Reporting Child-on-Child (COCSA) & Sibling Sexual Abuse:
What Parents Should Know

Did you discover that your child sexually abused a sibling, family member, or another child? This is a nightmare scenario for any parent and one that no parent is prepared to handle independently. In this episode, therapist Tiffany Silva Herlin, LCSW, and Shawn Brooks, the executive director of Oxbow Academy, discuss what parents need to consider when reporting sibling and child-on-child sexual abuse to the authorities.

When working authorizes you should always consult a lawyer & work with a therapist who specializes in working with sibling/child-on-child sexual abuse cases, and is familiar with the specific laws in your state.

National Sexual Assault Hotline

If you are a victim of rape or sexual abuse and need assistance please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).

Trigger Warning - This podcast contains an in-depth discussion about Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse (COCSA) and may be triggering for people who've experienced a sexual assault.

Listen To the Podcast:

Therapist Tiffany Silva Herlin, LCSW, Interviews Executive Director Shawn Brooks About Reporting COCSA, Sibling Sexual Abuse, and How Parents Should Work With Authorities Upon Discovering That Their Teen Has Sexually Abused Another Child


Due to the sensitive nature of this episode, we would like to make some clarifications regarding reporting child sexual abuse.

Please first of all be aware that all clinical therapists are mandated reporters.  Depending on the state you live in, parents may be mandatory reporters as well. No one should rely on anything said in this podcast in making decisions as to whether you are a mandated reporter or not. Please consult legal counsel familiar with the laws of the jurisdiction where you reside, where the abuse occurred, and where the minor resides at the time of disclosure. You may be able to report the existence of the abuse, with the assumption that clarification of the details will come later throughout the process of the disclosure or investigation. 

Though the statute of limitations may be non-existent, by reporting abuse when the minor who perpetrated is still a minor, you increase the odds that the matter is resolved when that person is a juvenile in JV Court rather than later when an adult. If a minor perpetrates and is reported and referred for prosecution while a juvenile, the matter will likely be resolved in the juvenile court except in the most extreme situations where a possibility of transfer to an adult court exists. When a minor perpetrates and later turns 21 years old before a report is made, any prosecution that comes from that report will likely take place in the adult court with the potential for adult prison. Thus, there is some incentive to report when the person who perpetrated is still a minor to reduce the risk that the matter will be reported years later when the perpetrator is an adult. 

Please note that there are a number of possibilities of outcomes if a prosecution is initiated after a report is made, and that what we share in this podcast is not representative of all of those possible outcomes. It is just based on our personal experience which may be different from what our listeners experience.


All mentions of a clinical polygraph are used for therapeutic purposes only. Any mention of our clinical polygraph is not intended or designed for legal use. 

What You'll Learn In This Podcast:
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    Welcome back to our podcast for parents of teenage boys struggling with problematic sexual behaviors. My name is Tiffany Herlin, and I'm a licensed clinical social worker, and former therapist at Oxbow Academy. Shawn Brooks is also with us and he is the executive director at Oxbow Academy, which is a sex-specific residential treatment center for teenage boys.

    While Oxbow Academy treats a variety of problematic sexual behavioral issues in teenage boys, this series of podcast episodes is specifically to address sibling sexual abuse and COCSA. If you missed the first two episodes in this series, you can listen to them here:

    Today, we're going to be talking about a big topic that I think every parent who's in this situation, where they just found out that their son sexually acted out with a sibling, a neighbor, a family, or a friend: What about reporting to authorities? What does that look like?

    Please Consult a Lawyer

    Tiffany: Let's first start with a disclaimer. We are not lawyers. This is our general insight, and from our many years of experience with having to walk through this, basically. It's not our first rodeo. Yet at the same time, you ultimately should seek professional help from professionals in your area who have insight into your local laws and your specific circumstance. That's the bottom line with this podcast. Yet we will express and explain what we've seen and what the pros and cons are.

    When Do You Need to Report to the Authorities (Pros and Cons)

    Tiffany: So it's a really complicated, issue to approach, you know, so let's start with, what are the pros and cons?

    Shawn: Okay. So from my perspective, literally walking hundreds of families through this process. There are pros and cons, and each family is different. Each scenario is different. But what what it really boils down to is: level of risk.

    If an issue comes up, are you going to want to deal with this issue, while your child is an adolescent, or do you want to roll the dice per se and let it go, with the hopes that it doesn't bounce on them when they're adults? Because...

    Tiffany: Can you explain the statute of limitations?

    Shawn: Statute of limitation on sexual offenses, there's no statute of limitation.

    Tiffany: Well, let's explain, say someone doesn't know what that means.

    Shawn: Okay. It means that the law can pull, pull charges and bring, bring someone in and face charges of something that happened when they were in adolescence, and they're now adults.

    Tiffany: Yeah. There's no limit on the years that it happens. But as a licensed clinical professional, my license on the line. So if there's someone who comes into my office and gives me identifying information, of harm done to someone else or to themselves. Right. I legally have to report that.

    Shawn: Right. So, the pro is if you report and it's dealt with, then it can't it's not going to come up and bounce on your son or your daughter. Years down the road.
    Years down the road. Yeah.

    Tiffany: Say they're doing really well. They're in college. They've, you know, made a full recovery. They haven't re-offended, so to speak, and they're living a great healthy life. If it was not reported, the authorities can come depending on the state. Right. And the laws of the state, they're all different. Right.
    Can come and charge him as an adult, which, I mean, I think we've seen in the, you know, in today's world.

    Who Do You Report Sexual Abuse to?

    Shawn: Right. Absolutely. So the first move is who do you report to?

    The first call to state that there's been a problem is generally to Child Protective Services (CPS). Because and I'm speaking as a professional, we're not we're not responsible for doing the investigative work on something on a disclosure. If something is disclosed and it looks like that disclosure is involving, a victim then our first call is to CPS.

    It's CPS or Child Protective Services that make the decision on what they're going to do. And and and there's a couple of scenarios. It really depends on a lot of variables. One is who you get, who actually pick ups picks up the phone, yeah, on CPS. What state?

    Tiffany: Yeah. That's what I was going to say. What state? The laws are different from state to state.

    Shawn: It's really interesting how there's a state that we've reported to and basically all they wanted to know is are they going to be in a situation where they're going to babysit again?

    And we're like, no. Okay. Thank you. And that was it. They documented it. They took the report, but it didn't go anywhere from there.

    Tiffany: That's the biggest thing I think you and I have seen is that they're asking, “is the victim safe? Have the parents taken the right steps?” Now again, I'm not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice, but one thing that I've seen in a number of situations is that the parents, I believe, again, talk to a lawyer, but as a mandated reporter, I believe I have, you know, about twenty-four hours to report. Right?

    With a parent, I think, that window is wider, you know, in regards. And so ultimately, the authorities want to know if the parents have taken the right steps. So there have been some parents who do know something happened. They placed their son say at a place like Oxbow Academy to get evaluated. They separate him from the victim. They make sure the victim is taken care of. And then they call and make the report, and like you said, it doesn't go anywhere.
    Right. Because they're like, great. You took these steps. He's in a sex-specific treatment program.
    Yeah. That's where where we would want him. Right. The victim's safe, they're in therapy, then we're not going to do anything with this case.

    Shawn: When the information hits your ear as a parent, you have to start now asking yourself at what point do I want to report to this and what stance am I going to take? Where we have to rest professionals. We stay neutral in because it's really a family decision. Families have to decide.

    They just need to understand that there's pros and cons and the pro is my son's going to get the help we need, and we're going to be we're going to take action. And we're going to be in we're going to be driving the bus as parents.

    The con is we're going to kick this down the road. We're not going to report. We're just going to mitigate it and hope it doesn't bounce on him later. That's the risk.

    Tiffany: I would say another risk that you're taking is that the victim is not getting help. As a clinician from a therapeutic perspective, I often will try to help parents see all different aspects of reporting because, again, my job isn't to be a detective and to find out that information and report it. If it's reported in my office and identifiable information, yes. I want to report it. But it's not my job to seek that out.

    My job is also to advocate for my client. But at the same time, as a therapist, I'm going to guide parents through the pros and cons, and to also help the boy think about, you know, do you want to help the victim? If this goes on without being reported, is the victim really getting the help that they need or not? It's a big thing to consider.

    Shawn: And in, as professionals, sometimes the water's real muddy. Oh, absolutely. It's not an easy decision.
    And the way that it works in general, okay. So as treatment moves forward... let's just give you scenarios. Johnny is brought to Oxbow Academy.

    And we we already know some things about about what's gone on, or he wouldn't be there in the first place. So we know there's some problematic sexual behaviors going on. He'll begin to work with Tiffany as his therapist, and they'll start with a first of all, he's going to get educated on, like, here are the rules of consent.

    Here are the rules, by law, of behavior that is illegal. And the education helps develop a vocabulary, an appropriate vocabulary for what's going on. And then they will start working on their sexual history and this is important because they're just going to say, here's everything that's happened to me that I can I can serve up for my memories. Parents are involved in the process, and we really kind of put out a big net. We pull everything into the big net.

    Tiffany: Can I jump in? We don't ask for identifying information.

    Shawn: Well, that's when we get to the disclosure.

    Tiffany: Yes. Well, like, I'm not going to say, "List their name, and how you're related to them and their age."

    Shawn: So why is that?

    Tiffany: Again, it's identifiable information at this point. So what we want to know to help them at this point to heal and move forward, is if he's a boy or girl, age, and what happened?

    Shawn: So we have kind of competing forces at this point. You have Fifth Amendment Rights. Yep. Where we don't want to put a child in a situation where they can self-incriminate.

    So the parents really at the beginning of the process have a conversation with the therapist, and they have to decide which way they're going to go. Right? With their son, are they going to in the disclosure, in the sexual history, in the disclosure process, are they going to drop identifying information? With the understanding that as soon as that information hits her ears as a therapist, she has to report.

    So that's that's identifying information that is a name, you know, where they live, how they're associated, how they're related. Anything that that a therapist can go, "Okay. If I wanted to find that person, I wouldn't know how to do it."

    Tiffany: Yeah. I can identify them.

    Shawn: Or do you want to go forward with that information and give the facts without identifying information. It's kind of a touchy thing, but it's really a family decision. It's a parent's decision to do that.

    Tiffany: It is. We do leave it up to the family and parent. We guide them through the pros and the cons. What are the risks? We advise them to speak with a lawyer in their state to understand the legal ramifications of this decision. And there is no black or white what they should or shouldn't do. Right.

    Shawn: That's why I say it, at the professional level, we have to be neutral. However, talk about how it gets muddy.

    Tiffany: It does get muddy. I will have to be the first to say and be honest that I do have a bias at times, after so many years of working with this, to help the boy see the benefit at times of reporting. If it's obviously not going to put...incriminate him and put him in danger. But if this is going to help him in his recovery to heal, and help, especially the victim to heal, and help him gain empathy for that victim and allow there to not be any more secrets, then yes, I am leaning towards that.
    Does that make sense? But ultimately, though, I mean, I am human. We all are going to have biases. And so that's my honest...where I stand.
    That doesn't mean I'm going to make the parents do that.

    Shawn: As a clinician, have you ever had a scenario where the the choice going into the sexual history and the disclosure was no identifying information. But the student then begins to heal and begins to feel the importance that we we should know who, you should know who this person is. I wanted to I want to say who this person is so this person can get help. And you're you're in the middle going, the parents on one side of this saying, no, identifying information. The student or the client is on this side saying I'm I feel like I would heal better if I could just say. And so goes ahead and drops the name in in session.

    Tiffany: I have had that. And I've had parents who were upset about that. And, and at that point, my hands were tied. And it's not that I guided the boy there. It's something he came on to himself.

    I did end up reporting to the state, and it went nowhere. And I don't remember any legal ramifications from that. Nor did he have a record following him.

    Shawn: Let's talk about some of the complexities of not... in the disclosure process, not dropping identifiable information.

    What kind of a life is it for a young man and their families, when we're talking about a victim, they all know who it is. But they're not going to say. What are family reunions like? What are birthdays like? What are what is it like for that young man to be in that space with that person and know that no one else in that, no one else knows?

    Tiffany: I would argue that it's hard for them to really heal as a family and for that boy to really heal. And it's almost counterintuitive for us to be teaching them accountability and honesty when the family system and structure itself is to keep things secret.

    Yeah. Right? It's going to cause this juxtaposition for this young man to not know which world am I in, and which one do I have to live by, and what rules. Right? So it creates, I would say a lot of shame and more harm, honestly.

    Shawn: It has the potential to do so for sure.

    Tiffany: It absolutely does. Do families live that way? Yes. At times, they do.

    Clarification Process

    Shawn: The other aspect is this, Tiffany, is the next phase of treatment in the clarification process. Really hard to clarify without identifying information. Right?

    Tiffany: Yes. And it's not only hard to clarify, but it's hard to finish treatment for this young man because often some of the processes, okay, are you going to see this person again? What are the rules? How do you keep them safe? And if we can't openly talk about who that person is and create safety on both sides, not only with the young man and the parents but also the victims, whoever their parents are or family structure, then it's hard to help set up a real safety plan where everyone's safe.

    Shawn: So there is a video on Oxbow's website that really shows a family going through exactly what we're talking about. And they got to they, the way that they explained it, and we interviewed them and they were willing to tell their story. The way they explained it, the dad said, and it was so powerful that to this day I just think about it.

    He said I would rather deal with all this right now. Because what happened was this, they were in the process, and his son was getting ready to disclose some victims nobody knew about and called his dad and said, you're going to be really angry with me because I'm going to be in so much trouble. And Dad's response was "Give me all the trouble you can give me right now. I want all the trouble you can possibly give me right now because I want to deal with this right now. I don't want to deal with this down the road when you're twenty-three years old."

    And so here's the trouble that that did. (And if you really want to see courage, look at that. Look at that on Oxbow Academy's website.) They had to go to fourteen homes.

    Tiffany: Yeah. Which is a lot.

    Shawn: In their neighborhood, and to own family members, and they reported, and they went and said, you have every right to press charges. This is what has happened.

    Now, what the whole family didn't know, and even their immediate family, but the parents didn't know that this young man had been raped at four years old by a neighbor. And nobody knew this. Right? So he's carrying all this horribleness. And not just once but for years. This was happening. And so what he was experiencing is what is called sexual reactivity. He was sexually reacting to his own abuse, but it's still a painful process. And to listen to them tell their story is a powerful, powerful witness of strength, for me, that that they're willing to do this. And now that is like...that's maybe the worst possible scenario. That's like it doesn't get harder than that. Most of the time, we're not talking about that hardly at all.

    But anyway, but you can see the struggle, the horribleness of saying we are now holding this information. But part of what the father said is "I don't want to go to family reunions knowing that one of these kids running around here could be a victim. I don't want to live with that."

    And so they were able to grab courage and the video shows how difficult it was, but at the end of the day, right? At the end of that horribleness, there was healing, immense healing. Like you'd never would have gotten there without it.

    Tiffany: We obviously can't talk about the details of this young man, but he has gone on to live a life, a very normal life with a family and career and is doing well. I mean, he has his everyday struggles.

    Shawn: Well, he's a human being. He's human. You're never not going to be that.

    Tiffany: can you imagine the life that he would have had versus where he's at now if he hadn't taken care of that?

    Shawn: Well, his father said this in the video, "I was going to be either visiting my son in jail or I was going to be visiting a cemetery to visit my son. That's where my options."
    If we didn't move to correct and they they moved mountains to correct.

    Parent's Reporting Verus a Therapist Reporting

    Tiffany: Well, can I also point out how powerful it is for the boy and the parents to report versus me?

    It's going to look, again, from my experience, not a lawyer, but from what I've seen, and I've gone through with families, is it looks so much more in their favor for them to be the ones that come forward and disclose and report than me having to hold them accountable and report it.

    Finding Out the Truth

    Tiffany: Let's talk about the boys at times have fabricated what's happened. Sometimes worse, sometimes less.

    Shawn: They're they're just as likely to over-report.
    Which means they're making this stuff up. Than to underreport and conceal what has happened. And it's really kind of interesting, but in a roundabout way, it's a way of dodging accountability.

    I'd like to give you an example. So we were working with a young man, who was fourteen years old, and he started the process.
    Yeah. And he began dropping a massive amount of sexual experiences at fourteen. He had multiple, multiple sexual partners and they were generally, at with drugs and alcohol were involved.. Was at parties... Three or four pages long.

    Tiffany: It was like he were a thirty-year-old sex addict.

    Shawn: Like you're fourteen and you've already had more sexual experiences than most adult males. Okay. Our therapists started working with him and it turns out that it was all fabricated. There was nothing true in that entire disclosure. But what was true is that he was sexually abusing a sibling. Wrap your mind around that.

    If as professionals, as a clinician, you just took that first disclosure...let's let's dissect this first disclosure and let's spend a lot of time talking about it. Let's go through the details of that first disclosure. What are you doing as a therapist with this young man?

    Tiffany: Well, I mean, you're helping him understand where he has accountability. You're helping him understand the laws of consent. I mean, you're trying to get him to take ownership of what's going on.

    And in that case, I would say, we would have made no progress with him at that point. If we had moved forward with just the information he gave us.

    Shawn: You're basically solidifying a sexual arousal fantasy, and treating it as though it will us reality. And he gets to come into session, and he gets to fantasize his sexual fantasies and talk about them with you. And you as a therapist are legitimizing them like a reality.

    Tiffany: Yeah. And he still gets to continue fantasizing about a sibling and continue this awful toxic secret and continue this terrible pattern in his own family. Right. And not same the pattern that it happened in his family, but it would just continue on. Right.

    Shawn: At the end of the day, we'd be thinking, how wonderful of a therapist you are. Yeah. How good of a program we are. We really got to it.
    And we really helped him, and we're about to send him home.

    Now think about the collateral damage of we never even touched what the real issue was. And we're about to send this young man home. And we're patting ourselves on the back for it.

    Once you've had so many of those scenarios play out, as a professional, you cannot go just by what they're telling you. Because almost without fail, there's more. It's very rare for a student to come in, share his story, and it's validated with exactly what he says at the first go.

    Tiffany: I don't know if I've ever had that.

    Shawn: There's always more. And as you're piecing... putting the pieces of the puzzle together, it's the little nuggets of truth that make the thing the most important. It's like, okay, if we missed that, we would have missed the whole thing.

    It's also stressful for parents. It's so hard because parents are already struggling with what they know. And we're telling them we're going to try to find out more. I mean, that's almost unbearable.

    Tiffany: Well, it's like having a rock stuck in your hand. I mean, like, we gotta dig this out before we can numb it up. It's going to heal better once we get it out, but we can't numb it and help the pain go away until we dig it out. So it's going to get more painful before it gets better.

    Shawn: And some parents, honestly, they're like, we're not going to do that. We're just going to deal with what we know and not worry about what we don't know.

    Evaluation Process

    Shawn: The problem with that is the next phase is the evaluation. And there are a couple of principles about the evaluation that are important.

    Number one is program providers should never, never be the program evaluator. In order to get that adequate evaluation, we gotta have the truth. Part of the disclosure, the reporting, and all that really leads up to this is the truth about this young man.

    But we don't know what it means. It's really bad professionally to assume you know what it means, especially as a therapist, you're hip-deep in this with your client and their families, and you're in the worst spot possible to do an evaluation.

    Because of the conflict of interest that there opposes. There's a standard at Oxbow Academy that we believe strongly, and that is program providers should not be the evaluators.
    The evaluator needs to be a third-party person. Your job is to get the information, make sure it's accurate, and get that information to a selected psychologist or whoever's doing the testing that works for the family and your client now, not for you or for me or for the program. And then we let the chips fall where they fall.

    Tiffany: Well, and that also ties back to reporting. Ultimately, we want to make sure we have the most accurate information And then as a therapist, I know this isn't always the case for, families I've worked with before where they would have a therapist go and report without them knowing.

    And for me, that seems unethical, honestly. I'm just going to say it. It is what it is. I'm going to let the family know I need to report. I have identifying information.
    I'm going to do it on this date, and here's what I'm reporting. So that way I'm not causing again more trauma for the whole family.

    I do want to give an example of a scenario that, I think families are often scared of where I had a boy from a state that is much more proactive and involved. He had already been involved with the law, he was not adjudicated, but he'd come to us and already had some pending charges. And was so scared to report because he knew he had the law involved, and they actually were pushing to put him on the sex offender registry list, which in my opinion, it's awful.

    He was fourteen or he was and he was anywhere from twelve to fourteen. He was young, young, you know, and so they were trying to already push him to put him on. So he was terrified to and he failed multiple polygraphs. Because he was terrified that this information that he had sexually acted out with, a family member who was younger than him was going to go on his record and just you know, put a nail in his grave.

    And ultimately, what happened is that the family did report it. And it did come out and he finally passed his polygraph. And Oxbow Academy and as a therapist we were able to advocate for this young man not to be put on the sex offender registry, to not be charged. He was on probation, even after he successfully completed treatment, but he has gone on to be doing well and to live a life that he had a very slim chance of living.

    Shawn: The program should have the data that is collected and analyzed to show a reduction of sexual risk. So when so for example, when the initial Psychosexual is done and recommendations are made for treatment. And let's say those recommendations are that he completes, like, sex-specific treatment. Yeah.

    There's there has to be a way that the data shows and a post, which is called a post-SBRA, which is after treatment, he's tested again.
    And it show and that should show to the courts we had that he, through the process, has reduced his level of sexual risk. And honestly, that is what the court wants. Most courts.

    Tiffany: They don't want him to go out and re-offend. Right. Ultimately. So when you're reporting and you're worried about this, what the court is, is he a risk to re-offend? Is the victim safe? Are you getting the help? Are you reducing the risk? I mean, that's ultimately when you think about this scary thing of reporting. That's what we're looking at. Right.

    And again, we are not lawyers. We are sharing just examples and experiences that we have gone through in our many years in this field of what could and couldn't happen. The states vary, the laws vary, and ultimately, it's not our first rodeo walking families through it. So helping families feel safe and knowing what's going to come next and not blindside them through this process is really important.

    Shawn: Very important.

    The Difference Between Treating Adults & Adolescents

    Shawn: So there's there's something that's really important to understand about this particular issue, and that is the difference that it is between adults and adolescents.
    So a lot of times, even from the very beginning, my career going back thirty years,

    Early in my career, there really weren't established adolescent sex-specific treatment protocols. It was all adult-driven, they take the adult model and they drop it on the adolescents.

    We tend to do that all the time because most of the research is with adults. First of all, it's ineffective. It also takes the idea that the approach is for an individual who has a higher probability of failure.

    What are the Success Rates of Sex-Specific Treatment?

    Shawn: I get asked this by parents all the time, "Well, what are the success rates? What's what can I hope for?" Because, in their mind, they're hearing I've heard that once you have a negative sexual arousal, you always have that arousal, and you always pose a threat. Because that's what the adult system is.

    Tiffany: Well, and they're thinking of that, you know, you think about a river, if the stream going down a mountain, the more water that goes down, the deeper it gets becomes a river, and the more that's how your brain is as an adult. Right. So if you're constantly being aroused by the same thing over and over again that's deviant, it's going to be harder to change course.

    Shawn: Especially when you move into adulthood. Right?

    Tiffany: Yeah. But totally different for an adolescent. Their templates much more broad and less established.

    Shawn: Exactly. And their arousal patterns or we like to call them arousal templates, are very flexible. You know, so it's flexible in the sense that their arousal templates are very fluid. They could feel one way and then, down the road, they could feel differently.

    So our goal is this, we are working to reduce the effects of a negative sexual arousal pattern or sexual arousal template. And with adolescents, it's not it's not that difficult. Well, it's difficult, but not like an adult.

    If you're working with the same behaviors with a fourteen-year-old, same things that were done, and now you're also working with a thirty-three or a forty-three-year-old, okay, it's way way different. The thirty-three / forty-three-year-old, I like to say their sexual arousal template is pretty baked.

    Tiffany: It's pretty set in stone.

    Shawn: With an adolescent, it is not. So when you look at the outcomes, which is the most important aspect of treatment, is what is the outcome?
    You're looking at ninety-three percent success rates. With adults, it's less than thirty percent. Yeah. So that's where we where parents are so afraid of this issue is, it's not treatable. They're in there and there's the relapse is almost inevitable. But the truth of the matter is that isn't true with adolescents. It is quite treatable.

    Tiffany: I think that's the scary part of having to report. Having a son sexually acting out with a younger sibling, friend, whoever, it's easy for parents to go to this adult mindset of, "My kid's a pedophile, and he's going to go to jail and there's no future for him." In reality, if we look at the therapeutic aspect of this, a fourteen-year-old acting out with a six-year-old is very different from a thirty-year-old acting out with a nine-year-old.

    There is a big difference between reporting a thirty-year-old who has an established arousal template and reporting a fourteen-year-old. Now there are some states that are not as, I would say, as educated and aware. Especially if your kid has Autism (ASD) or is on the spectrum. That's a whole other conversation we'll save for later, but it's helping the courts and the legal system understand and advocating for these students that his arousal template isn't set.

    This doesn't necessarily mean he's going to continue this behavior down the road. And there is hope and healing because he's so young because it's not so established. Versus someone who's forty and has a much more experienced path.

    Shawn: Well, it has a much more concrete arousal pattern.

    So the reality is it's not just us saying that the research bears that out is that high success rates with adolescents, not so much with adults. Part of that is because adolescents don't want to have it either.

    Tiffany: Yeah, no one wants this.

    Shawn: Like, most boys I work with are, like, I'd rather not have this issue. I'd rather not have done the things I've done, and I really wanted not to ever do them again. So they're they're a lot more a lot more amiable towards the techniques and methods of treatment to help them alleviate that risk.

    With adults, they may or may not have those feelings. They might say, I wish I wouldn't have done that, but my arousal pattern is my arousal pattern. I'm always going to be aroused by that thing, which happens to be illegal. Whereas with adolescents, not so much.

    Tiffany: There's this more mindset for adults of I am who I am at that point. Versus helping our adolescent boys understand that they can be someone different, they still have growth.

    The Importance of Early Intervention & Program Completion

    Shawn: I just want to add one more thing. This is the variable that matters most in treatment. The data that shows the best outcomes are those ones where the adolescents actually complete the treatment.

    And, also earlier intervention. This is widely known. It's the same for chemical addiction or drug addiction. The earlier the intervention, the more successful the treatment. But if you have a family and a student or a young man that enters treatment, for whatever reason, and he doesn't finish...

    Tiffany: Or you pull them out early.

    Shawn: Or he gets pulled out early because it becomes too tense, or maybe there's just a resource issue, then the outcomes are not favorable. It's just like if you go into a program for relapse or for drug addiction, and you check yourself out. Or you got pulled before you even finished. Okay, super, super high rates of relapse. Well, it's no different than that.

    Boys that complete treatment, are more likely to have the highest outcomes, positive outcomes. They are much less likely to reengage in the behaviors that brought them into treatment. Now are they still knuckle-headed teenagers? Absolutely, because they need to be.

    Tiffany: We can't guarantee we're going to give you a fully grown non-knuckle-headed teenage boy.

    Shawn: I guarantee we won't. I tell parents at the end of this, you're getting the knucklehead back. You're not getting an adult. That's your job. Your job is to take your child to adulthood. Our job is to help him extinguish the behaviors that brought him.

    Tiffany: To get him back on the normal path.

    It Starts With Understanding That There is Hope

    Shawn: So Look, it it really does start with understanding. Most parents just don't have this understanding. And so when an event happens in their home, it's like all that they've ever been told about this issue starts to come to bear. And the anxiety and the fear of the worst possible scenario play out. I would just like to say, you need you need to understand there is hope. That even if it's even if it's the issue is really a difficult one to face, you're dealing with an adolescent. There's hope. There's always hope.

    If you're dealing with your son, that's now forty-three, okay, I'm one that always wants to hold hope, but it's pretty slim.

    Tiffany: If you're your probability of change is low at that point. There is hope and reporting to authorities can be absolutely terrifying and scary. And again, your mind can jump to all the worst-case scenarios. Step back, hit the pause button, reach out to your local professionals, and know that if your son were to come to a place like Oxbow we would be able to help guide you through the process as well from a clinical perspective.

    When Grandparents Are in the Parent Position

    Shawn: Can I add an element that's not talked about very much? Yeah. Absolutely. And that we're seeing more and more of. That is grandparents.
    Grandparents being in the parent position. Grandparents who are now responsible for their grandsons.

    Tiffany: Because the parents aren't in the picture.

    Shawn: Or for whatever scenario, they now are raising their grandchildren. It is heartbreaking because for me, watching and helping a grandparent navigate through these complexities from and they are generations away from the knowledge that we have now.

    Tiffany: They just feel so overwhelmed. And lost and hopeless.

    Shawn: And they're just like, "I don't understand what's going on. What do I do?"

    And grandparents tend to blame themselves more than any other that somehow they're responsible for this.

    Tiffany: I just want to give them all a big hug.

    Shawn: And it's so really tough on them.

    Tiffany: You did the best you could, and this is so out of your hands, stop beating yourself up.

    Shawn: So if you're a grandparent listening to this, I think what we've said still applies.

    The Healing Journey is Necessary, But Not Fun

    Shawn: You still have to understand the complexities of the situation. You still have to get engaged emotionally, and you still have to walk the path to health. And it's not a pretty path,  it's all uphill up to a certain point. And it's rocky.

    Get away from this idea that somehow your son or your grandson needs to be in a place where he's "happy" and where he's going to have a lot of "fun" and there's not going to be a lot of clinical work...

    Tiffany: Just send them to Disneyland. Right? Doesn't that solve it?

    Shawn: I think it would be great if that really solved it. I wish that were the case. It's just simply not the case.

    Tiffany: It would make my job easier.

    Shawn: But for grandparents, it just seems like it's even more difficult. Yeah. Because they're dealing with complexities like technology.

    Tiffany: Like I feel overwhelmed by technology, and I grew up with it.

    Shawn: You were born in the age of technology.

    So just know if you're a parent or grandparent listening to this discussion, we get you, we understand how difficult it is. There is always hope, but you do have to move. You do have to take action, and you do have to engage on an emotional level.

    Healing Requires Emotional Vulnerability

    Shawn: So the reason I say that is because treatment, especially with sex-specific treatment, is not a cognitive exercise. It may start out with grasping understanding and using the cognitive process to get principles of treatment, but it doesn't really advance cognitively. It's an emotional exercise.

    And this is where we run into some difficulties because in order for anyone to gain competency, they have to be vulnerable. Emotional vulnerability, which I know is another podcast, but I'm going to say that anyway. Vulnerability is a key aspect of treatment.

    And so grandparents and parents struggle with that understanding. They would really like for their son just to talk about it and be done with it so they can be over it. But it's not that way at all.

    As a therapist, what role does the reporting the prep work for the clinical polygraph and the evaluation? What roles does all that work in gaining vulnerability with your clients?

    Tiffany: You have to be heart mind and body connected to do the real healing. Otherwise, you're going through the motions and it's not going to be lasting change. Does that make sense?

    Well, let's wrap up this podcast because we are going to jump ahead. Know that coming next, we're going to be talking about what do you do to find help.
    And then ultimately, is that help treatment? And then what does treatment look like?

    So that's what is coming ahead. Stay tuned. We're excited to jump to all those different topics that are so important, especially if you're listening to this podcast. So thanks for joining us.

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