Thanks for your question. Well done for discussing this with everyone in your house, it must have been difficult for you all. I believe that whatever the answers are to the questions below, your son needs your help.
To answer your question directly, I don't know whether it helps to put a label on this behaviour when your son is 15. Labels can become so stuck and such a label at this age for your son could only be negative. Obviously what he has done is very unwelcome, inappropriate sexual behaviour towards a minor and it needs to be dealt with extremely sensitively and seriously.
It is massively important that your son is encouraged to understand the immense gravity of what he has done, whilst understanding that this incident does not encapsulate his whole self-worth and that whilst you and your family members do not love his behaviour, you still love him very much as a son and a brother. Get him to generate a list of all the good aspects of himself and when he has finished, add to it yourself and ask your family members to take part (especially your daughter involved) so that he can still think of himself as a good person with a small but serious error, rather than a terribly bad person. If you have any stories of how you de-railed as a younger person, but managed to get back on track, try and share them with him so he can see that no-one is perfect and he has the choice of not doing this again.
To go back to the very basics, has he had a good sex education from school or yourself? Do you have an open relationship where he can talk about his feelings and how they affect his behaviour? Can you buy books that help him to discuss feelings, girlfriends, etc. If he is unwilling to talk with you as parent(s), would he talk to someone at school or through the health clinic, or a professional relationships counselor?
In terms of getting a grip on the scale of the problem, are you in a position to truly know whether he has done this before or not with any children, at home or elsewhere? If it is a behaviour that has happened before, or something he intends to do again, then the need to discuss it with a professional is more important, before he finds himself in a situation which involves the courts.
It is so important that 'all of the children' in the house, including your son, are safe from any harm by anyone who lives there, including your son. Everyone in the house deserves that and as parents, we must do everything we can to ensure that it happens. However, I believe this must be done in a way that includes your son, rather than making him feel left out, as he needs to feel that he is being helped rather than pushed away. The consequences of him feeling pushed away could lead him to repeating the incident elsewhere.
Can you think of any reason why your son may have chosen a small girl - does he lack self-confidence? does he mix with both girls and boys of his own age? does he have male friends who have girlfriends, acting as appropriate role models of a 15 year old? Does he have outside interests and activities that keep him occupied? Does he have private access to a computer and are you aware of what he is looking at on there? Do you know his friends and what they get up to? Try and get to know about any of these that you aren't already aware of. These may all seem irrelevant or loosely linked, but my experience in this area indicates that all of these can be very relevant.
There are two other points I would also like to raise and I am sorry that I must - is there a possibility that your son was subjected to a sexual experience as a young boy by anyone at all? This may not be a factor, but is certainly worth asking. If the answer is positive, I would suggest that he seeks an EMDR specialist in sexual abuse and/or young people as this can help him to release any beliefs and emotions linked to past incidents. This will help him to move on in a positive way.
I must also ask if you have allowed your daughter ample opportunity to ask questions, tell her brother how she feels, (she may need to say something like she hated what he said but she loves him as a brother) talk about it whenever she needs to, offer therapy if she wants it - at age 6, she would obviously require a child-orientated specialist. Even if you feel she doesn't require this, it might be worth having just one or two sessions for her to really leave it all behind her. Praise your daughter for telling you (I am sure you probably have) and encourage her to do so again if she needs to. Tell her as many times as she needs to hear it that it was not her fault, as young children often blame themselves for stuff that is way beyond their responsibility.
I have kind of answered this question in terms of what might be worse case scenario, but have answered in a way that I hope is helpful for you to read.
I do hope this information is useful enough for you to press the accept button and maybe leave some positive feedback too. A bonus is always welcome.
I wish your family all the best with this, Sarah
Thank you for your reply. I have answered your questions below.
To go back to the very basics, has he had a good sex education from school or yourself?
Yes, from both. My son became sexually active last year. He admitted it to us after the fact. We explained our view that we thought he was too young for sexual activity and why both emotionally and physically. We then provided him with condoms.
Do you have an open relationship where he can talk about his feelings and how they affect his behaviour?
I thought we did. Since hitting puberty my son has become more and more reclusive. I have let him know that he can tell me anything, but he only tells me what he wants to tell me. He lets me in sometimes.
Can you buy books that help him to discuss feelings, girlfriends, etc.
If he is unwilling to talk with you as parent(s), would he talk to someone at school or through the health clinic, or a professional relationships counselor?
My son has spoken to counseloors before. He had a suicide attempt last year and was hospitlaized for a week in a mental health facility. Afterwards he had outpatient counseling. I was told he was a healthy teenager who had acted impulsively. I called a counselor today to seek guidance for myself as well as both children.
In terms of getting a grip on the scale of the problem, are you in a position to truly know whether he has done this before or not with any children, at home or elsewhere?
There was an incident before with his other younger sister (she is now aged 10). At the time my son was 10-yo and that sister was 5-yo. I thought the age difference was a gray area. It could have been experimental or a red flag. As he was only 10-yo I spoke with him about what constitutes sexual abuse and the effect it has on the victim. He was mortified and said he did not want to hurt his sister. I assured him that learning these things was just a part of growing up. I asked this sis ter if there had been any recurrence of sexual contact and she said there has not been.
Other than that I do not know. I do know that most sexual offenses go unreported, so I would not know.
Can you think of any reason why your son may have chosen a small girl
No. He claims she walked in on him masturbating and that is when he asked her if she would put his penis into her mouth. For some reason I do not entirely believe this story. Perhaps I find it odd that his initial reaction to being caught masturbating was not immediate embarrassment.
does he mix with both girls and boys of his own age?
He has had a few girlfriends. He has school aquaintances. He and his best firend have had a falling out this past year and due to the lack of supervision and some of the less than stellar activites going on in his firned's home we have prohibited our son from visiting in his friend's home. His friend has chosen not to visit my son in our home. I do not know why. I have been told it is because we do not allow minors to smoke.
does he have male friends who have girlfriends, acting as appropriate role models of a 15 year old?
I am not aware of any of his friends that are dating. My son dated a young lady for most of this past school year. He ended the relationship. He told me that he cared very much for her but was not interested in immature games, such as flirting with other boys to make him jealous. He said she always wanted him to rescue her from one thing after another and he felt drained. He told me that he wanted to date a girl who was more independent and shared his ideas of loyalty and intimacy. I thought that sounded healthy.
Does he have outside interests and activities that keep him occupied?
Yes, he plays soccer.
Does he have private access to a computer and are you aware of what he is looking at on there?
He does not have private access to our home computer. He has a myspace acct that I have access to. I have not seen anythin that would indicate any abnormal behavior.
does he lack self-confidence?
Yes and No. He knows that he is smart and athletic. He is not shy, but is not overly confident either.
is there a possibility that your son was subjected to a sexual experience as a young boy by anyone at all?
I divorced to my son's biological father when he was 2-yo. My husband (step-father) and I have raised my son since he was 4-yo. My son's biological father dated a few unsavory females immediately after our divorce. One of them lived with my ex-husband for a short period of time. My son told me that she used to kiss him like she kissed his daddy, with her tongue in his mouth. He would have about 3-31/2 yo when this happened and the girl in question had already dissapeared when my son told me about this. I could not confirm or deny anything further.
1) I would like to know if I should keep my son from being alone with his siblings and if so how can I do that without causing more harm?
2) Does this mean he is a sex offender and how is that even determined or defined?
Thanks for your answers. In terms of risk of re-occurrence, your son's previous stable relationship with an appropriate other for a period of time indicates a reduction in risk (ie. he is able to form a suitable relationship of a sexual nature). However, that this has happened before indicates an increase in the risk of it happening again. The prediction of future behaviour is always affected by previous behaviour and for it to have happened twice reveals a higher risk rate than if it had been once.
To answer your questions directly:
1) I believe that only you and your husband can make the decision as to whether you should keep your son away from your other children when not supervised. I have tried to put myself in your shoes - I feel strongly that I would not leave them in the house together without an adult present. I feel that this situation would be too risky and would worry that the temptation would be too strong for your son. I would be willing to leave them in a room if I was in the house/garden somewhere where they knew they could find me. Although this may alter my lifestyle, the thought of what may occur without my or my husband's presence would strengthen my motivation to be there. I'm afraid I would not allow him to stay with other friend's children alone either and would rather struggle through the hassle this may cause than allow another tempting situation.
It might be useful for your son to see a cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT) to help him to create what is known as an 'offence' chain - it allows him to identify and explore his risky thoughts, feelings and behaviours and to recognise and exit any risky situations that he may 'find himself' in. If you image someone who is losing weight, they may walk down a different street to avoid the bakery, take sandwiches to work to avoid the canteen, prepare a strong statement to say to themselves if someone offers them something fattening. All of these strategies take the person away from their risky places - if they identify that they often feel 'hungry' and think 'my sugars are low, I need to eat' then the alarm bells should ring in the future when they feel hungry and/or this thought arises. If they have a healthy snack in their bag, then they are prepared and can move away from the high risk situation. This is how your son can learn to manage his sexual thoughts in just the same way. It takes effort and time (as does a diet) but would be so worth it in the end. Writing a cost/benefit analysis of his behaviours would complement this work, identifying the short and long term consequences, both positive and negative. The negatives will always outweigh the positives and the short-term positives are often very short-lived, with often no long term positive benefits at all. However unpleasant the short term positives are, they should always be listed because they are the 'pull' towards carrying out the behaviour. Thinking of the negative consequences is a good way of enhancing the motivation to manage and exit the risky situations. Your son's motivations here should be strong as he has already said that he doesn't wish to harm his sisters.
This leads me to the point that your son is probably not even considering the effects on his sisters because he has somewhere in his mind that sexual behaviour with a child is ok, probably stemming from his early sexual abuse. If I was in your position, I would take my child to an EMDR therapist to allow him to unearth and let go of any subconscious beliefs, which could very well be wrapped up in his previous attempt to commit suicide. EMDR is very effective because your son doesn't need to know why he thinks the way he does (he may or may not have recollections of the incidents at 3 - 3 1/2) and he can be helped to let them go whether he is consciously aware of them or not. CBT is a more conscious type of work that helps to manage the situation. Counseling is great if the client is willing and ready to explore their thoughts, but less successful if the beliefs are hidden in the subconscious mind.
2) The definitions of a sex offender can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_abuse Look at number 4 - Child Sexual Abuse.
I would still try and steer clear of labels. Someone who tries drugs twice is not necessarily a 'drug abuser' - someone who is sexually interactive with a child twice is not a 'sex abuser'. However, the definitions above state that he is, by law. I would prefer to see your son as a child who has had his childhood disturbed by very early sexual abuse - and this has affected his sexual behaviour. However, this is what often makes a sex offender. Your son is definitely at the very start of a slippery and dangerous road - but he is only at the very starting line and I believe that any help you can get him now before he takes any more steps along the path have the chance to turn this around.
Again, I do hope this information is useful. Best Wishes,