Healthy Sexual Development

On April 30, D2L held its very first Reddit AMA on child sexual abuse prevention in honor of Child Abuse Awareness Month. We received many great questions that will be featured in our May blog series.

QUESTION
In your opinion, is it possible for a child to abuse another child, and if so, would this be viewed differently than an adult abusing a child? Would it be considered abuse if it was mutual (no force, coercion, etc.)?

What advice could you give to someone trying to deal with guilt-ridden memories of mutual sexual experimentation as a child?

OUR ANSWER

About 40% of child sexual abuse victims are abused by older or more powerful youth.

Despite this, most adolescent offenders do not go on to become adult offenders. Youth tend to be much more responsive to treatment than adults.

However, mutual exploration by children of the same age is a common and natural part of child development. Children may also explore their own genitals and show interest in male and female physical differences.

While understanding that these are natural tendencies, parents and organizations can create situations that reinforce physical boundaries and protect the children in their care.

  1. We sometimes focus on adult/child interactions and forget that children can cross boundaries as well. To be safe, limit isolated, one-on-one interactions between children and older youth. When children play together, playroom doors should remain open and an adult should check in regularly to ensure interaction remains respectful. Also, youth should not be placed in a situation where they are watching other youth with no adult supervision.
  2. Starting very early, parents should have age-appropriate conversations with children about topics like physical boundaries and appropriate/inappropriate touching. Then, these behaviors should be modeled for children to help them understand what is acceptable and what is not. Children should not be made to hug or to sit on the laps of others. If they express discomfort about a situation, this should be treated seriously and investigated further by parents to determine if there are any red flags.

For resources on healthy sexual development in children, D2L provides information on our website. If there are any questions about whether childhood behaviors fell outside of what is considered healthy or if feelings of guilt continue, we would suggest talking to a counselor who specializes in this area.

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