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16 year old dating an adult woman

Question: 

Dear Stop It Now!

My son is sixteen and is dating a woman in her twenties. I asked my son if they ever had been sexual together and he said yes. He also told me that he is sixteen and is over the age of consent. I looked it up and he is kind of right. Is there anything that I can legally do to stop the sexual relationship or should I just keep a close eye on them both? I do not know what I should do.

Response: 
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Dear Concerned Parent,

I understand your concern about your son’s relationship with an adult woman. While he is technically over the age of consent in your state, there is also a gap provision of three years in your state per the Age of Consent website. What this can mean is while your son is still a minor, a sexual relationship with someone more than three years older may indeed be considered sexual abuse. I would recommend that you contact your local police and possibly an attorney, if available, for clarification on these laws and how they could apply in this case.

Like you, I do wonder why an adult woman would be interested in an intimate, romantic relationship with a teenager and would indeed keep a very close eye on your son and this relationship, regardless of possible legal follow up available. Your son’s honesty with you about his sexual relationship is encouraging and I would advise you to let him know that you are concerned about this but refrain from any personal “put downs" of this woman so as not to drive him to a more defensive stance.

Of course, you could “forbid” him from continuing this relationship and of course, he could ignore your limits. So it’s important to find ways to continue to engage him in thinking about this relationship. Conversations that look at what he’s getting out of this relationship, what this woman may be getting out of it, what he sees as the future for this relationship and similar conversations can be helpful. Help him think through this relationship and again, reserve judgment and rather express your concern and commitment to his health and happiness.

If the law is not able to intervene, and if your son persists in seeing this woman, I would recommend you get to know her. Invite her over – show your son that while you are not in support of this relationship, you will continue to be involved and supportive of him. He may come to see your concern as reasonable and develop his own concerns when and if he doesn’t feel like he has to “prove something”.

I hope this is helpful and I wish your family the best.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: February 25th, 2015