You may be reading this website because your teenage son or daughter has been involved in illegal sexual behavior with another person, most likely a child, possibly even a brother or sister. You are not alone. If you’re like most families who have been through this, you’re in crisis.
- This could be one of the most difficult times in your whole life.
- You’re probably wondering how to help your son or daughter,
- how to work with law enforcement and other systems or agencies, and
- how to get your and your family’s lives going in a better direction.
- You may be angry, ashamed, confused, upset, or completely stunned.
With the right help, most teens will successfully complete treatment and any legally mandated requirements and go on to live healthy, constructive lives.
Let’s start with the basics.
What do we mean by “adolescents with illegal sexual behavior”?
A general definition is a boy or girl, from ages 13 to 18, who commits an illegal sexual act as defined by the sex-crime statutes in the state or jurisdiction where the offense occurred. The laws in each state define illegal sexual acts and the ages for which these acts are considered to be illegal.
This website focuses primarily on adolescents (teenagers) who have sexually abused younger children. This website will address other illegal sexual behavior of adolescents, such as illegal sexual behavior with peers or adults, as well as behavior such as sexually explicit phone calls, publicly exposing private parts, accessing pornography on the Internet, secretly looking at people for sexual excitement (voyeurism), or “sexting.” This website does not address the illegal sexual behavior of prostitution and sex trafficking.
You are not alone.
The first thing to know is that you’re not alone. Other families have been in your shoes. Other families have faced this situation and come out better and stronger afterward. Sexual behavior problems occur in all kinds of families. It can be helpful to learn from other families in similar circumstances. The following are example of three families in which an adolescent committed an illegal sexual act.
Bob and LaToya Brown were the parents of Dejuan, age 16, and LaTisha, age 7. Both parents worked downtown in the finance district. Both children had good grades in school and participated in school activities. Following an abuse prevention program at school, LaTisha asked to talk to her mother by herself. She started crying and told her mother that a friend of Dejuan’s, Michael, age 16, had asked her to “do it” and she had let him; he had put his penis in her vagina. She said it had happened twice in her bedroom when Michael was staying overnight.
Michael has been friends with Dejuan since elementary school. Michael was an only child and lived with his parents in the nearby neighborhood. Michael and Dejuan’s parents knew each other. Both families were in crisis as information about the past abuse unfolded. Many questions ran through the parents’ minds, such as, why did this happen? And what does this mean for the future?
LaTisha’s parents took LaTisha to a nearby hospital where she was examined and interviewed by a physician and a hospital social worker. There were no medical findings on physical examination of LaTisha that indicated sexual abuse occurred (which is often the case). The hospital social worker contacted the local police and child welfare services and reported the incident. LaTisha was interviewed at the local child advocacy center. She and her family were provided therapy services, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
When questioned by the police, Michael admitted what he had done and said that he knew it was wrong when he did it. He was charged and his parents obtained an attorney to represent him. Michael was later adjudicated as a delinquent and court-ordered into treatment.
Michael completed an outpatient group treatment program, and his parents completed a corresponding group that addressed parenting youth with illegal sexual behavior. The family members began to communicate better with each other. He also completed community service hours and regularly met with his probation officer. No additional problematic sexual behavior was reported. Michael successfully completed the ROTC program in his high school and joined the military the summer after he graduated.
Rosa Roberts was a single parent of four children, whose fathers were not actively involved in the family. Jerald, the oldest, was 15, and often took the role of the man of the house. He had been on probation a year earlier for breaking and entering a neighbor’s apartment and stealing several items. Angela, age 10, helped her mother with the younger children, Reynaldo, age 6, and Starla, age 4. Ms. Roberts worked days and weekends to support her children. Ms. Roberts’s mother, who lived close by, was left in charge of the younger children. One day, a neighbor called Ms. Roberts to talk about a situation with his two children, a 6-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. He said his children had been playing at the Roberts’s home the day before. Although the grandmother was there, she and the oldest granddaughter, Angela, were taking a nap. Jerald had all four young children play “Truth or Dare” with him. The children reported that the game involved sexual interactions between all of the children and Jerald, including “oral sex”. They also stated that Jerald had threatened to get them into trouble if they didn’t play the “game.” The neighbor was upset and angry and had already called the police.
Law enforcement removed Jerald and he was placed him in a detention facility to ensure community safety. Law enforcement conducted an investigation and concluded that Jerald had committed illegal sexual acts with his younger siblings over several months as well as the behaviors reported by the neighbor with his children. As a result, Jerald was changed with several incidents of sexual offending. Jerald was adjudicated delinquent and initially placed in a secure setting where he also received treatment.
Jerald was adjudicated delinquent and initially placed in a secure setting where he also received treatment. After a year in the treatment facility, Jerald moved to the grandmother’s home and a safety plan was put into place, monitored by the probation officer. Jerald, his grandmother, and his mother attended a community-based group treatment program.
Ms. Roberts brought her younger children to a community behavioral health center, where an assessment was completed and the family received therapy. Jerald’s siblings responded well to therapy. They repeatedly indicated how much they missed their brother and wanted him in their life. A family reunification plan was developed together by Ms. Roberts, Ms. Roberts’ mother, the children’s child protection worker, Jerald’s probation officer, and the family’s therapist. Over time and with supervised visits, Jerald was reunified with his mother and siblings. Ms. Roberts was able to change how she and Jerald communicated with each other. Jerald obtained a job, was a member of the high school track team, and completed high school.
Carla and Mark Simpson were the parents of three children: Allison was 14, Lisa was 9, and Sarah was 7. They divorced three years ago. Ms. Simpson was given primary custody and Mr. Simpson had his daughters every other weekend. He remarried a year ago to a woman with a four year old son, Brandon. One weekend at Mr. Simpson’s house, Allison was found with Brandon in a bedroom with the door closed. When Mr. Simpson and Brandon’s mother walked in, Brandon was touching Allison’s vagina with his hand. They were stunned and immediately called Ms. Simpson and told her to come pick up Allison. When asked, Allison and Brandon stated that Allison had asked Brandon to touch her vagina but that no force was used. Brandon reported that this had happened “lots of times” when Allison was in the home.
Child Protective Services (CPS) and the police investigated and Allison moved to live with her maternal grandmother where there were no other children in the home. Allison was placed on a deferred sentence by the court and referred for outpatient treatment. She attended the treatment program with her mother and her father. Brandon was evaluated and seen for short term outpatient treatment with Mr. Simpson and Brandon’s mother.
Over the course of her treatment a safety plan was established and implemented. Allison had supervised visits in her father’s home with her sisters and Brandon present. Family therapy sessions were implemented. Allison successfully completed treatment and returned to her mother’s home. Over time, she developed a good and healthy relationship with Brandon and had regular weekends and holidays at her father’s home.
What information is addressed on this website?
This website is designed to help you get through the difficult situation in which you find yourself, and to make the best choices for your son or daughter and for your whole family. We want to give you the best information currently available about the things you need to know right now. This includes
- why teens sexually abuse other children and youth;
- how to stay calm and take action;
- how to find a good treatment program;
- how to work with the legal system, Child Protective Services (CPS), and other agencies;
- if, when, and how to talk to your teen’s school, and your friends, family, and neighbors about what happened;
- how to prevent your teen from becoming involved in further illegal sexual behavior;
- how to keep all children safe;
- how to best help your son or daughter.
We refer to those caring for teens with illegal sexual behaviors as “parents.” But we know that you might just as easily be an aunt, grandparent, or other extended family member, a close friend of the family, a foster parent, or some other caregiver.
We mostly discuss male teenagers because boys commit about 90 percent of all illegal sexual behaviors by youth under the age of 18. Teenage girls can be involved in illegal or harmful sexual behavior, too. We also know that while most teens sexually abuse younger kids, some adolescents commit illegal sexual acts against other adolescents and sometimes with adults. Treatment can be effective with these adolescents too.
Everyone’s situation is different. Take from this website what is helpful to you and your family.
This website is designed to help you and your family as you work through your teen’s problem and the challenges of your current situation. Having a child involved in the legal or child protection system is difficult. Learning that your teen has harmed another person, especially another child, can be particularly difficult. But adolescents with illegal sexual behavior can change. Families can grow stronger as a result of working through problems.
We know this firsthand. Our colleagues who have contributed to this website and we at the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect have provided treatment to boys and girls and their families and conducted research on adolescents with illegal sexual behavior for over 20 years. In that time, we’ve seen hundreds of teens accept responsibility and change. We’ve seen families learn and grow. We’ve seen adolescents and families who had previously given up on each other find strength and hope and better lives, and so can your family.