Approve your teenage daughters' date

Sexual assault by adolescents

In all more massive forms of sexual assault, both the victim and the perpetrator need extensive support (counseling or therapy) that parents cannot provide on their own.

Facts and figures on sexual assault among adolescents

Expressing the frequency of sexual violence among young people in numbers is difficult, as many attacks remain in the so-called "dark field", ie are not publicly known or reported.

According to police crime statistics, in which all reported crimes are recorded, adolescents and adolescents are the suspects in around a fifth of all reported sexual crimes - with a clearly increasing trend. In almost 20% of all cases, adolescents are also suspected of sexual abuse of children. It is known from studies with adult sex offenders that many of them committed sexual assault in childhood and adolescence. Male adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18 represent a high-risk group. They are disproportionately represented in the police crime statistics as suspects of sexual offenses in relation to their share in the total population.

Often times, sexual assaults are carried out by boys or men, less often by girls or women. At the moment, however, it is unclear whether there is actually an increase in sexual violence among young people or whether the willingness to report has increased due to the increasing awareness and removal of taboos about sexual violence and more cases are becoming known as a result.

While girls and boys are roughly equally affected in sexual assaults among children, the proportion of girls affected increases significantly in sexual assaults among young people. Studies have shown that more than half of girls and young women and around one third of boys and young men between the ages of 17 and 20 have had involuntary sexual experiences with their peers. The victims are mostly known to the perpetrators: (Ex-) relationship partners, friends from the clique, acquaintances, but also siblings and other relatives. On the other hand, sexual assaults by strangers are less common.

Why do sexual assaults occur? Background and risk factors that favor sexual assault

Just as there is no such thing as sexually assaulted youth, there is no explanation for sexual assault. Sexual border violations among adolescents arise from the interplay of various factors:
♦ Social factors
♦ Individual factors
♦ Developmental factors

The question of the influence of the media on the sexuality of young people is often asked, but cannot be answered clearly.

The fact is that young people today grow up in a society where media is ubiquitous. Adolescents are usually well equipped with cell phones, computers, televisions, games consoles, etc. Access to pornographic content on the Internet is child's play for them and the consumption of pornography is a matter of course and normal for many young people today. The songs of the “porn rappers”, some of which even land on the index because of their misogynistic and violent lyrics, are especially popular with boys. Even if most adolescents are quite critical of this content, predominantly reject the representation of sexual violence and the consumption of porn does not automatically lead to an acceptance of sexual violence, the excessive consumption of (hard) pornography can still have an extremely negative effect on the ideas about sexuality and attitudes towards it .

Sexual assaults in adolescence take place in a development phase in which adolescents have to master various challenges: breaking away from their parents, preparing for the job, building friendships with their peers and partnerships as well as developing their own - also sexual - identity.

And that also includes trying out, experimenting and testing limits. It is therefore not surprising that young people in particular show an increased problem and risk behavior. However, there are often gender-specific differences in shape and form: Boys are more likely to develop alcohol and drug consumption, aggression and dominance behavior, while girls are more likely to develop depression, self-harming behavior or anxiety and eating disorders. This is a description of tendencies; this does not rule out that there are also boys with depression and girls with aggressive and violent behavior.

The peer group, the clique of peers, which is becoming increasingly important for young people, has a strong influence on attitudes and behavior, e.g. with regard to alcohol or drug consumption, rule violations, violence, pornography consumption or the extent and timing of sexual experiences.

In group activities (e.g. in the context of school, the sports club or at private meetings), encouraging individual group members can develop a dynamic in which young people are led to sexual acts that they actually did not want. Young people more or less voluntarily take part in group snogging, stripping, masturbating together, gang bang and the like, or they take part in sexual acts that violate the boundaries of others, such as "pinching eggs", making and distributing intimate films by others without being noticed to rape.

Only a few young people manage to escape the pressure of the group. Usually young people participate or do not intervene in the event of border violations. They want to belong and not look like spoilsport and justify themselves by saying that “everything was just fun”.

Sexual boundaries are violated not only in groups, but also in love affairs between teenagers - often from initially amicable situations. On the one hand, young people want to test their (sexual) attractiveness and are curious about their first sexual experiences. On the other hand, many are unsure how far they want to go here and now and how they can make this clear to their counterparts. This can lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations. If the flirtation, the smooching, the petting go further than expected, it is difficult to say “no” clearly or to understand the other person's “no”. Especially if early or frequently changing sexual relationships are advocated in the peer group.

However, adolescents are sometimes forced to engage in sexual acts by their partners through targeted use of manipulation, blackmail or violence - including the widespread threat of “breaking up”.

All of the influences described above can then lead to sexual violence with a higher probability if young people are already stressed otherwise - through difficult family circumstances, personal victim experience, lack of contact with peers, low self-esteem, early onset of puberty, lack of sex education or a lack of impulse control and empathy .

What can parents do to prevent sexual transgressions among young people?

Even if it doesn't seem easy, there is a lot that parents can do to prevent sexual assault among teenagers.

The best protection against violating sexual boundaries is a strong self-confidence. And parents can encourage this through an upbringing that takes the needs and feelings of their children seriously, respects boundaries and supports independence and self-determination.

Parents always have an important role model for their children - they set an example of how relationships can be shaped, how needs, feelings, limits and conflicts can be dealt with. Through loving, appreciative and considerate interaction between all family members, children and young people learn to pay attention to feelings and limits - their own as well as those of others.

This also applies to puberty - an intense and exciting time for children and parents, because the girls and boys change not only physically, but also mentally and mentally. They are in the process of consolidating their identity, becoming independent and growing into the adult world. This also includes trying things out, making your own experiences, doing “unreasonable things” and crossing borders. Nevertheless, parents are still responsible for protecting their children and must take action if they are in serious danger.
Here parents have to find the difficult balance between letting go and giving support or protection.

Even if the influence of peers increases in the course of puberty and the opinion of the clique becomes more important for young people, most of them continue to orientate themselves towards the attitude of their parents - also in the areas of body, relationship and sexuality: parents should take advantage of this opportunity! Because an open and comprehensive sex education is the essential basis for preventing sexual violations of boundaries among young people.

For this, young people need parents who accompany them in their (sexual) development and stand by their side as conversation partners and knowledge mediators and give them orientation without restricting them. The attitude of adolescents to sexuality is not only shaped by the experiences they have with their body, with sexuality and relationships, but also by attitudes and values ​​that parents convey to them. Therefore, parents should talk to their children about difficult topics in addition to the classic educational topics. Difficult questions challenge parents to first think about their own attitude towards the topic. Occasions such as films, lyrics, video clips or reports about stars and starlets in the rainbow press can be suitable occasions for such a conversation.

Good questions are, for example:

  • What does "being beautiful" mean for you or me, what is considered beautiful
  • on television and the internet?
  • What makes a “real” man, a “typical” woman from your point of view?
  • How do I get to know a girl / a boy?
  • Where and how often do I meet him or her?
  • What do we do together?
  • What forms of contraception are there?
  • What sexually transmitted diseases are there?
  • How do I feel about pornography?
  • Are women “always ready” and like to be “taken hard” like in porn? How about masturbation, is that normal?
  • Who do I love or do I find sexually stimulating - girls, boys, or both?
  • How do I know if the other person likes something or not?
  • How, where and why do sexual boundaries and assaults occur?
  • What can I do if I get into a difficult situation?

Through such conversations, young people can reflect on their values ​​and attitudes and acquire reality-related knowledge about sexuality. You learn to speak appropriately about sexuality. This helps to learn how to build a respectful relationship and to be able to express sexual needs appropriately. These are important protective factors, especially in teenage relationships.

In addition, certain courses, e.g. offers for self-defense or self-assertion, can help you to trust your own inner voice, to recognize the beginning of border violations at an early stage and to take adequate protective measures more quickly. Unfortunately, even good courses cannot guarantee one hundred percent protection against sexual assault, but they at least increase the ability to get help.

What can parents do when teenagers are sexually assaulted?

When parents learn of sexual assault among teenagers, they often feel overwhelmed and do not know what to do. They underestimate their ability to provide protection on the one hand and to set limits on the other. Parents have to face their responsibility and make the most of their possibilities.

It is important for those affected to receive protection and support. Assaulting young people can be stopped in their actions through clear intervention by their parents. Therefore, parents should always intervene, even in the case of seemingly harmless (verbal) sexual assault, and take a clear position against sexual violence. They make it clear to young people that violating sexual boundaries is no fun and will not be tolerated by them.

What to do if your child has been sexually assaulted

Many parents do not know how to react if their daughter or son reports sexual assault by their peers. The same rules apply here as are recommended for other attacks:

  • Keep Calm.
  • To listen.
  • Take seriously.
  • Believe.
  • Don't trivialize.
  • Ask about the needs.
  • Offer help.
  • Coordinate all further measures.
  • If necessary, provide support from a specialist agency for the young person and for yourself.

Affected adolescents can react very differently to experiencing sexual violations of boundaries: Some withdraw, develop school problems or fears, others in turn react aggressively to their immediate environment, enter into alternating sexual contacts, etc.

It is therefore important to take the help given to those affected at least as seriously as the punishment of the perpetrator. In the case of sexual assault, those affected often experience massive feelings of devaluation, powerlessness and (supposed) guilt.

In some cases it is important to get a medical examination. This can be done, for example, by a gynecologist or in a clinic. There is no obligation to report, but should be considered if the person concerned so wishes. However, it is advisable to first weigh up the benefits and possible burdens for affected young people with a specialist advice center.
You will find information on appropriate specialist advice centers in the “Advice and action” section at the end of this brochure. An advertisement can have a signal effect for abusive young people: "What I did was wrong!"

What can parents do if their child has been sexually assaulted?

For parents it is usually shocking and at the same time incomprehensible when they learn that their child is alleged to have committed sexual violence. It is understandable that parents of violent adolescents tend to deny or trivialize the unbelievable. They may secretly wonder what they did wrong and are afraid of being blamed for their child's behavior or being stigmatized as a family.

Since the adolescents themselves are usually not ready to admit the assaults and take responsibility for their actions, the parents of assaulted adolescents are emotionally faced with the great challenge of taking the allegations seriously and still not rejecting their child. Nevertheless, it is important to make it unmistakably clear to the abusive young people that violating sexual boundaries is not okay.

In the case of repeated or more massive sexual assault, educational measures by the parents are definitely not sufficient. The fact that young people understand the injustice of their actions is the prerequisite for being able to change their behavior and find ways not to live out their sexual or power-oriented needs at the expense of others. To do this, sexually assaulting young people need specific help from a specialist advice center or therapeutic facility. In order to find the right help for the young people, an assessment of the problem behavior must first be made. As parents, you should be aware that, with the help of good therapeutic measures, a positive change in problematic behavior is possible even in the case of sexual border violations in adolescence. Preventing sexual assault again is the primary goal of treatment. Cooperation with the parents is also desirable and necessary for this.

Where can you find help?

Parents whose child has been or has been sexually assaulted usually need support and advice for their child as well as for themselves. To do this, they can turn to counseling centers for sexual violence on site, to educational counseling centers, e.g. of the rural districts or Caritas, or to employees of the responsible youth welfare office. Many specialist agencies are also represented on the Internet (see chapter “Advice and action”).

On one last word:

As parents, you want your daughter or son to be able to experience their (first) sexual experiences in a positive and self-determined manner.You can contribute a lot: Through an appreciative and cooperative atmosphere in the family, your child learns to be mindful of himself and others. If you are also interested in taking part in the life of your daughter or your son without overly controlling them and are available for all questions, worries and needs - including the topics of "body, relationship, sexuality and sexual violence", you make a significant contribution to this to prevent sexual violations of boundaries among young people and to give your child access to a satisfying, self-determined and at the same time boundaries-respecting sexuality.

Advice and action

Advice and information on the Internet

  • (advice for young people and parents, mediation of on-site advice centers of the Federal Conference of Educational Advice)
  • (email and individual chat advice from Zartbitter Münster)
  • N.I.N.A. (National information line, network and contact point for sexual abuse, mediation of regional advice and help offers)
  • (Information from the state working group of feminist counseling centers against sexual violence on counseling centers in Baden Württemberg)
  • (information material on sexual violence & prevention for parents and children from Zartbitter Cologne)
  • (GrenzwertICH project: Advice and information on sexual violence among children and adolescents and on prevention)
  • (online advice for boys and young men in the event of sexual violence)
  • (information on the topic of sexuality for parents, young people and professionals)
  • (projects against sexual abuse in the internet and new media)

Advice and information for young people on the Internet

  • (online advice for children and young people in the event of sexual violence on the Internet)
  • (Internet offer of the child protection centers with e-mail advice)
  • (prevention project for group work with young people against sexual harassment and violence among young people, from approx. 12 years)
  • (BZgA's information portal and chat for young people on love, sexuality, contraception)
  • (information portal and materials for parents, children and young people on the Internet and new media)

Reading tips for parents

  • Federal Center for Health Education (Ed.) (2007): Talking about sexuality ... The time of puberty. Obtainable from the website.
  • City of Nuremberg (ed.): Brochure “Young people and sexuality. Forbidden or allowed? ": Download.

Literature tips for young people

  • Bailey, Jacqui (2008): Sex, Braces and the Other Stress. Get through puberty - that's how it works! Publishing house on the Ruhr
  • Klees / Mebes (2009): Katrin's Secret. A story of sibling sexual assault. Publishing house mebes & noak, Cologne
  • City of Vienna: 3-part educational film "Sex we can" for 14 to 16 year olds: Link
  • Reviews (books for young people)
  • Federal Center for Health Education: Brochures on various topics: website


Elke Schmidt, educator (M.A.) and mediator, works at Amyna e.V. - GrenzwertICH project in Munich

Source and publisher

This article was published as ElternWissen No. 5 "Sexual violence among young people"

The ElternWissen series is published by:
AGJ Association for Prevention and Rehabilitation in the Archdiocese of Freiburg e.V.
Prevention Unit
Oberau 21
79102 Freiburg
Tel. 0761/2180741


The takeover here is done with kind permission.

created on 09/30/2015