Sexual Abuse among Young Children?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My 6 year old son told me tonight that one of his friends, while riding in the backseat of the car (the friend’s father was driving)put his hand in his pants and touched his penis. My son said that he asked his friend to stop and he did not stop. When asked what the friend’s father did my son said that he was driving. When I asked my son how he felt when his friend did this, he said “bad”.

There has been one other friend (also 6 years old) that while on a play-date asked my son to pull down his pants and if he didn’t he wouldn’t be his friend. I discussed this with the mother, who acted “sensitive” to the issue but nothing was never investigated and the son was just reprimanded.

Is this normal for this age or should I be worried? I haven’t suffered any sexual abuse in my life but through the media I see how rampant it is.

My son is a loving, mild mannered boy, and it is my job to protect him. What should I do?

A: Thank you for your important question. Some exploration by young children is normal. But perhaps the more important question is how your son reacts.

The find help tab at the top of the page will help you identify therapists in your area. You are looking for someone with a specialty in working with children. Often in these instances I look for somebody with expertise in play therapy and who has dealt with children who have experienced sexual abuse. You want someone with this experience in their background because the children may not have the words yet to describe all the feelings.

Your sensitivity to your son is the important element in his well-being. I would look for a professional in the area who has significant experience with children, call them so that you can establish a connection, and then watch to see if there are any mood changes or unusual reactions that your son shows. Here is a list of symptoms that you may want to watch for. If you notice any changes I would bring your child to the therapist right away.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Sep 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). Sexual Abuse among Young Children?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/09/04/sexual-abuse-among-young-children/