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2002 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 7, No. 2
May 2002

Sex Offending Behaviors in Juveniles: What to Look For

“Private parts” in the items below is taken to mean the genitals and genital areas, the area around the anus and buttocks, and the breasts of a female. It also should be noted that many (but not all) of the behaviors below would be considered sex offenses if they were engaged in by an adult.

Sexual Abuse

These behaviors qualify as sexual abuse:

  • Touching another’s private parts against that person’s will, either with hands, objects, or one’s own genitals—either with or without clothing on either person
  • Rape
  • Touching the private parts of a person significantly younger (e.g., a 13-year-old girl touching the genitals of an 8-year-old boy). When children close to the same age participate in voluntary sexual activity, this is not considered a sexual offense unless one of the children is unable to give or refuse consent (such as having a severe disability, being asleep, etc.)
  • Exposing self to another person without consent, or to a much younger child
  • Forcing another person to watch one masturbate
  • Repeated acts of voyeurism
  • Forcing another person to look at pornography, or showing pornography to a much younger child
  • Taking pornographic pictures of a child

May or May Not Be Sexual Abuse

These behaviors may or may not be considered sexual abuse—opinions vary—but they are serious and unusual enough to warrant attention:

  • Speaking to a younger child in an obscene fashion (sexualized language)
  • Public masturbation
  • Injuring the genitals of another person by kicking or hitting with an object
  • Kissing someone without consent, or kissing a much younger child
  • Other quasi-sexual touching of non-private areas
  • Cybersex or downloading pornography, especially “kiddie porn”

Warranting Attention

These behaviors are not sexual abuse, but deserve attention:

  • Possession of large quantities of pornography, or use of pornography at an age before puberty
  • Early consensual sexual activity
  • Bragging about sex
  • Calling “900” (sex talk) numbers
  • Threats and intimidation of younger children
  • Close, friendly relationships with much younger children and a lack of friendships with peers
  • Frequent deceitfulness and lying
  • Physical abuse of others
  • Knowledge of sexuality unexpected for one’s age
(Sources: Fehrenbach et al., 1986; Johnson, 1988; Berliner, 1995)