4 Year Olds Having Sex!

Question and answer details
S (44_female_US)
My 4 year old nephew has been caught trying to have sex with my 4 year old granddaughter. My first thought was that it’s normal to be curious, but he knows too much. He actually had my granddaughter lying down with her panty off, her legs spread, and his penis was hard. My question is could this be a sign of sexual abuse?
Aliah Azmeh, MSW

As-Salamu `alaikum Sister,

Thank you for sending us your question. You are right to say that children are curious when it comes to their body parts and exploring things that are new to them.

It seems like your nephew may have been exposed to seeing some kind of sexual behavior (either through television or other forms of media) and maybe trying to act upon what he saw.

Nowadays, children of all ages are exposed to sexual images that can be quite disturbing. Parents and adults should monitor what their children see on television and the internet, and keep up with what they are exposed to.

To specifically answer your question about whether your nephew was sexually abused, I do not have enough information to confirm that. Sexually abused children can act sexually with other children, but children who are exposed to sex could also act upon what they were exposed to out of curiosity.

It is true that your nephew acted in a manner that went too far, which raises a red flag that he needs extra attention. My suggestion to you would be to inform his parents of what you saw and advise them to monitor what he watches, who he spends time with, and where he may have been exposed to sex.

If he came over to visit you and your granddaughter, you should also continue to monitor him. If such behavior persists after his parents’ efforts to prevent him from sexual exposure, than I would advise that he be referred to a child counselor for further investigation.

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About the Counselor:

Aliah F. Azmeh is a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Detroit, Michigan. Aliah graduated with a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2007 and has experience working in the United States and overseas. Aliah currently works as a clinical social worker and provides individual, family, and marital counseling at Muslim Family Services in Detroit, MI.

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response reflect an attempt from the counselor to deal with the case, based on the limited information provided in the question with no responsibility whatsoever on the website. You are strongly advised to seek face-to-face counseling and consult your physician or therapist when making a drastic change in your lifestyle in terms of behavior, medication or diet etc.