers and a former Stop It Now! board member to help answer your question.  Steve shared this:  "I do not believe that the behavior of taking his step-sister's underwear alone is indicative of a sexual behavior problem and jumping to the conclusion that this will lead him to be a child molester is unwarranted. At the same time, it does warrant follow up."

If he has shown significant problems related to sexual behavior in the past or currently, I would advise taking him to a counselor or therapist to discuss what you learned and your concerns.  If he has no history, I would have a discussion with him although it will likely be a bit uncomfortable for him and you. I would warn him at the beginning that this could be a little uncomfortable. Then I would tell him matter-of-factly what you discovered and see how he reacts.

At some point in this conversation, I'd advise telling him that she, you, and his step-mother feel uncomfortable with him taking her underwear and that you'd like him to stop. Make sure you tell him at the end something positive about his willingness to have a hard conversation.  If the behavior continues after you set this limit, then I would seek out professional help. 

I hope this information is helpful and informs your response to your son. 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 3rd, 2012