Talking with a Child or Teen Who Has Engaged in Sexually Harmful Behaviors

Intervening now is key

It is crucial to address sexually harmful behaviors in youth promptly, especially as they approach an age at which they can be held legally accountable for their actions. The stakes only get higher if you wait. Act now.

Some things to keep in mind when talking to a child or teen about their harmful sexual behaviors towards others

  • Let them know you are concerned about their safety and welfare.
  • Let them know that there are other children/teens who struggle with similar problems.
  • Let them know that there are counselors who understand how to help him/her learn to manage their behavior and stay safe.
  • Let a child/teen know that you will be there every step of the way, and that you will not abandon them.
  • Try not to take sides especially when it involves siblings or divided families.
  • Remember that they may feel out of control and may not really understand why they have the impulses to be sexually harmful to other kids.
  • Remember they may be frightened or feel tremendous shame or remorse about what they have done.
  • Not all inappropriate sexual behavior in an adolescent indicates a sexual behavior problem. Get help to evaluate your specific situation.
  • Be prepared for their response and offer resources – crisis lines, professionals, reading materials, recovery workbooks, etc.
  • Make an appointment with a professional knowledgeable about sexual abuse to help guide you and assess risk.
  • If you feel you need help keeping a child or teen safe from harming him/herself or other children, get help and reach out to child protective services.
  • Tell him/her that you still love them.