Therapeutic Boarding School

Treating Teen Sexual Assault

Sexual assault crosses all ages, gender, race, ethnicity and economic backgrounds

Teen Sexual Assault Treatment

Teen Sexual Assault: Consent or Coercion?

Talking with your child about sex might not be the most comfortable discussion for either of you, but it's extremely important that parents help their children understand, identify and report sexual abuse or sexual assault. Teen sexual assault is sexual contact that a child or teenager does not consent to. Agreeing to sexual contact under emotional or physical pressure is considered coercion. Parents should discuss with their children the differences in consent, coercion and other topics related to sexual abuse or assault.

Sexual abuse does not always include intercourse. It might include unwanted contact with any private area on the body (breasts, genitals or buttocks). After an assault, children and teens often blame themselves, feel ashamed, angry, sad, anxious or worry that they will get in trouble, especially if alcohol or drugs were involved. Parents report a sudden change in behavior that they cannot pinpoint a reason. Should the change involve risky behaviors and outpatient therapy seems to be failing, therapeutic treatment in a residential setting should be considered.

Residential treatment temporarily removes the teen from family and friends (sometimes well-meaning but unhelpful) so that they can work through the process of identifying the core issue driving negative feelings and behaviors. Working through these feelings with a licensed mental health professional is an important part of the healing process and allows them to move forward in a positive way.

How Common is Teen Sexual Assault?

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, teen sexual assault is common:

  • One in four teen girls was verbally or physically pressured into having sex during the past year.
  • One in 10 high school girls—and one in 20 high school boys—reported being forced into sex.
  • More than one third of acquaintance rape victims are between the ages of 14 and 17.
  • One in three teens is a victim of sexual or other abuse by a dating partner each year.
  • About 9% of high school students are physically hurt—on purpose—by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Almost 20% of college women reported experiencing sexual assault on campus.

Treatment Benefits after Sexual Assault

Counselors at Elk River Treatment Program report that is not uncommon for parents to report suspicion of sexual abuse or assault, but more often than not, parents place their child in a residential setting due to the teen's defiant behavior, self-injury, depression, anxiety - often co-occurring with substance abuse. Elk River clinicians warn that these "behaviors" are symptoms, or indicators, of underlying issues that the child either does not recognize or does not wish to reveal to a parent.

Once a child settles in at Elk River Treatment Program and develops a trusting relationship with his or her treatment team, revelations of sexual abuse or assault are sometimes recalled or reported for the first time. The event and feelings about the event can be processed with supervision of the child's primary therapist in a safe, residential setting. It's an enormous burden lifted from the victim and often treatment can move forward in a positive direction.