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Ask Sarah Your Own Question
Sarah, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 143
Experience:  Chart'd Psych, 12 yrs exp. English prisons, Clinical Hypnotherapist, EMDR Therapist, BPS, HPC reg'd.
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How much testing and information is available to a parent

Customer Question

How much testing and information is available to a parent whose teenager has been accused of molestation to see how far on the spectrum their behavior falls?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Sarah replied 7 years ago.
hi Prudence,
I am not quite sure what you mean by 'testing' but you may wish to read the legal definitions relating to sex offending at the following website:
It must be very difficult to be addressing this as parents and I think it is wise to find out as much information as you can. however, I am unsure whether it is the most useful strategy to apply labels such as molester and to debate whether or not your son falls into this category. Your son has clearly done something that he should not have been doing, and for a long period of time. He has been strong enough to admit (at least some of) his behaviour and to talk to his counselor about this. I have considerable experience working with people who have committed sex offenses and I would consider the issue of 'whether or not he is a molester' to be what we would call a cognitive distortion - it allows your son to compare his behaviour against that of others and conclude that he may not be as bad as others, yet with all due respect, this is kind of a distraction from his behaviour and he needs to be focusing upon what he has done and how he can learn to acknowledge and manage that for the future. Another reason why I would avoid labels is that your son is still your son, no matter what labels he attains, and the danger is that negative labels can easily outweigh more positive labels, so that your son may find it difficult to function with a label such as molester, because he can see no further than that. Write out a list of positives you would use to describe your son and if he is willing to, get him to do the same. It sounds as if he has a lot of soul searching to do over the next few months and he will need all the support from you that he can get - try and remember the good points about him and get him to do the same. Yes, he has to take responsibility for his own behaviour (as we all do) and I would imagine this will bring him down low. labels such as molester have the power to destroy, but he has his whole life ahead of him to change that around, given the right therapy and support, without forgetting that he has to do this himself. I do hope that is helpful for you. Best wishes to you and your family right now, Sarah
Customer: replied 7 years ago.


Thank you for your input especially about the labeling.

The young man in question is my nephew and the young girl is my teenage daughter who is his cousin.

I was really trying to understand the implications of what he has done in regards ***** ***** much of a sexual offender he could possibly be. He has not offered any apology for what has been happening over the years which makes me think he is not owning it.

My sister and I have been very close but i am concerned that she sees these incidents between the two cousins as mutual sexual behavior instead of molestation.

This has been going on since my daughter was three and he six or since ever she can remember. Of course this means it was possible for some other person being involved or some pornography.

She has also said that even though she has said no he tried to do things to her even while at a Christmas party or Easter gathering. I am concerned as he turns eighteen soon that since she has said no will he go after others. Are there different levels of sexual difficulties ?

Expert:  Sarah replied 7 years ago.
hi Prudence,
I must first apologise for getting the dynamics of the family the wrong way round. I understand now where you are coming from. Your daughter has been very brave to tell you and you are doing the right thing to listen and support her. There is no 3 year old who would be able to consent to any sexual behaviour, without question. She says she has told her cousin no and he has continued. He has always been 3 years old than her. he is without doubt, the guilty party. Your daughter may have some thoughts questioning herself about whether she deserved it, encouraged it, even wanted it, or enjoyed it, but I would like to say that it is very normal for a 'victim' to think in these terms and the answer is always that she was not guilty. When people do this to another person, especially someone younger, they 'groom' the child to make them think that way, trying to make them believe that they are an interested party. This is really the offender making cognitive distortions of the truth in order for them to feel better about themselves and to continue doing what they are doing. They often don't understand that they have done this, so whether it is consciously planned is debatable, but they obviously remain responsible for it.
in terms of progression of offending, there are boundaries that offenders cross and become more high risk with each boundary that they cross. Abuse within the family is often where it starts, (possibly now that the internet is so easy to get into it could have started there, although we are talking a few years ago in this instance). If the offender offends against someone known to them but outside the family, the population at risk becomes broader to them, so their risk of re-offending is considered to rise. if that person offends against a stranger, then their target base becomes even broader and their risk is even higher. The content of the actual abuse is also important in terms of measuring risk - ranging from verbal, non-participatory, taking photographs, right through touching, making them do things, through to rape. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour and you're right to consider how much this person shows regret and remorse, because without them, he is unlikely to stop, as he is unwilling/unable for whatever reason to take responsibility. He really needs sex offend therapy to help him to understand the situation from the victim perspective and to enable him to manage hi behaviour in the future.
I would agree that you are right to be concerned by your sister's inability to see the seriousness of this - that her son was behaving in a sexual way at age 6 should be very concerning and I would be very concerned about why this had happened in the first place. it will be very difficult for your sister as she will want to think good of her son (and she will need to in order to support him, as listed in my previous email) but this only really works as support if the person is willing to take responsibility for their own behaviour, otherwise it becomes more of a cover up, a joint acceptance that all is ok, when it clearly isn't.
I would need more information about your nephew to know whether or not there will be other victims now that your daughter has said no, such as does he have a girlfriend, can he relate well to people of his own age, does he access to children younger than himself, perhaps through his job, swimming baths, etc. etc. he may well be doing this to others as well as your daughter, or it may be that your daughter was the only one and he wont have the call to seek this elsewhere. The one guarantee if he seeks out further girls is that it is in absolutely no way your daughter's fault and she has to believe that. If your daughter has not had therapy, I would recommend that she does, as she may have absorbed beliefs about herself as a result of this even if she says she is OK. i would recommend EMDR, which is a trauma therapy, which digs deep and will do no harm if there is nothing to dig for. have a look on the website for info and a therapist local to you if you think it would be helpful. i hope this gives you some of the information that you are seeking. Best Wishes, Sarah
Sarah and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.


This young man is very quiet and does have a problem with communication. I think it is the way he processes things but he has always seemed so sweet. His stepfather mentioned that what was a positive, being good with children, before this incident may not be so great now. He does not have nor had a girlfriend. In fact he spends too much time around his mom. His dad died when he was 4 and his sister 3.

From what you mentioned about the cognitive info from my daughter i see what you are saying. He denied trying to kiss my daughter's girlfriend after my daughter said no. He is another state than us but i would like to work together as a family to help. Is this possible?

Can various members of the family, extended, help with their relationship with this young man so that my sister does not feel isolated and therefore keeping it more secret?

Thank you for your info.

Expert:  Sarah replied 7 years ago.
hi there,
thanks for your question. The fact that your nephew has communication problems, no sign of a girlfriend past or present, and being good with children, all ring alarm bells for me I am afraid. This is because these behaviours would all help him to being able to communicate well offers the opportunity to bring about relationships with his peers, having a girlfriend shows that it is possible and being good with children brings him back to his target audience. I am going to write some things in this email that may seem very blunt, but I will explain myself as I go along. Your nephew's ability to be good with children is an absolute no-no. He has to learn how to not be with children when no-one else is present. He has to learn what are called risky thoughts, risky feelings and risky behaviours, he has to learn what are risky situations and he has to learn how to avoid, control and to exit such situations. He has to learn how to manage his behaviour so that no other children become victim to his sexual behaviour. He will only learn this if he is willing to accept responsibility and show remorse for his previous behaviour. you ask if it is possible to support your nephew and your sister as a family. it is possible to support, but unfortunately not possible to do this for him; if your nephew is willing to seek therapy and to seriously flow this through, then yes, you can support your family. If your nephew sees no wrong in what he has done and has no intention of seeking help, then you cannot be supportive because he isn't in a position to be supported. if your nephew is saying that he is sorry and won't do it again, but doesn't need therapy, I afraid my view would be that this is Insufficient to change his desires and his behaviours and would suggest that he intends to continue without interference or attention from anyone. With regards ***** ***** is secret, my view would be that you have to think very carefully about what you are keeping secret. If your nephew is supported by therapy and is truly trying to change, then you may feel more positive about keeping it secret -if he has no intention addressing his beliefs and behaviours, then my view would be 'what are you keeping secret?'. It's not just some information that someone doesn't want someone else to know, it is a behaviour that directly affects the public, where children are simply not safe in your nephew's presence. To consider the worst case scenario, let's say that your nephew abused another child and went to court - and your family members were questioned about his behaviour. How would you feel about saying, well yes, I knew he had done this before. To keep it secret doesn't stop the harm, it allows it to grow. But you are not responsible for this, your nephew is and if he will participate in therapy, then you can support him. And I honestly believe that if you are willing to support him when your daughter has been involved in this, then he is a very lucky man and you are truly a terrific aunt. I truly hope your sister appreciates your attitude towards this and is willing to encourage your son to seek the therapy that he desperately needs.
There are other bits of info that come to mind - is there any doubt about whether your niece has been affected? I know she isn't your child, but this should be investigated and your niece should be supported if so. I am sorry to say this, but given the information that you gave in the last email, I wonder how seriously your sister would take this information if she was aware of it. I sincerely ***** ***** your sister hasn't been aware of more and has allowed it to happen. Forgive me for saying that, but to truly assess your nephews risk, it needs to be asked and answered. your nephew may require bereavement counseling should the death of his dad be an issue. This is no excuse for his inappropriate sexual behaviour, but it may help him to reach an even ground. Is there any information that suggests that your nephew may have been touched inappropriately in the past? This can certainly affect later sexual behaviour and would suggest that your nephew needs to tackle this also in therapy.
Lastly, there is a measure that can be taken of your nephews sexual arousal to certain images, including adult and child images, called the Penile Plesythmograph (PPG). it literally measures the amount of arousal in the penis by growth in circumference when the images are presented. It is used for information presented to the courts but I have no idea if this is available on request outside of the court system. You could search for more local info on the net. It would tell you whether his sexual desires are actually stimulated by images of young girls, which is high risk, or whether they are stimulated by appropriately aged girls, which might suggest that his problems are more conversational, confidence based issues that can be improved and practiced, so his sexual desires can be met more appropriately. He will need to learn to manage this and manage it for a very long time. I cannot tell you how much I admire your attitude and hope your sister is able to appreciate your support. With Best Wishes, Sarah