Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse

By Todd Spaulding

How do we define sexual abuse? It’s understanding consent and coercion – or in other words understanding a power differential. Most people envision sexual abuse with someone physically bigger and stronger overpowering someone more vulnerable in order to perform a sexual act.

The vast majority of sexual abuse is grayer and less concrete. It is about games, subtle manipulation and understanding coercion. If they don’t understand the basic rules of consent and their intent is to sexually act out with someone, it can be seen more as coercion.  Not all sexual abuse is violent or physically overpowering. The media show sexual abuse as an older man sexually abusing a younger child. However, more likely it may look like an older boy going to make out with a younger girl who told him she was older and they end up having sex or one regrets their encounter more than the other because they both had different concepts of what “making out” entailed.  The problem can be that without understanding the basic rules of consent things can more easily get out of control for one or the other.  Therefore when dealing with an alleged sexual abuse it’s important to talk about the rules of consent and go over sexual disclosure to determine if there was consent in each of the sexual encounters.

The following are examples of some basic rules of consent that could be discussed:

  • Same age within two-three years of each other
  • Same level of intelligence
  • Same level emotionally
  • Permission to say no
  • Both say yes
  • Both know what is going to happen
  • Honesty
  • Affection
  • No impaired thinking


What suggestions do we give to parents when it comes to sexual abuse and prevention?

  • Talk to you children about good touching, bad touching and secret touching at a young age.
  • Teach your child the rules of consent.
  • The average age of children being exposed to pornography is around 11 yrs., so it is recommended to have conversations about pornography with children around that age.
  • If your son is enrolled in Oxbow Academy we are here to help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out to us.  We are here to support you during this difficult time and have current parents and alumni parents who are also willing to let you reach out to them to discuss your concerns or worries.

If you are a parent, what of your son’s behaviors are happening that is concerning or alarming to you?

  • Catching your son on the computer in the middle of the night?
  • Is the history erased on the family computer?
  • Is questionable content popping up on your computer?
  • Do you have friends or family or neighbors telling you they’ve noticed your son acting differently?
  • Do you find yourself questioning where your son is at, what is he really doing?
  • Is your son stealing underwear, involved in criminal behavior or legal issues beyond porn, such as inappropriate touching of younger children?


Signs of Sexual Addiction or Sexual Abuse

When you’re fighting a battle between your head and heart with what you are seeing, when you start questioning your own intuition, when  your gut is telling you something isn’t right, that may be the time to start asking your son some serious questions.


Finding Answers and the path to recovery and healing

At Oxbow Academy, we can help answer many of your questions.  We perform a 90-day, in-house, diagnostic evaluation and functional assessment that will help us determine what your son has been involved in.  At that point, we will sit down with his therapist and you to discuss our findings and develop an individualized plan of treatment that best suits your son’s needs.

We have over 20 years experience working with teens, families, and communities when it comes to treatment and recovery and would love to help you and your son find hope and healing in a safe and effective way.