How can I help him not be a rapist?
December 10, 2011 1:49 PM   Subscribe

I need resources for helping a sexually inappropriate adolescent boy learn to respect women. Some of the details are creepy and probably triggering.

The boy is a young teenager, and his mother is a very close friend. My friend divorced the father when the boy was a baby, and I helped them considerably during the process of the divorce and custody battles, which continued on and off for many years.

The dad is arrogant, violent, sexist, and abusive. He has been arrested for domestic violence, including once against his son. He abuses his girlfriends physically and emotionally, and there is an extremely credible but unverified account of him forcibly raping someone some years back. For some reason, the courts decided that abusing the child wasn't sufficient reason to limit unsupervised visits, and none of his alleged victims went to the police.

During the early stages of their court battles, the court appointed a family therapist who tentatively diagnosed the dad with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, although he refused to cooperate much or to attend any non-compulsory therapy so he didn't get a definitive diagnosis. (The therapist did take my friend aside and tell her that she was unable to make a professional diagnosis, but recommended that she research NPD and be very alert to issues involving respecting others' space and behaving appropriately, especially sexually.) It might be significant that this guy blames me in some part for his divorce, and has plotted against me a couple of times that I know of. One involved telling his son to try to walk in on me in the bathroom or getting dressed, which the kid disclosed to me after I confronted him about all the jiggling of door handles. He said his dad told him it'd be funny.

The boy has always liked me, and I used to like him back. He had a sort of little boy crush on me when he was younger, but recently, it's gotten disturbing. He used to hug me and tell me he loved me a lot when he was little, but now, he's bigger than me, and is making inappropriate sexual comments and groping me.

I have explicit permission from his mom to discipline him as I see fit, and I don't really worry about my own safety with him. I do worry a little bit that his dad might be setting him up to make some type of false accusation, so I now have a policy that I will not be alone with him at all. His mom and my family are all aware of this policy. (And the 'no alone time' thing is a big deal, as I used to pick him up from school as a special treat, and we'd work on projects together until his mom came to pick him up.)

He does things like come up behind me and grope me and then persist in doing it when I tell him to stop; make inappropriate sexual comments, usually sotto voce so that other people in the room don't hear him; and try to cop a feel out of view of other people (e.g., under the table). Once I could no longer deny this was happening, I started to address it far more insistently than I had before, by physically pushing him off and loudly admonishing him, so that everyone in the room knows what he said or did. He also lies blatantly and denies doing what he did, but nobody believes him about that or lets him think they do. He is an extremely casual liar, and we have not been humoring him.

I think he's slowly if not completely learning that he won't get away with that behavior with me, but I'm not just worried about me.

My concern is for other girls and women, particularly the girls he goes to school with. He is a very big kid and he's still in middle school and at risk of being held back a year. It's one thing for me, a middle aged woman with a lot of people supporting me, to fend him off; but I am concerned that he's behaving like this with the 12 year old girls at his school, who are going to be a lot less prepared to deal with it.

His mother is in a little bit of understandable denial about the risk to girls--she knows he does this to me but thinks it's somehow specific to me either due to him having a crush or at the direction of his dad. And there have been no indications that he's behaved inappropriately with girls. However, I've pretty much convinced her that it is a risk and it needs to be addressed. He is probably not sexually active at this point, but who knows?

So I'm looking for sex ed resources for adolescent boys. Not the mechanics or biology of sex. He knows that stuff. More like educational material on Yes means Yes and enthusiastic consent and other "how not to be a goddamned rapist" type materials to counter his dad's training in "how to be a goddamned rapist" training.

He's fairly emotionally immature and not a great reader, so ideally, something written for kids would be best.

Things that are not options:

1. Therapy. The custody agreement requires both parents' consent for any non-emergency treatment, and the dad, for obvious reasons, won't consent to that.
2. Changes to the custody arrangements. We've tried and tried. It's not happening.
3. Appeals to the father's paternal instincts. He doesn't care.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (75 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I am missing something here. Do you live with the mom and her son? My suggestion would be that his mother should be your first resource. Why isn't she reprimanding her son? He is just a kid. It seems like you should be worried more about why your friend isn't playing a more active role here.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 2:00 PM on December 10, 2011 [8 favorites]

Are there any alternative male role models who could be brought in to demonstrate to him the correct behaviour towards women? Perhaps within the context of a sports/music/gaming (or whatever his interests are) event?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:02 PM on December 10, 2011 [7 favorites]

Is it possible to get him involved in something like Scouting or Big Brothers/Big Sisters? The thing that's going to help the most to combat negative male role modeling is positive male role modeling.
posted by SMPA at 2:02 PM on December 10, 2011 [11 favorites]

Well, this is a terrifically shitty situation. Have you looked at mentoring programs? Does his mom sit him down and lay out the importance of consent? Does she discipline him?


For books, do you think he'll read any books that are explicitly about healthy relationships, etc? I wonder if he won't see that as patronizing (I could be wrong here). If you were to get one, you'd probably want it to be the type of book that is going to seem like "forbidden fruit" to the kid--don't leave it completely out on the coffee table, certainly don't give it to him, but leave it in a semi-secluded location where he can find it.

"Our Bodies, Ourselves" as well as the biological stuff has a lot of material on establishing healthy relationships and sexual relationships, and has a section about sexual assault and rape. My parents used the "leave this on the bookshelf where the kids will find it" method with it, and looking back it worked perfectly. I read the whole damn thing and at the same time thought I was being rebellious.

You might also try planting books like "She Comes First" and "The Guide to Getting it On"--books that are clearly about sex and thus will be irresistible to a curious teenager--but also carry messages that are very clear about the importance of consent and taking one's partner's feelings into account during the act. They make consent "cool". Though your friend may not be comfortable with him reading such explicit stuff. And honestly I don't work with teenagers, so these could also be horrible ideas.
posted by schroedinger at 2:06 PM on December 10, 2011 [8 favorites]

He is molesting a woman (you) and when you talk to the mother about it she blows it off as a crush? Why are you still friends with her?
posted by headnsouth at 2:30 PM on December 10, 2011 [28 favorites]

Does he still idolise his father? If he does, then a positive male role model who treats women with respect could be easily written off as 'weak' or whatever.

Would removing yourself entirely from his company work as a threat? That is, tell him that if he touches you inappropriately again, you won't spend any more time with him (until he improves)? If he likes you that may work as a threat, provided you're willing to go through with it.
posted by twirlypen at 2:31 PM on December 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow. This all seems very odd (and horrible) for many reasons. There's court documentation of his father beating him and yet his father is allowed unsupervised visits? The dad refused counseling and was allowed custodial rights as well?

Anyway, to your specific can't help him not be rapist and...chances are he is already harassing girls at school (or anyone he perceives as weaker than himself). And if he keeps it up, he'll possibly get suspended, expelled and/or sent to juvenile court. Schools take this pretty seriously, as do parents.

So what can you do? It sounds like all anyone can do is get this kid therapy, ASAP. If the dad won't agree, then your friend needs to get custody because the dad is interfering in necessary medical treatment. She needs to talk to a lawyer and make a plan to get the kid help.

Books aren't going to help.

I'm sorry if this reads as harsh, but I work with emotionally disturbed teenagers and the way you've described this kid is a veryverybad thing waiting to happen.

He needs professional help and you can't fix him.
posted by kinetic at 2:34 PM on December 10, 2011 [18 favorites]

IANAD but I have experience with mental illness in my family.

This young man has some early warning signs of sociopathy. (Possible heredity with father who exhibits sociopathic behavior, actively seeking out antisocial experiences, deliberate deceptiveness in taking part in antisocial behavior, casual lying.)

Frankly I would be a lot less concerned about getting his age-appropriate sex-ed books than I would be in getting him to a doctor and/or specialist who can diagnose him. Acting out sexually isn't about the sex, it's about the acting out, just like rape isn't about sex, it's about violence. If this kid is diagnosed with a personality disorder, your caveat number one isn't going to matter, because every single treatment he will have for a very long time is going to be emergency treatment.

Please, I urge you to take this seriously. Getting him a mentor and a couple of books isn't going to help if there is something broken inside his head.
posted by juniperesque at 2:34 PM on December 10, 2011 [25 favorites]

He is molesting a woman (you) and when you talk to the mother about it she blows it off as a crush? Why are you still friends with her?

Hoo, boy, that's not how I read this. The OP has explicit permission from the mom to discipline the kid, which doesn't sound like "blowing off", and she thinks her son does this (in part) because of his (earlier?) crush on the OP, but isn't necessarily engaging in this kind of thing towards his female peers.

I don't have specific resources to recommend, but I do nth the Scouts/Big Brothers/other male mentor thing, if that's possible within the bounds of the custody agreement.

You're doing a good thing with this kid, OP. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 2:38 PM on December 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

The organization Men Can Stop Rape runs a club called the Men of Strength (MOST) Club in middle and high schools. The MOST Club is designed to "provide young men with a structured and supportive space to build individualized definitions of masculinity that promote healthy relationships."

My impression is that MCSR provides a curriculum that an advisor or teacher at the school then runs. There might be some training for the teacher beforehand, I'm not sure. I think it would be great for this young man and his classmates (of all gender identities) if you worked with the school to get the club off the ground and get him enrolled and doing the work.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:48 PM on December 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

So I'm looking for sex ed resources for adolescent boys. Not the mechanics or biology of sex. He knows that stuff. More like educational material on Yes means Yes and enthusiastic consent and other "how not to be a goddamned rapist" type materials to counter his dad's training in "how to be a goddamned rapist" training.

He's fairly emotionally immature and not a great reader, so ideally, something written for kids would be best.

If he's not a great reader, then written material probably isn't going to appeal to him, especially stuff that's so blatantly written to tell him what to do. More than likely his dad will find out about that stuff and paint it as silly or weak or the kid will simply get frustrated and toss the books in the trash

Honestly, the way you've presented this situation (How can I help him not be a rapist?) is troubling because you've painted him in an extremely negative light (for understandable reasons) yet want to help him him books to read when he's not a very good reader? Perhaps you need to take a step or two back and have someone else try to help the kid? Your intentions are good, but you sound angry and already think the boy is no good, an attitude that is probably being conveyed to him.

It takes a village to raise a child and this child certainly needs one. You have got to get him several positive male role models, men he respects who will call him out when he's acting up. This is to counteract the crappy influence of his father.

Ya'll need to find out whatever the kid likes and is good at doing and get him doing a lot more of that. Is it music? Get him professional lessons. Writing? Send him off to writing camp and ply him with books he likes that also present positive male and female characters and relationships.

The court case sounds really strange. Dad is known abuser, but the courts give him full visitation rights and he has a say in whether the kid goes to therapy? Either your friend got a shitty lawyer or dad was friends with the judge. The mom should look into getting some of that changed. Where are they located?

His mother is in a little bit of understandable denial about the risk to girls...

This is not understandable or acceptable. His mother sounds like part of the problem. The kid has problems and if neither parent recognizes that, it might time for you to report them both to social services. He's repeatedly assaulting you and neither parent, one of whom is your very close friend, thinks that's a problem.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:56 PM on December 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

We should refrain from making huge MI diagnostic inferences based on not only not being a doctor, but never having met the kid, and hearing about this second hand.

Yes, he needs some outside positive experiences with men and make kids who are not assholes. One way or the other he has internalized that treating women like shit is an appropriate path towards whatever goals he has be it seeking approval from his father, seeking some sort of power, attention seeking... whatever. Books are not going to help, they will not provide the emotional lock and key the kid needs to make the connection.

Scouting may be a good option, or some other goal/skill building organization that provides mentors while engaged in physical activities. Shipped off to a relatives farm for the summer would be choice.
posted by edgeways at 3:04 PM on December 10, 2011

I don't think you --- the victim of his sexual assaults --- are in a position to discipline or help him. That should be taken on by others. If his mother refuses to solve the problem (that's what parents are for, after all), then you should just extricate your life from theirs.

The sane response to sexual assault is to call the police. Groping is sexual assault. In my city, children who grope people end up going to juvenile court.

For you, the victim of the sexual assault, to be persisting in contact with this boy, you are sort of minimizing the impact and gravity of sexual assault, and possibly causing the boy to think it's okay to do it to other girls and women.

Rather than, "oh, stop," the response should be calling the police.

So, bottom line, I think any approach short of absenting yourself from his presence from here on out is potentially making the problem worse.
posted by jayder at 3:06 PM on December 10, 2011 [29 favorites]

Would a frank talk with him do any good? Something along the lines of "I know things are different at your dads house from your mom's. You have a few different examples to choose from
--and not just those two! When I've seen you at your best, you've been thoughtful, funny, (list specifics). When you grab me - I'm shocked and not just because I've asked you to stop. But because that's you at your worst. And that's not how I see you. My heart sinks. I think you're deciding whether or not women and girls are going to be your allies, or enemies you want to fuck. There's something really sad about your dad's approach. He resents women because he wants and needs them. It ties him in knots and his anger scares me. AND HE HURTS WOMEN. The truth is-- needing and wanting women itself isn't sad. They're going to want and need you too. Don't punish them for it."
posted by vitabellosi at 3:11 PM on December 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Forgive me for being a bit blunt, but I'm the father of two adolescent boys and have a feel for what's happening here.

1. He hasn't been taught any other behavior. What he's doing now is just the result of not guiding him continually as he's been maturing.

2. All he needs is a good open and honest talk about appropriate behavior in various kinds of relationships.

The kid isn't a rapist or a sociopath. He's just an unguided horn-dog. I'm sure that once he gets the scoop he needs he'll probably be embarrassed by his recent behavior.

If he ISN'T, then he needs counseling and some more serious, outside source kinds of guidance.
posted by snsranch at 3:13 PM on December 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think that you've done a good job moving up the consequence chain (no alone time, calling him out loudly) and now it's time for you to say "If you're going to touch me without asking permission, I won't be around you anymore" and leaving. You haven't made it clear what your relationship is to him, but if his mom is always around when this happens, you're obviously not leaving him in a dangerous position by bailing.

Then, next time you see him, sit him down and say "Remember that I had to leave early next time? Do you understand why? I don't want to have to leave again - can you respect me and not [grope me/say inappropriate things/whatever]?"
posted by restless_nomad at 3:14 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's a thing: schools are becoming extremely hyper-reactive to sexual misbehaviour on the parts of students, and if he were to do even the least of the actions he's foisting upon you to a girl who reported him, he could very easily (!!!) be yoked as a sexual offender, which is lifelong and will limit him in employment, schooling, and housing to such an extreme degree that any hopes his mom has for him to have a normal life after adolescence would just evaporate.

This is something his mom should know, and if you have the impetus to tell her, then it would be up to her to take that information seriously and start trying to do something about it.

If she doesn't (and this is her job, make no mistake), then you need to cut off contact with the boy in all forms and make sure his mom knows why. Honestly, you should then also cut off contact with her. Sad and it sucks, but the folks above detailed why very well.

If you do pass that info on and she doesn't do anything about and you continue to maintain contact, yeah, you should contact the authorities (I'd be of a mind to find a way to force counseling, myself). Can you talk to his school counselor?

I would NOT confront him on this on your own. Nope. Bad idea all around. If you could have this conversation with his mom and a health or justice professional present, perhaps then.

Good luck. This is a rotten situation to be in.
posted by batmonkey at 3:16 PM on December 10, 2011 [7 favorites]

The "call the police when he sexually assaults you" thing may sound extreme, but the fastest way for him to get any sort of therapy (regardless of his father's wishes) is for him to enter the juvenile criminal justice system. Worrying about what this does to his record

If you do this, the kid will feel hurt and betrayed by you, and the mom and dad will probably hate you forever, but honestly the most positive possible role that you can play as one of his victims is to show him (and his parents) what the consequences are for victimizing women.
posted by hermitosis at 3:42 PM on December 10, 2011 [15 favorites]

Sorry, I left an incomplete sentence: Worrying about what this does to his record is basically pointless, because if left unchecked he may cause himself and others greater harm. If this is what he'll do to you -- someone he cares about -- imagine what he will do to someone who he sees as weak and beneath his respect.
posted by hermitosis at 3:44 PM on December 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

You said that therapy is out of the question but can he at least be evaluated by a mental health professional in the same way that he goes to the doctor for a physical checkup?

Everyone here is guessing and give their two cents, maybe it's worse than we think maybe it's just a boundaries problem. The mother would have much more standing (court-wise) and have a better sense of what direction to take if he's been evaluated. It could be that a good talking to, better male role models and positive experiences with learning how to be man are all that he needs. Or maybe there is something much more serious going on.

An evaluation doesn't sound like it would fall outside the legal restrictions currently in place. Then a plan of action can be devised.
posted by shoesietart at 3:56 PM on December 10, 2011

Sounds like step 1 is consistent consequences for his behavior. For example, "when you touch me/talk to me like that, it makes me angry/threatened/irritated/whatever, If you do that again, then I will leave/not be back for a week/etc."

Step 2 might be to try and get him to talk to the school's guidance counselor you know therapy on the sly because it's in school and can be justified that way.

Or you could look at the Circles curriculum if the school isn't using something like it,
posted by plinth at 4:01 PM on December 10, 2011

Try posting your question on the "Ask Scarleteen" board at Scarleteen is for youth and young adults to post and learn more about healthy sexuality, but adults can post there too, if their questions are about sexuality and youth/supporting a youth, etc.
posted by foxjacket at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Would asking his school counselor to intervene by arranging sessions with him violate the mutual consent for therapy stipulation for therapy?

Would taking him to see a child psychiatrist violate the stipulation? I'm not suggesting you brush off the emotional dimensions of the problem by medicating it, but a psychologically-oriented psychiatrist (many of them have counseling credentials and not just MDs) might be able to help address some of these issues, and might offer a work-around to the limitations imposed by the custody agreement. Again, I'm not suggesting that medicating the problem is appropriate, but some of the other details you mention, such as academic performance so poor that he's at risk of being held back, **may** indicate some form of mental illness.

Other posters are right to say that if this behavior becomes an issue at school he is at risk of having his life derailed in a serious way. And based on the behavior you describe, that's not a matter of if but when.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2011

Why are you still hanging out with them? Wouldn't you be better off spending your time on less toxic people? If you're genuinely worried a) "his dad might be setting him up to make some type of false accusation," and b) his mother knows her son sexually assaults you and doesn't care, you really ought to be a million miles from the whole lot of them.

What are you getting out of all this unnecessary drama? How much more are you willing to put up with from people who have nothing to offer besides dragging you down? About the only thing you can do that might make a difference is to get the kid into a Big Brothers/Big Sisters mentoring program; after that, why not take steps to take care of yourself? Life's too short.
posted by aquafortis at 4:08 PM on December 10, 2011 [11 favorites]

I agree that:

1. You are being sexually assaulted

2. You should contact the police

Discounting the significance of his behavior, not responding as harshly as possible (law enforcement) is enabling the behavior and putting others in danger as well.
posted by tomswift at 4:10 PM on December 10, 2011 [13 favorites]

This is not going to be a popular answer, but you need to start reporting him to the police. I say this as someone who has lived with a mentally ill brother, who was verbally, physically, and sexually abusive to everyone in his family, but particularly those who had less power than him.

My brother viewed this abuse as a way to gain power over others, and it sounds as though your young man is the same way. By putting his hands on you, whispering lewd comments, and threatening to walk in on you, he is demonstrating that he has the power in this relationship. You can call him out all you want, but without consequences that have an impact, he has the power.

His actions are not about sex, or attraction, or a crush: they are about his power to cause you discomfort.

And because he knows he has this power in your house, and his house, and in every place that you are with him, he knows that he can have that power over others. If you are concerned about young girls at school, it is absolutely imperative that you take steps to help them.

Since you are not at school with him and cannot monitor his behavior 100% of the time, the only way you can help those girls is by getting it on official record that he has sexually molested you and has done it repeatedly.

If (when) he tries to demonstrate his power to another student, his records will be pulled, and a history of abusive behavior will help get him the help he needs. Without this record, the police and school officials might be inclined to let it slide as a first offense, a misunderstanding, etc.

This is extremely difficult to do, but as a loving adult in his life, you cannot forget about the safety of those he interacts with on a daily basis. My parents for years did not report the behavior of my brother, thinking they could better help him by getting him therapy, books, and so on. But in the end, that official record would have helped us get him the care he needed to keep himself and myself, my siblings, and his schoolmates safe.
posted by lockstitch at 4:11 PM on December 10, 2011 [34 favorites]

Worrying about what this does to his record is basically pointless

He's 12 years old. Wouldn't his juvenile record be sealed upon majority anyway, thus not pertaining to/damaging his adult life? (my entire knowledge of anything like this comes from law & order so obvsly I could be hugely incorrect.)
posted by elizardbits at 4:12 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since you are not at school with him and cannot monitor his behavior 100% of the time, the only way you can help those girls is by getting it on official record that he has sexually molested you and has done it repeatedly.

This, times a thousand. Please call the police and start making a record.
posted by jayder at 4:18 PM on December 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Whether or not a juvenile record will be sealed when a child reaches majority varies wildly by state and by type of offense. There are some jurisdictions in which juveniles convicted of certain types of sex crimes can be forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. There are some states in which certain types of juvenile convictions cannot be sealed or expunged and can have other lifelong consequences. We have no idea where the OP or this child live, so we should not even be attempting to give legal advice.

OP, I agree with those who say you can't be a part of this child's life, especially given that you believe his father may be trying to set you up to be charged with child abuse. It's horrifying what is happening to this child, and I would suggest that you call his school or alert child welfare if you can do so safely. But you can't be the one to teach him how to avoid sexually assaulting women while he's still sexually assaulting you. You just can't. I'm so sorry this is happening, but you need to remove yourself from this situation, for your safety and his.
posted by decathecting at 4:28 PM on December 10, 2011 [15 favorites]

The best thing you can do to protect the girls he interacts with is to make sure there is record of his behavior with you. They become less vulnerable when he becomes aware that anyone they might complain to already has a basis for suspicion.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:52 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding guidance counselor at school. This is how you get him to therapy without sending him yourself.

Also, really feel that someone trained in these things be involved. They will know how to approach and frame the situation, and what can and can't be tried.
posted by Riverine at 5:04 PM on December 10, 2011

the chance that he has this behavior only with you and not with other females is zero. ok, one percent.
posted by facetious at 5:58 PM on December 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

What you're reporting is frightening and I don't think teaching him "no means no" goes nearly far enough. Please take juniperesque's comment to heart.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:31 PM on December 10, 2011

I think you need to start talking to the cops and to the authorities at his school. You can't do anything for the kid that sane people would do because of his dad, who's probably egging this shit on. The only way you can get the kid any help is to go to the higher powers of school and legal authorities. People who can scare him, maybe put him in juvie or counseling even if Dad says no. And there's no way this kid is not sexually harassing all the girls at school by now.

I also think you need to drop out of his life. He sees you as someone he can uh...force himself upon. He knows he doesn't have to listen to you because you're female. I don't think you can have an influence on him in this mindset, even if your previous relationship was great. He's going down a sick, sick road and having you around isn't doing you any favors and is giving him a target to forever shoot at.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:06 PM on December 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anonymous, I have personal information that I'm unwilling to share. If you'd like to know more, you can memail me, and I promise any conversation we have will be confidential.

That said...there's a possibility that nothing you can do at this stage will make a difference. By the time they're older, kids have already absorbed an enormous amount of attitudes and information.

The attitudes of his father and his mother both sound unhealthy, and the behaviour you mention is pretty far over the line.

If he's not a good reader and doesn't enjoy it, there's not a lot I can recommend to you for reading material. Maybe other people can suggest good movies, shows, youtube clips? My knowledge of visual material is pretty crappy.

Sure, a stable, positive male influence would help, but sometimes the kids are already formed beyond helping. I've had extensive experience with kids from fostercare (I know he's not in fostercare, but he sounds troubled in some of the same ways that they are), and my experience and knowledge of outcomes for boys from those situations is absolutely bleak. Personally I think the best thing you can do is recommend male role model organizations to the mother, and then remove yourself, permanently, from this situation.

It's very possible that I'm wrong, and I hope to god I am.
posted by thelastcamel at 7:08 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

This kid is 12, not 3. It shouldn't take more than once or twice to teach him that touching you like that isn't ok. He knows it's not ok, and that's why he keeps doing it.

You should play absolutely no part in this situation. Tell your friend that you can't be around the son anymore, and if she wants to see you it's got to be without him. Plus, why the hell do you want to spend any time around a kid that you think might be trying to set you up for charges of pedophilia?? Do you understand how crazy that is? Even the whiff of that kind of accusation would destroy your life. Do NOT spend any more time with this child, period.
posted by imalaowai at 7:13 PM on December 10, 2011 [7 favorites]

Anonymous, I want to apologize for my first comment because it was kind of reactionary and not very supportive.

This is what I think needs to happen; Talk to the Mom about what's been happening and don't let her off the hook...SHE is responsible for her kid's behavior. I understand that the Dad is a kook and has psych problems. That just means that Mom will have to work a little harder to get and keep that kid on track. She is the one who has to be the responsible adult and talk with the kid about appropriate behavior and let him know what it feels like as a female on the other side of the groping. He has to learn the female perspective. He needs to learn how to express himself in appropriate ways. Ways that can be appreciated and not considered sick or grotesque.

Obviously Anon, you are an integral and very caring part of that family, so if Mom needs some support while giving the big talk, I think that it's totally OK for you to participate.

As far as "calling the cops" is concerned, I wouldn't do that without first giving him an opportunity to understand and correct his wrong doing.

(FWIW, While I consider myself to be a pretty manly guy...fighter, soldier, biker etc., the most influential and most important mentors in my life have been women.)
posted by snsranch at 7:26 PM on December 10, 2011

This is a really tough situation. I feel for you.

I'd second snsranch and vitabellasi above, a clear, nonjudgmental talk with the kid about boundaries, relationships, and respect is in order. Positive male role models would probably be good, too.

There is actually a fiction book written for teen boys that specifically aims to illustrate the subjectivity of women to boys growing up in a western misogynist culture. It's called Girl Parts, and it's by John Cusick.

I'm not sure where you live, but chances are pretty good that police involvement will not be an effective way to discourage this young man. They are not likely to actually arrest him for this behavior, and if you press charges he will probably be released to his mother's or father's custody well before the trial. I'm unfortunately speaking from experience here. Police involvement is not likely to help him grow up into a fine human being who respects women.

That said, it may be time to talk to your friend seriously about your safety (and hers), and make some big decisions about whether you can be in physical or even mental proximity to this kid.

Good luck.
posted by emilycardigan at 7:27 PM on December 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

This sounds extraordinarily toxic for all parties involved, OP. I'm not going to say that the kid is hopeless but...close. His attitudes sound strikingly similar to the MO of the men who have raped my friends. Honestly, it's kind of how many start out: they push boundaries as a means of testing their own power, which gets confirmed when no consequences befall them. Sexual assault and rape are both tools of power, how long do you think it'll take before this boy escalates? Adolescent hormones are one thing, but they are not an excuse for touching someone else without consent!

Start a paper trail. Report him to the police, and see if there's a loophole in juvie court that will grant him a mandatory psych evaluation. Can school counselors keep an eye on him? His mother sounds like a right enabler, and she's not likely to do anything to curb her child's path to becoming a rapist.

Also, get thee to a therapist!
posted by Ashen at 7:43 PM on December 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Forgive me for being a bit blunt, but I'm the father of two adolescent boys and have a feel for what's happening here.

Sorry, man, I know you've (kind of) retracted this

This boy needs professional intervention. Frankly, as the father of a daughter, I'm not nearly as concerned about his welfare as I am for the welfare of the women he interacts with. It sucks for him that he has no appropriate male role model, but my compassion only extends to the point where he starts sexually assaulting other people. It doesn't matter how shitty your life is, you don't do that, full stop.

If his mother could or would do something about this, she would have done it years ago. His mother is in a little bit of understandable denial about the risk to girls. Again, no. No fucking way. This is not a minor behavioral issue. You're an adult and you can arrange your life so that you don't have to be alone with him. Imagine if you couldn't.
posted by bricoleur at 7:55 PM on December 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Something short of calling the cops might be bringing the custody agreement back to court. The fact that a 12 year old is assaulting an adult woman is quite disturbing. Maybe a judge would reconsider the arrangements if she knew what this kid is doing.
posted by Mavri at 8:05 PM on December 10, 2011

Mod note: From the OP:
Some of the misinterpretations and assumptions here have really started to snowball. I wasn't going to respond, but I really want to clear up some disturbing misconceptions, particularly about the boy's mother.

Short version: His mom is a great parent, the child is not a sociopath, I am not calling social services or the police on him or his mom. His mom also has involved his school counselor and others who are aware of the general situation with the boy's dad, so he does have some support and intervention from other adults in his life. We are all working together to help him.

When I said the courts are not an option, I meant it. She has nearly bankrupted herself trying to fix this; and many others, including a few different lawyers and the court appointed family therapist, have tried to intervene. Everyone knows this is a travesty except the family courts. The dad has a lot more money than she does, and without concrete evidence of some of the things we know, nothing productive will come of this route.

We plan to continue what we have been doing--calling out the inappropriate behavior, explaining and modeling appropriate behavior in our relationships, and being available for the boy to the best of our ability. I asked about reading material for us to use as support for the things we are already doing.

That really is the type of information I am looking for.

Longer version:

My friend was never in denial about what her son was doing to me, and has never doubted me. Her only denial was (past tense) that the behavior might escalate and be targeted toward girls his age, which is such a horrifying idea that I can't imagine any concerned parent not balking at it a little bit. She does understand why I'm concerned about that now, and is invested in ensuring it doesn't happen.

The only reason she hasn't consistently addressed his groping and comments is that she's not seeing/hearing them happen. That's why I adopted the policy of loudly announcing them as they happen. She does discipline him, and we are a united front on this issue. (There are several other adults who are regularly here and committed to helping him, including some very positive male role models he respects.)

That's why I'm asking. I'm not working on this behind her back. She's very much involved and very active about disciplining him. When one of us has a problem, we work on it together. I'm not just involved in this because I'm the target.

Based on some of the father's previous schemes, it is a real possibility that he's doing this at his dad's direction. We know that even if these are targeted just at me, these behaviors will escalate and become directed at others if we do not intervene decisively and do it now. His mother does teach him otherwise, but my goal is to help her find some backup and advice from professionals in adolescent sexuality, both for her own use, and as a means of showing him that his mother's position is the correct one, and it's not just a matter of conflicting opinions. He needs to understand what rape is and to understand that some of the things his dad is teaching him are or can lead to rape.

He never tried to hold me down or aggressively grope me. These are things like him fondling my leg or sneakily touching my breast, and not backing off until I tell him to forcefully. It's almost like an annoying child, trying to negotiate with you as he has his hand in a cookie jar, which was something he did when he was an annoying child about six months ago. He does stop immediately when I call him out clearly, and his mom jumps in to back me up every time. He does not respect subtle cues or being told quietly to stop, though. These are not things many people even recognize as assault, even though they are. And I am not worried about myself, because I have no problem telling him to back off pretty forcefully, and because I have a solid policy of not being alone with him. I am worried that some insecure young girl isn't going to have the tools to do that if he decides to use those tactics on her.

He is only very recently pubescent, and by all accounts (his mom, counselor, teachers, etc.) is still very nervous talking to girls his age, so it is a good possibility that I'm the only female he has done this to so far.

None of the adults in this scenario--me, his mom, or any others--are just sitting around passively as he molests me. We are being proactive, and this hasn't been going on for very long.

He's a young boy getting some very dangerous instruction in sexuality from a very dangerous person. We have become a lot more forceful about telling him that there is something wrong with his father. We've pointed out that his dad lives with women he hates and doesn't trust, while the rest of the adults in his life live with people we love and care about, and that we're happy and secure. He seems to understand that, and is pretty insistent that he doesn't want to live the way his father does. He is a little bit immature and he doesn't have the skills to evaluate his father's influences objectively, however, so we want to give him the tools to do that.

It's true that I don't particularly like the kid very much these days, but I do love him and I believe he can and will grow up to be a likeable person again. He is kind, gentle, and considerate in some situations, and he definitely has a conscience. I'm not a mental health professional, but I'm pretty confident in saying that he is not a sociopath. He's just being trained by one; and we are working on building a good, solid foundation of appropriate behaviors, with sexual behaviors being top priority now, to counter the damaging messages he's receiving from his dad.

And thanks so much for the suggestions. I plan to order at least one or two of the books recommended here and tell his mom to leave them around so he can discover them himself. That is brilliant and exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. She won't have a problem with the explicit nature of the books and I'm sure she'll think it's a brilliant idea. I haven't had a chance yet to look through all the rest of the recommended courses and materials, but they sound like just what we're looking for.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:33 PM on December 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

These are not things many people even recognize as assault, even though they are.

You're wrong about that.

We have become a lot more forceful about telling him that there is something wrong with his father.

Now it's starting to seem like you and the mom are part of the problem.

Lots of people in this thread have told you this boy's behaviors go way beyond what can be remedied by reading material and rational persuasion. You're ignoring some very good advice, and it sounds like you and the mom are engaged in the worst kind of speculation and lay psychology.

No more suggestions from me.
posted by jayder at 9:53 PM on December 10, 2011 [13 favorites]

If he's not a reader, it might be too much to hope he'll "discover" the books himself. Don't manipulate him into finding the books; he already gets manipulation from his father. Give the books to him and explain why as straightforwardly as you can.
posted by pineappleheart at 11:05 PM on December 10, 2011

You can't hope he will get the message via books - all of you need to be direct with him consistently in calling out his behaviour when it happens and modelling appropriate ways of treating women and girls on a consistent basis. It's just about persistent reinforcement and modelling.
posted by mleigh at 12:26 AM on December 11, 2011

OP, you're still not telling us what you get out of being around this child. Your presence is not helping. If you want to teach this child that his behaviour has consequences, then you need to stop spending time with him. Leaving him is a logical consequence of his behaviour.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:41 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


After reading your update I wrote out this whole thing but than deleted it thinking the response was better for memail, but you are anonymous.

Long story very much shorter...

Just today (how weird!) I was pondering an experience I had a few months back with a 16 year old boy who is the stepson of one of our employees. This kid assisted me on many occasions with lots of people around without incident. I was actually keen to hook him up with an internship some colleagues in a related field that he expressed interest in and went so far as to look up his high school info so he might get college credits for the internship, even though that wasn't my responsibility.

Then, the second time when we worked alone, he displayed creepy behavior similar to what you described, but more aggression minus all sexual innuendo. He just (tried) to dominate me totally. And it was creepy scary bizarre left-field.

Yes he was influenced to do what he did. It was more sexist than sexual.

Now. As a New Yorker and a former professional (female in all male kitchens) chef, I have ZERO trouble asserting myself. But this was not the time to do that.

My kid, like yours, would never ever have heard me if I had been explicit because whatever he was modeling was coming from a really Dark Place. It's like a form of emotional dyslexia. I instantly groked that any response from me, His Chosen Victim, would be twisted and misinterpreted by the beliefs that engendered the behavior in the first place.

This boy assists my husband one day a week, and my husband handled things directly the next day. I have had little to no contact with the young man since. Upon reading your question and update, I have no guilt about how things turned out. Thank you.


With utmost respect, you sound a bit like a frog in water being slowly brought up to boiling temperature. Like you don't quite see this for what it is, even though you see more than his mom.

There is a lot of previous drama, and I agree with jayder that your involvement might be fueling that. I hope you find it in yourself to step away from these people. That will send a bigger message than any book because it is a direct consequence, not a power struggle move.

You can't be the one to correct this boy because you are his "victim" not his authority figure. Ditto his mom.

In my case, my husband is physically bigger and emotionally imposing when he wants to be. He said few words, but gossip had it that the kid was reduced to a puddle. We now know this young man is not safe around anyone other than those he perceives as more powerful (like my husband) and that's where we keep him without firing him, which would've been even more drama.

One last point.

I can see from your update why you do not want to go to the police. Fine. But doing so might have protected you from an accusation of, or getting arrested for, pedophilia.

Your suspicions here about the father are probably correct. Yet this is not your problem, and now you've become part of the problem.

It's hard. Because there is a lot of love involved. I know.

Walk away.

No one could have predicted this dark twist. I know you care about these people. Putting yourself at risk in this particular fashion isn't helping, it's enabling.

Send that forceful message and withdraw entirely.

Um. So my mother that I haven't had contact with in almost 20 years? She's Borderline, which is similar and related to NPD. When I was 20, she schemed to have me cut off financially so I had to leave university and had no where to go but live with her. She then spent 4 months systematically "building a case" against me that I was a danger to her. I often overheard her complaining of emotional and physical mistreatment, things that never ever happened. Family friends approached me multiple times. I cried a lot because I usually had no flippin' idea what they were talking about, but it seemed so serious to them. It was a Hitchcockian Nightmare. Then, one night, my mom called the police (I picked up the phone in my room and overheard almost the entire convo. My mom said I was on drugs and was going to hurt her. In fact, she got up at 2am, banged violently on my locked bedroom door, then went back to her room and called - not 911- but the station front desk. I know this only because my friend's mom worked there.) I was asleep when this started and I was not on drugs. 4 minutes later, there were 2 policemen outside my bedroom door. They believed me. I packed and left. I never slept under the same roof as her again. It did take me another 4 years to break all ties.

This man you describe has the power and demented will to ruin your life with pedophilia accusations via this boy. It's a Done Deal, you just don't see it yet.

If staying the course might help this 12 year old, I'd tell you to stick. But you're role in this young boy's life has already been so compromised, it is for others to step in, or for him to learn the truth of his choice to follow his father's influence on his own.

There is no shame in tapping out. You provided what positive influence you could, that could be absorbed. And now your time in this situation is done.

I remember knowing when my mom turned 40 that if I couldn't get her help then, it would never happen. I tried my hardest. A few years later, she attempted to either have me incarcerated or injure me and get away with it via a claim of self-defense. Thank god she failed. (although there was still one more attempt 2 years later...)

I was lucky. You be lucky, too.

posted by jbenben at 12:43 AM on December 11, 2011 [17 favorites]

Or upon preview, juniperesque.

In my original (unpublished) answer, I identified the 16 year old in my story as a sociopath. Man, that experience was so chilling, and now that I am 41 years old, I knew via experience what I was dealing with. 10 years earlier, I woulda missed it.

Everything I wrote still stands. Just wanted to add that in because it was worth highlighting.

Oh. And it is possible to model and display sociopathic tendencies, but not be a sociopath.

You want the book, "Puzzling People" by Thomas Sheridan to get a handle on this.

If you google around, you can also here some fine podcast interviews with Thomas Sheridan, since that is more immediate than waiting for Amazon delivery!

Good stuff in that book.

Again, good luck!
posted by jbenben at 12:59 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

OP, books are not going to solve this issue. I think that you and his mother are minimizing the assault:
He never tried to hold me down or aggressively grope me. These are things like him fondling my leg or sneakily touching my breast, and not backing off until I tell him to forcefully. It's almost like an annoying child
This is sexual assault. Enough speculating about his father's involvement in all of this. The problem is bigger than what you and his mom can fix.

I feel for you, I really do, but it sounds like you are an important figure in his life and he needs to understand the consequences for treating you like this. Planting a book in his house and waiting for him to read it is not a consequence. He knows what he's doing is wrong but he isn't seeing any real reason to stop, so he isn't.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:29 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding jayder. You have gotten excellent advice, you're ignoring it, and then you mention a few things that are a little unusual:

(There are several other adults who are regularly here and committed to helping him, including some very positive male role models he respects.)

What kind of household is this that has several men coming in and out? Are these the boy's uncles/cousins/some type of relative? Who are these people?

it is a real possibility that he's doing this at his dad's direction.

A neurotypical, well-functioning kid is not going to follow these directions because he knows they're wrong, period. He would be reporting them to his mom instead. Don't blame his dad for this. At 12, the kid is old enough to know right from wrong.

I am worried that some insecure young girl isn't going to have the tools to do that if he decides to use those tactics on her.
You should be. And you should know that if he did this to my daughter, I'd have him arrested. I wouldn't give him a book.

We have become a lot more forceful about telling him that there is something wrong with his father.

This isn't your place and it's horrifying to read that this kid has the adults in his mom's world saying, "You don't want to grow up and be like your dad, do you?" This is where professional help is needed.

He needs to be evaluated; a full neuro-psychiatric testing can be done for free by the school. She can then take those results and get him therapy and possibly limit the contact he has with his father.
posted by kinetic at 5:02 AM on December 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

What kind of household is this that has several men coming in and out? Are these the boy's uncles/cousins/some type of relative? Who are these people?

I'm part of social circle that has several families living fairly close together (Two are right behind each other) and it is not uncommon for several of the kids to wander between houses or the adults do the same. It's a big deal, but in a positive way in that there's a large social structure for kids to be mingle with and get multiple numerous role models.

I bring all this up to point out that a lot of people in this thread, including me, are seeing this situation in the worst possible light. Seemingly innocent or benign acts are twisted as being overwhelmingly negative and dire futures are being predicted if the OP doesn't do X or Y.

The update should quiet that line of reasoning. Yes, the situation is odd and the OP's line of thought and actions are clearly not what a lot of people would do in a similar situation. That said, there does seem to be larger social net in place that's trying to guide the child, the mother is there helping and approving, as are school counselors and other people. What the OP is asking for now is not help with all of that, but simply reading material that that kid can read. That's it, so it would be good if we could try and stick to that request. The OP and the kid's mom are clearly outmatched in certain ways (the dad has money and can afford to hire the better lawyers, repeatedly). They know the dad is a shitball and wants to turn the son into a shitball and they're doing what they can to prevent to that, so giving them help instead of repeated condemnations would a lot more helpful to them and the kid.

Most children act up at some point, especially when they turn into teenagers, by flaunting rules and testing boundaries. While this child's particular manner of doing so is extremely distasteful and crosses all sorts of boundaries, the multi-pronged defense and attack of the OP and the circle around the kid is actually a pretty good idea. If they keep it up, they should be able to make a dent on the kid's behavior

OP, I can't cite any specific reading materials, but I strongly suggest that you find something less blatant, something like a comic book, one that has positive role models for males and females and their interactions. Why? It's something he's more apt to pick up and read and enjoy and come back to, looking for more. It's also something that might not be blindingly obvious to his father. Have the comicbooks (or video games or whatever) come from one of those positive male role models that you mentioned are in his life. Anything that comes from you would be immediately suspect in the father's eyes. In fact, it might be good for you to suggest a few books to read or online links, stuff that's blatant that the dad can focus on and attack. Meanwhile, there's these comicbooks, movies, anime, manga or whatever lying around the male role models house that the kid might pick up.

I can't think of anything specific off hand, but I'm sure there are others here in this thread who could suggest such media, if you solicited them to do.

Finally, thanks for doing what you're doing, even under trying circumstances. It has to be hard for you, on several levels, but you're sticking in there, trying to help a kid out and you deserve kudos for doing so.

Good luck!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:41 AM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

You're naming the behaviour verbally to get his mother's attention for discipline which is good, although I would be more aggressive: I'd be jumping up and yelling "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!" - the way I would if a stranger thought he could have a fondle and a feel. I'd be making a MASSIVE scene: "Step back! STOP doing that". I'd be showing ANGER [I'd be managing that anger response so that I could show it but not succumb to it - a teacher response] and I'd be making a scene. Go berzerk when he tries to enter a room where you are undressed. Yell out aggressively when he touches you, physically slap his hands away from you, learn some self defense techniques. Being touched by others should absolutely come with an invitation and consent, anything else should be Othered as completely contemptible and wrong, wrong, wrong. I know that you are probably doing some of these things, but go nuts instead of being so compassionate and reasonable about everything. Fucksake, the guy's molesting you.

I've had a student assault me and I sure as hell let him see the upset human being not the adult teaching Other in calm control in the moment. I used self defense techniques and I got that kid's hands off my body, yelling NO NO NO and THIS IS ASSAULT, STOP! repeatedly. I made a massive fuss about it and so did all other staff who heard about it up the 'chain of command' - the kid suffered serious consequences including mandatory psychological counseling.

Not only do you have to model appropriate sexual behaviour, you need to show this kid an appropriate response to boundary crossing violations of others. Your response and others' present who witness him violating your body and your space need to show an ANGRY, LOUD response. There has to be massive consequences.

You don't have to be the rational, kind one when you are being molested and having your space invaded. I'd hope any girl he touched inappropriately in his school would do the same - this behaviour needs to be aggressively Othered. It needs to be a crowd-stopping BIG DEAL in the moment. Think about self-defense classes and what women are taught to do from the first lesson: yell, take up space, call attention, shame, scream, make a massive fuss.

I think it would be a good thing overall for aggressive men to learn that when they touch women or children inappropriately that they will deal with a shitstorm of anger and loud response. Too often we do this calm talk to avoid what we feel will be a violent escalation.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:02 AM on December 11, 2011 [17 favorites]

Sorry OP: your words with him may be harsh, but your actions are condoning what he's doing and softening his impression of what the consequences would be if he treated other women this way.

If the plan going forward is basically to martyr yourself by offering your own breasts as a foundation for "teachable moments," you're going beyond a point where any book can help you.
posted by hermitosis at 7:47 AM on December 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

I absolutely don't want to jump to any undue conclusions or cast aspersions, but is it possible that this child is being sexually abused himself? He spends half of his time with a man who is violent and sexually inappropriate. He spends the other half of his time in a household where lots of family friends of both genders seem to come and go, at least some of them spending substantial amounts of time alone with him. I know you believe that his father is coaching him to do this (and by the way, I agree with everyone who says that telling him that his father is a bad person is likely to make things worse, not better). But one very common response to sexual abuse is to behave in sexually inappropriate ways towards others, including perpetrating sex crimes against people they perceive as powerless in order to stop feeling so powerless over their own attackers. Children who are victims of abuse often lash out sexually because they don't know how to deal with it.

You absolutely have to get this child to a professional. You and the child's mother cannot handle this alone. If you ask him about sexual abuse in the wrong way, you will make things worse. If you handle his current behavior in the wrong way, you will make things worse. Honestly, if this were a child I loved, I would risk contempt of court in order to see that he gets the professional help he needs.

Let me put it this way: what lengths are you willing to go to in order to ensure that this child doesn't end up serving a life sentence in prison for rape? Because that could very well be where he's headed unless he gets professional help, lots of it, right now.
posted by decathecting at 8:02 AM on December 11, 2011 [10 favorites]

So, there are lots of people trying to help. You are putting yourself at risk by exposing yourself to the kid's father's scheme to frame you for sexual assault of a minor, the behavior continues and he just needs a good book to read. Yep, even though you tell us he is not a reader, just the right book left around for him to pick up on his own and read and understand is going to do the trick.

You are not helping. You are part of the problem because you enable the behavior. Criminal behavior by anyone requires an appropriate response.

Removing yourself from his life is the best you can do for him. (Not that I think that is what you will do.)

Poor little criminal kid...he doesn't have a chance.
posted by txmon at 8:02 AM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

You say "everyone" is aware that he's been sexually assaulting you. I'm guessing mom hasn't even tried going to court for permission to take kid to a therapist because NO. WAY. IN. HELL. would a court deny permission under these circumstances. if i am wrong ... Can you tell us what steps she's taken with the courts, OP?
posted by jayder at 8:25 AM on December 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

I've gone along and favourited things that say what I'd want to say but better.

The update didn't really change my impression of the situation. It just showed me that you are more embedded in the loop of sickness here than I previously grokked.

You used a very serious word in the title of this question and then spent paragraph upon paragraph trying to get us to back off from the seriousness of that word. That's a red flag to me. It's a signal of an unwell environment where people with good intentions are stirring a vortex of bad psychology and accepting artificial limits on how to end it.

I see your points about how hard that will be, but it's not impossible. It really isn't. I get that his mom is tapped out financially and how hard that is. And, yes, the system is difficult to navigate. Sometimes no one will do anything until there is a victim. Since you won't take the opportunity to set those circumstances in motion based on your own experience with him, it's necessary to find other approaches, resources, and professionals.

This isn't a novel about a bad man and all of the people affected by his dark puppetry. This is real life that will continue past whatever cycle of drama you're all perpetuating. Yes, perpetuating - "you don't want to be like your father" et cetera is possibly the very worst thing that any of you could be doing in this circumstance.

I had to share a home with a young man like that.* I was about his age. He wasn't confident like this in general at school (went to the same school, too), especially not in the first few years (around the age of the subject). He was only like this with girls he could get close to, either as close friends or just without supervision/repercussions. He often chose (yes, chose) girls who were more socially marginalised than he was, because they often had poor boundary-setting skills/understanding or he knew no one would believe them. It was horrible. I don't know about the other girls, but I know for myself that it was a disgusting and scary situation to be in and had impact in my life later down the line because of the feelings of powerlessness, suffocation, and betrayal (we often want to think our peers understand how hard it is to be a youngster in similar circumstances, so a power imbalance and abusive association can be even more damaging).

So, maybe you're right and this is all just juvenile japery at the behest of a jerk and some self-guided reading will help the point gel. I wouldn't take that risk. Not for myself, and certainly not as a concerned human knowing he has contact with people far smaller and more vulnerable than he is. I don't think books left hanging about will solve this. In fact, I'd be worried that he'd get some feelings of endorsement or excitement from them. He has room for development in a better direction, but something on this scale needs a professional. Developing sexuality and personal power are very sticky and tricky even without the added pressure this guy is under. This is not a good situation for amateurs to dabble in.

You don't think he's a sociopath or any flavour of -path just by your own impression, and that's kind but not helpful. Sociopaths are partially able to do what they do because they seem so normal. In fact, many seem extra-normal and even endearing. And maybe he isn't - the statistics are certainly in favour that this is the case - but he's learning sociopathic behaviours and the response he's getting is more likely to ratify their value and excitement than to actually help him through this confusing mess.

Since you want book recommendations, I'll give you one that may or may not help but at least addresses some of the impacts of being sexually abused/predated: "One Bad Rat". I advise you and his mom to read it beforehand to see if it gets the points across that should be communicated.

*And make no mistake that he's a young man. He's not an annoying child. He's bigger than you and he has tried this repeatedly even after you've made it clear it's unwanted and multiple people have become involved. That his mom had any delay in response because she wasn't directly hearing/seeing is alarming, and it's weird that you're minimising that.
posted by batmonkey at 8:39 AM on December 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

The male role models, do they spend a lot of consistent, one-on-one time with the kid? There's a difference between having them around the house, and having someone spend concerted, one-on-one time with the child, doing different activities and building a relationship with them. That is where the benefits of the Big Brother, Big Sister program comes from--it gives the child regular, invested attention from a positive adult that's specifically "theirs". If he doesn't have this, maybe you can look for it? If you go through BBBS, hold out for a Big Brother, they give Big Sisters to kids but you'll want a male in this case.

Also, this is kind of obvious but make sure the mom reads through the books before you leave them out.

That said, books are not a substitute for therapy, as other people have said. Even if the dad is telling him to do that stuff, the kid is still establishing a pattern that it is OK to do that stuff. He needs to have consequences stronger than his mom saying "Don't do that" or getting grounded or something. If your presence really does mean that much to him, then removing yourself from it, with the clear message of why you are, will do a lot.

Finally, have any of you talked to the kid about why he is doing this? Like, sat him down and asked him why he thinks it is OK? Not stopped the questions if he said "I don't know" or "Dad said so" or "Because it's funny" but kept asking like "Do you think I would think it is funny," "Why do you think it is funny to do something when the other person is upset," "Do you think it is the honorable thing to do, to do something when someone has told you to stop and it hurts them?" "Why do you think it is honorable?"

And if he lies about doing it, saying "One of the worst things about this is that you lied to me--that says a lot about your character and I am really disappointed in you." If the kid truly likes and respects the people who are asking him these questions and expressing disappointment, it will affect him.

(Then again, it won't do anything if he doesn't give two shits and/or is a sociopath, so his reaction to this stuff will be telling)
posted by schroedinger at 8:56 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

With the OP's update, I stand by my previous answer. His behavior, and the way the OP describes it, is classic sociopathy, right down to the "allies" swearing that he's okay but just a little misunderstood. He is using his history with the OP (knowing him since he was a small child) to manipulate the permissiveness of adults and authority figures in his life. He may not be doing it consciously - there are many studies that show that sociopathic behavior in children is sometimes learned behavior that is then reinforced by well-meaning caring adults - but he is doing it.

OP: I am not diagnosing this kid, but I am saying that everything you have written is close to textbook in terms of sociopathic behavior, right down to the responses he has elicited from you and his mother. You can still love a kid who has these behaviors. Not all kids that exhibit sociopathic behaviors are themselves sociopaths, but getting a professional to determine if he is just mirroring behavior that is getting reinforced versus having a broken brain will drastically determine where he falls on the treatment scale. Even if he is a sociopath, that doesn't mean you have to stop loving him or caring about him. Sociopaths can be successful in a wide range of things as adults and blend in with society just fine. You probably know some without realizing it.

I know that the mother is tapped out financially but if this kid sexually assaults a girl in his class by doing exactly what he has done to you - touching her breast, for example - it is likely that mama is going to get sued and "tapped out financially" is not even going to begin to describe the ways in which she is going to be tapped out. She knows that her son is exhibiting these behaviors, and she is sending him to school without treatment anyway.
posted by juniperesque at 9:31 AM on December 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

I know I said I was done giving advice to you upthread, but please bear with me, I had one more thought overnight that I want to share.

You're suspicious of the dad's involvement in this, believing that the dad is putting the kid up to assaulting you, etc. And your concern is legitimate. I think you go a little too far when you suggest the dad is setting you up for a false accusation of sexual assault. But I think what's going on here may be a lot darker, a lot more subtle and pernicious than what you suspect.

Consider that the father is not explicitly telling his son to assault you, but is modeling for the boy, by the father's own behavior, that you can do what you want to women and get away with it. You say the father has abused numerous girlfriends, but "none of his alleged victims went to the police." Sound familiar? Yeah, that's you, too.

What dad is teaching the son, through the dad's own behavior, is the sexual brinksmanship of a man who takes what he wants from women. He's been arrested but nothing ever came of it. He assaults and abuses women but they don't go to the police. You and the child's mom tell the son that his father is a very, very bad man, but guess what, all indications are that dad is doing just fine. Nothing ever comes of the abuse dad inflicts, and in fact, dad is a lot more successful than mom, far more money than mom has, so the world doesn't seem to think dad is a bad man. Dad is doing just fine. Dad is teaching the son to be an "alpha male."

And interestingly enough, by not going to the authorities, you are playing right along with what the dad is teaching the son. There are no consequences. If you were to get the police and juvenile court and school counselors involved, you would be creating a disruption in this tutelage. "Wow," the son would think, "Dad may have gotten away with it, but I am not getting away with it. I'm not getting to do the things other kids are doing because I've got my counseling appointments, mandatory community service, and I'm under house arrest."

With no repercussions other than some conspicuously placed anti-rape literature (you think cheesy books about sensitivity can compete with dad's charm and savvy and worldly wisdom?), the son will grow in confidence, get girlfriends who unfortunately do not know -- have no reason to know -- that the kid is a predator. Dad has taught the son a kind of devil-may-care charm, and the shrill protestations of girls he forces himself on, barely register with the boy because he's been doing this since his early teens -- to you -- and nothing really happened other than you swatting his hand away and yelling stop it. You still came around.

The parents of girls, who have heard of no problems with the boy, have no reason to steer their daughters away from him. Nobody at the boy's school is aware of any problems, no juvenile court problems, etc. So he date-rapes a few girls, they don't report it because, after all, they were fooling around and they are embarrassed about what happens.

See how this could play out? He goes through life, victimizing people, without consequences, just like dad.
posted by jayder at 9:54 AM on December 11, 2011 [40 favorites]

Another thing to consider: are you all basically blaming the father for the boy's behavior, to the boy's face? The boy's actions are his own -- and if you keep giving him the out of "what you did was wrong but it's really your father's fault for teaching you that", he's not being told that he and he alone is responsible for his actions.

(I stand by my earlier comment that you should no longer spend time with this boy)
posted by imalaowai at 10:43 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not much else to say,"disaster waiting to happen" sums it up. I don't know if you have raised any kids yourself, but this is NOT normal 12 year old boy behavior. Fantasy, maybe, but acting out as he has with you, and not stopping when you told him to stop; no , that is scary. Perhaps he has been sexually abused, by Dad or someone else as another poster mentioned.
That might explain his behavior, but points out an even greater need for professional intervention.

What would happen if you told him if he ever did it again you would call the police, and then followed through if he did? He would have been warned of the consequence, and would pay the price if he continued to molest you.

Echoing everyone else, you are way too enmeshed in this family, and need to get away from them for everyone's good. There is no book that can solve this.
posted by mermayd at 10:57 AM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

You say the father has abused numerous girlfriends, but "none of his alleged victims went to the police." Sound familiar? Yeah, that's you, too.

Yes, please pay attention to this.

It sounds like you're playing a game with this kid. I know you don't mean for it to be a game, but it sure sounds likehe is taking it as one. And the game is this, "See how much you can get away with before she shouts out." Sometimes he's able to get a feel of your leg, sometimes your breast. And sometimes he doesn't get far at all before you've drawn everyone's attention. Haha! What a BLAST. How FUN to see how much he can do before you shout out.

You can't win. Any action available to you will just fit into the game he's playing. Everything that you're doing with this kid is reinforcing the idea that the shouts of women in response to unwanted sexual contact is just part of a game. That women saying, "No, don't do that, I don't want that," just mean he lost one round and has to wait to try again.

The only way you can win is not to play.
posted by meese at 11:11 AM on December 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

I do worry a little bit that his dad might be setting him up to make some type of false accusation

You need to cut contact with these people. Never be around the son, in any context, ever.
posted by spaltavian at 1:03 PM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't often comment on this site, but I read it all the time, and I can unequivocally say that this was the saddest and most disturbing question I've ever seen posted here. OP, your response- which was intended to clarify the details and dial back the sense of urgency that many posters expressed here- made it even scarier. I'm afraid I agree with those who are advising you to cut the cord.

You are defending and justifying someone sexually assaulting you- someone who is at an age when he should fully capable of moral reasoning- by saying "not everyone considers" what he's doing to be sexual assault. This is utterly besides the point. Aside from the more self-evident fact that it meets the criminal definition of that behavior to a T, your claim that his behavior doesn't meet a certain kind of definition that he might or might not maintain in his head doesn't change the fact that it is vile an unacceptable behavior.

I, like others, recommend taking Jayder's last comment very, very seriously. Based on what you've told us here, you are teaching this kid that his behavior will not be punished but only momentarily admonished, and that the only consequences of his actions will be a few seconds of hand-waving before his victim (yes, that's you) welcomes him back into her life with open arms.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:41 PM on December 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Let me give you one more thing to consider. You are allowing a 12 year old to engage in sexual behavior with you. At some point there may be someone in authority who would view this as criminal sexual conduct on YOUR part and take some sort of action.

Get out of that situation NOW.
posted by tomswift at 2:16 PM on December 11, 2011 [13 favorites]

Did you go with the mother and make a statement to the judge about this sexual inappropriateness? If not then the courts haven't heard everything. I side with everyone else, you need to distance yourself from this kid and his family. If you want to help, I suggest you offer an ultimatum to his mom and then you need to disentangle.

And I really get a whiff of, if not sex abuse, then at least inappropriate sexual conduct around this boy. You can't talk a twelve-year-old boy who is otherwise healthy and normal into grabbing an adult woman's breast. But, if he's seen his Dad inappropriately touch and handle his girlfriends, that could make a serious impression.

This is a very disturbing thread. The kid is not a "horndog," he's picked a very bright boundary line to test. I do not see good things for his future without specific and professional help. Sorry, OP, I don't think you can bring about the change you want to see here. I know it's heartbreaking. I can tell that through your words. The best thing for everyone is to make it clear through your words and actions that you have been pushed too far and that you cannot be around these people.
posted by amanda at 2:50 PM on December 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

It just occurred to me - there's one person who absolutely can see just as much of a therapist as she wants, and that's mom. She should be working with someone who can help her develop good parenting strategies and also generally cope with the awfulness coming from her ex's corner.

She may also find some good advice from the Boys Town National Hotline, come to think of it. They also have a series of books for kids and parents on various issues that might be helpful.
posted by SMPA at 4:47 PM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I also agree with Jayder and Juniperesque. I believe that my ex boyfriend is a sociopath but it took me a long time to understand it. He came from a fairly normal family, so I thought he was more or less normal, if a little inappropriate at times. As time went on and I realized just how fucked up his view towards the world (and women) were, one thought I frequently found myself thinking was: "Where were his parents while he was developing all these ideas?" How could he grow up thinking these things, and not have been corrected by them? Did they somehow encourage this behavior? Did they just ignore and minimize it? Were they just in denial? Were they or someone else actually modeling this behavior in some way? It bothered me the entire time we were together, and now that it's over I still don't know the answer. Which is why I found this particularly disturbing:

Juniperesque: He may not be doing it consciously - there are many studies that show that sociopathic behavior in children is sometimes learned behavior that is then reinforced by well-meaning caring adults

Again, I don't know for sure and probably never will, but I feel that this is a pretty good explanation for my unanswered question of how his parents let him grow up to be so fucked up. Like, maybe they saw that there was something wrong, but they didn't want to have such major conflict in their otherwise-perfect family so they just downplayed, denied, pandered to him to shut him up, whatever. They probably did all they could, and when that wasn't enough they gave up and looked the other way. Now people like me are paying the price. A year after breaking up, I'm in therapy, going on meds, had to move and change my number because this asshole did such a number on me and still won't leave me alone because he DOES NOT UNDERSTAND BOUNDARIES. And this is a guy I simply DATED, you're talking about someone who may actually be at risk for becoming a rapist. (Regardless of the backpedaling, I don't think you would have said this if you didn't think it was a real possibility.) This kid doesn't need to be shielded from consequences ("oh no, it might go on his record!") Teaching kids that their actions don't have real consequences is a fucking slippery slope and I think that's how my ex ended up the way he was- he did messed up stuff throughout his teenage years (and who knows, maybe before) but as far as I can tell he more or less got away with all of it. His parents shielded him from the consequences. And I can say with certainty that in the long run, it didn't help him at all. He's a wreck, and he destroys the women he dates. I pity the next girl he's with, and the next one, and the next. And I'm sure he's not happy either. I believe somewhere deep down he knows there's something wrong in the way he relates to the world, but he doesn't know how he got that way or how to change so he probably never will. And it's in all parts of his life, his apparent inability to understand or weigh consequences- he never wore a seatbelt, frequently drove drunk, grew illegal drugs in apartments he shared with other people, etc. Even when I tried to reason with him ("you'll die/ get a ticket/ get arrested/ go to jail") his maddening response was generally along the lines of: "No, I won't. I haven't yet, have I?"

Again, that's just someone I dated. Even if this kid never becomes a rapist, he's still on the path to a lifetime of seriously messed up relationships that are destructive to the people who get involved with him. And if he does become a rapist, I agree that the scenario Jayder describes sounds like it could easily happen. That's the scary thing about sociopaths- they seem normal, so even if you want to accuse them of something, you doubt yourself. I can totally believe that he could become a serial date-rapist who preys on insecure women who he perceives to be unlikely to report him. I know it sounds extremely dramatic to say something along the lines of "stop thinking about protecting him, think about protecting the future women who could potentially be his victims." but that's basically what i'm getting at here.
posted by Argyle_Sock_Puppet at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
1. The child does not live with us, which should be clear from the initial question. I stated outright that I have not been alone with him since the problem arose, and I think it should be obvious that this includes drastically cutting down on the amount of contact I have with him.

2. The child doesn't live with a bunch of men. "Here" means in the area. His mother does not leave him alone with any man other than his father for any significant amount of time.

3. I find many of the characterizations here at least as repulsive and disturbing as anyone else here does. I am not interested in explaining the situation further, but I do want to make it very clear that many of the interpretations and assumptions being made here are wildly inaccurate.

My sincere thanks to the handful of people who answered the question.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:31 PM on December 11, 2011

Oh. I'm so sorry.

Everyone writing is doing so because they've dealt with a child like you describe, or the adult that child has turned into. Someone mentioned the title of your post using the word "rapist" - please understand you bought what you paid for when you used that word. And you used it out of concern! That was right!

Please don't shoot the messenger.

I still recommend the book "Puzzling People" to you because I think it can help give you insight, or as you seem to be hoping, rule out some more disturbing possibilities.

If you want to help, you have to look at all the options.

It was pretty much unanimous that this problem requires professionals.

I'm sorry you felt this was a pile on. Truly.

I've seen this happen before on the AskMe's. The OP feels The Green has piled on despite a few updates, yet The Green keeps on the same tone. Without deviation. That's usually a sigof concern, not a pile on. Pile on's flame out early because they are usually obvious or bogus. With something like this, folks keep jumping in and jumping back in because they care.

The biggest change in society today is that dysfunction no longer necessarily operates in a vacuum of silence. When I was a kid, I kept wondering why the adults around didn't jump in and save me. If today with the Internet was my life 20 years ago, my mom would have gotten help, or I would have been kept safe. It's like that now. Things are changing, but it is harder and harder to be in denial about what's right in front of you and what the consequences are.

The impact of your title's wording was not mitigated by your updates and explanations because everything was still consistent with a particular set of problems pretty much universally identified by a lot of caring folks here.

If you use those suggestions to google resources and methods for dealing with this issue, you'll likely end up with the same conclusions on your own about this whole thing.

Mostly. I think no one wants to see you in trouble or end up in jail due to false accusations.

And if you "get" what I'm saying now, ignore this last part....

That story about my mom's plotting to hurt me or worse? I HATE that story. I hate telling it. It's so far removed from my life today (I am so careful about who is around me and my family) the thought that my life was ever in that much danger just blows my mind.

But I told that story to you. In a public forum because you are anonymous and this is that serious a situation.

It hurt me significantly to tell that my mother, who gave me life, probably tried to kill me and get away with it via a claim of self-defense. I come from an upper middle class neighborhood where those sorts of things are not supposed to happen.

Lots of other people shared personal stories with you. I bet that hurt them to re-tell, too.

Don't just thank the folks who gave you book ideas. Thank everyone for their input and keep it on speed dial.

We tried.
posted by jbenben at 6:36 PM on December 11, 2011 [13 favorites]

Please, call the child abuse hotline in your state and report what's going on. Please, for the safety of this boy and those around him, report what is happening. I can understand that "normal" therapy is not an option because Dad won't consent. In my CASA program, I'm aware of a case that was very similar--biological non-custodial parents pushing for services for their kids, pushing for help, including something as basic as an eye exam, and Dad absolutely would not consent to anything. That dad is now in jail for sexually abusing the children.

Do I know this child is being sexually abused? Absolutely not! But by denying the child the services he needs to be healthy, including therapy to deal with his highly inappropriate behaviors, Dad is guilty of abuse. The courts *will* take this seriously. The child will have his own lawyer who will advocate for him. It is wonderful that you want to educate him, but he needs more than that. He needs to be held accountable for his inappropriate behavior; he needs to live in a home where he is safe. Please, report this situation! If there is a local domestic violence program in your area, they can be a wonderful resource for you and Mom as well.
posted by epj at 7:36 PM on December 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

I just want to echo jbenben's latest comment, in that we're all insisting on certain points repeatedly because, well, those of us who say we've been there, have been there. We don't just mean that we clearly saw what was going to happen to us – we didn't, just as you too are still in a fog created by a chaotic, unfair situation (unfair in that the father is clearly wielding his power in the worst ways possible). Many of us have been in that same fog, many of us have been confused and desirous of mature, adult outcomes in which everyone who deserves the best, gets the best.

That's not how it's going to happen. Why? You do not have the power. A sociopathic, abusive, manipulative man who is getting away with assault, modelling and teaching his son those very things, is the one with the power. (There's a whole tangential discussion on society, privilege, "power" etc. that would be very apt here, but is nonetheless tangential.)

And so it boils down to a power play, as sad as that reality is. You need to show that boy, clearly, that there are other, (generally) healthier powers at play in the world, above those of his father (namely, the police) that do not let people escape consequences for bad behavior. You need to listen very closely to jayder's advice.

As for where I'm coming from? The least traumatic relationship to this question is that I was molested in middle school for a year, by a kid a year older than me. I told him to stop. He didn't. I tried removing myself. He followed me and escalated, angry that I was "trying to escape him". I reported it to the school. Nothing was done. (This was in the US, in the 1980s.) The only help I got was from a music teacher, who'd already known me for a few years, and who saw me trying to hit the kid off my chest one day. He gave me the key to the music room so I could lock myself in outside of class hours, when the kid tended to attack me. That was the only thing stopping him. I can't address the more traumatic events because, well, the reason I didn't read this thread until now was that I knew it would trigger me, and going there is not something I'm able to do yet. I came to this thread today because a friend's comment here had a lot of favorites in my sidebar; now I'm commenting in spite of my anxiety for the same reasons jbenben touches on. It's that important.

You worry that the father might be up to something. I had a mother like him; a mother very much like jbenben's. He is up to something and it's worse than you think. Jayder is so spot-on, I wish I could favorite his comment several times as well. The father's influence needs to be stopped by a higher power, one way or another, and getting the police involved in this child's case will only help the child. Even if he does have a record. In fact, especially if he has a record. Those are consequences. That is reality. That is society saying "we have rules, you live by them, they're more powerful than your father, who's only gotten away with it due to blind luck until now."

Caring about people also means letting them face consequences for their conscious actions, so that they can learn. The consequences need to be in direct balance. You and the mother have not been able to, and cannot balance the influence of the boy's father; you have not been able to get him to stop. He has been escalating. This is not your fault, but you need to recognize your powerlessness so that you can take appropriate action before things get any worse. I'm sorry. It's hard. It sucks. It's not entirely the kid's fault. But you need to do this.
posted by fraula at 2:34 AM on December 12, 2011 [10 favorites]

Alright, taking your objections about his character into account, it sounds like the kid just hit puberty and is horny as all hell; if you haven't been a pubescent male it can be hard to understand the chemical soup he's swimming in. He's apparently shy at school, so it's likely you're the only non-related female in his life, and he probably just really wants to have sex with you, because you are a woman he is attracted to and has a good relationship with.

In all honesty, is he masturbating yet? If he doesn't have an out for this almost literal hunger then he probably feels shitty and pent up all the time. He also maybe doesn't understand that you're as out of his league as his mother is. While of course protecting potential victims from the kid is paramount, I'd be seriously concerned that shutting his advances down in a shaming way, per suggestions above, may just teach him that he's unwanted sexually and god knows what that could turn him into down the line- maybe he ends up thinking that since he'll 'never have consent', he might as well ignore the concept. I think the best course of action is:

1. Distinguish yourself as being totally above any nonplatonic thing with him. You probably already do this, but it may help to have a conversation about how you're not his peer and he someone his age will eventually want to do this sort of thing with him.
2. Does he have access to a computer, privately? In all seriousness he needs to jerk off a lot, and if he really is 12 then there's a good chance no one's told him about the concept.
posted by MangyCarface at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2011

He does things like come up behind me and grope me and then persist in doing it when I tell him to stop

He's already a sex offender. Call the police next time and maybe he (and mom) will learn a lesson.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:31 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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