My 16 year old son sexually harmed my friend's younger daughter.


Dear Stop It Now!,

I was told by close friends that our 16 y.o. son has been molesting their 12 y.o. son for the past 5 years. My husband feels we just need to take him to church. My son knows that what he did is wrong and promises to never do it again. I feel we cannot ignore this and that he needs help.

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Dear Concerned Mom,

If these allegations are substantiated, your son has actually committed a crime. And you are right - he needs help. It is very important that in order to protect him and others, that you and your husband work together with your local resources to make sure that help is available and provided.

Children and youth who sexually harm and abuse other children do so for very different reasons than adults, and they can be helped to learn healthy behaviors and boundaries – but they cannot do it alone. They need professional assistance. I’m glad that your family has a supportive and understanding faith community, and I hope that they can continue to support you as you seek out professional supports.

The priorities right now are for your son to be assessed and get specialized treatment to determine what is going on for him, where he needs guidance and education and how to get it for him – and to think about immediate safety planning.

Many therapists are qualified to work with youth with sexual problem behaviors. I would advise first checking with your family’s insurance coverage. For more resources on seeking professional treatment, please also refer to our resource page: Children and Youth with Sexual Behavior Problems. 

Safety Planning
In the meantime and while you’re setting up therapy, safety planning is an equally important priority. It is very important that your son’s opportunities to further sexually harm another be limited. He needs to take responsibility in planning with you and his father guidelines such as not being alone with any younger peers at any time. He should always be in eyesight of other adults when children are present, and should not be allowed to be in a room alone with a child with the door closed.  

I am not suggesting that he be made a prisoner, but rather that a supervision plan be developed and that your son is told that this is plan is to protect him and other children while he gets the help he needs to be safe. Let him know that you support him, believe in him and know that working with both his parents and professionals will help him make better decisions, be in control and be safe.

It is possible that any of the professionals you consult with will feel that this a situation calling for a mandated report to your local child protection services. If you see this as a protective step that all professionals are required to do, and not a judgment or threat to your family, then perhaps you can understand this as a way to help you further find the right resources for you family.

In fact, you can even call yourself and tell their reporting line that you are a parent of a teenager who has behaved sexually inappropriate towards a younger child, and that you have been advised to check in with them. Share that you are seeking professional assistance and support and let them know of any steps that you have taken regarding finding resources and keeping children safe. The parents of the child your son abused may also choose to call so by taking the step to call yourself, you are setting the stage for you to remain in control of your son’s treatment. Here are your Child Protection Reporting Numbers By State.

I realize that this is probably a very scary time for your family. I’m glad you reached out for help. It’s important that you too have a safe and private place to talk about your feelings about your son and this experience. I hope you also have support. You may be interested in our PARENTtalk, a newsletter we used to have for parents of children with sexual problem behaviors. You are not alone in this experience.

I hope this information is helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact us back with further concerns or questions. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!


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Last edited on: November 6th, 2018