Was it Child Molestation?

Reader’s Question

Q. When I was about 3 years old, I was at a family friend’s house with my mom. Their 14-year-old son took me downstairs to his room to play. He then proceeded to take his penis out of his pants and stroke it. He looked over at me and told me it was a lollipop and for me to suck on it. It made me extremely uncomfortable and I told him no. He persisted and eventually I ran back upstairs to my mom. I’ve never told anyone this before and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that what he did was really awful. My question is this. Was what he did a form of child molestation?

— Confused

Psychologist’s Reply

A. Let me start by saying that I’m a psychologist, not an attorney. However, I have worked in juvenile corrections and with adolescent sexual offenders for several years. What you describe is probably not child molestation but rather exhibitionism. If no physical contact was made, it might qualify as “indecent exposure” — still a criminal offense, but probably not child molestation. Had you been forced or physically touched, the sexual abuse charge in the US is called “gross sexual imposition” which is defined as sexual contact committed by force or threat of force or with the use of drugs or intoxicants.

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