General Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

How young is too young to know what rape is?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26801points) December 21st, 2009

Let say you heard of a 11yr old boy who forced a 8yr old girl to have sex with him (as best I guess he would know what sex was) by swiping a beer from his fridge and spiking some drink and tricking her into drinking it then taking advantage of her once she is too tipsy to resist. Would you consider that rape? Him acting out on something he may have heard older boys speak about or something he may have thought he seen on TV. Do you bring in the law, or handle it quietly as to not cause a media frenzy that would embarrass the kids? Is an 11yr old and no, not mine capable of the concept of rape?

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52 Answers

Pseudonym's avatar

As soon as they know what sex is. If they don’t know what sex is, they won’t understand. But if they know, then rape is something that they need to know about.

Snarp's avatar

It’s rape. And an 11 year old, unless something else is wrong developmentally, is old enough to understand that. But he might not have understood it in advance, depending on his prior life experience. No one knows inherently in birth that rape is wrong, they have to be taught. Ordinarily it isn’t taught specifically, because all the other things we learn along the way ought to rule it out. But on a constant diet of modern television and who know what, he might have gotten the wrong message.

There is a good chance the kid is not fully culpable, but I’m not sure it’s right to keep this out of the courts. At the least this decision must be made by the parents of the 8yr old. They must be told if they don’t already know, and then decide whether or not to prosecute. In which case there may be no choice but to let the courts decide the child’s level of culpability.

Janka's avatar

If he is old enough to understand concepts like sex and spiking someone’s drink to make them do stuff they would not otherwise do, he sounds to me old enough to understand the idea of rape, even if he does not know the word.

Whether in the case this should lead to legal proceedings or social services or psychiatric ones or none or all or any combination is a completely different question and depends on details you do not give. I guess main question there is does he know better, and if not, why not, and if yes, why is he still doing it.

Buttonstc's avatar

Well, he knew enough to realize that he had to get her tipsy enough to not resist. So if the essence of rape taking advantage of someone sexually without their consent, then that qualifies.

The fact that he had no regard for her wishes or feelings in the matter includes a degree of sociopathic behavior which should be of concern to everyone.

Covering it up will only ensure that he will continue to feel entitled to this behavior.

This kid needs to log in some serious time in a treatment center designed to deal with kids with these types of pathological behavior patterns.

I would also venture a guess that he himself has been sexually abused by someone. This is not typical behavior for children that young. He himself is most likely acting out his own victimization.

But that’s still no excuse. He needs to be inandated treatment. Ignoring his behavior with excuse making helps no one.

bunnygrl's avatar

There were two 10 year old boys charged with rape here in the UK recently, you can see the story here:

this is turning into a horrible horrible world.
hugs all xx

daemonelson's avatar

A lack of understanding doesn’t really concern me.

It’s illegal.

Plus, I had a fair idea of what sex was by age 8. Nowadays, you should have progressed to regular anal by age 11.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Pseudonym When I was 11 though it was back in the Dark Ages my friends and I did not now what sex was. It was a mystery we wondered about though we did know it was not a good thing to be caught naked, with your pants down and or touching a girl and having her in similar fashion. I did not even know guys went with guys and girls kissed girls in those days.

@Janka It may not have anything to to with play it forward victimization, watch any college frat movie and it seems the staple is some horndog trying to get in the pants of some coed even if he has to get her drunk or high. These movies don’t go into the ramifications of ethicality of such actions more than “this is fun dude, you ought to be doing it”. The ideal could have come from older boys he looks up to.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Buttonstc for your victimization as well.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Any age is too young – no one should have to deal with it. That boy’s parents are at fault, as well.

Merriment's avatar

I would consider it rape.

There is no “too young” to know about rape, especially these days when the age of children involved in peer rape is dropping.

There are ages where a blanket education regarding personal space and respect coupled with parental vigilance should take care of it without discussing the “ins and outs” of it. You know the old, “if someone tried to do something to you or touch you in your private areas and makes you uncomfortable you have the right to say no and to tell on them”.

I would handle it publicly if that was the only way to ensure that the perpetrators were held accountable and received therapy.

Judi's avatar

I don’t have an opinion right now. This whole situation is really depressing. So, So, So, sad!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Simple—and consensual and two-way (between children!) “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” as well as gentle touching and feeling and exploring is still “normal” and non-criminal for kids of, I would say, any pre-teen age (maybe, “less than ten” now that I think of that a bit more).

But when it’s all one way, when he’s drugging her to overcome her objections (and if he expects those objections and goes ahead anyway, or if ‘she’ were doing that to ‘him’) and where one of the children is obviously far older and more experienced and knowledgeable and in control than the other, then that’s a time for red flags and “the authorities”. I don’t think the “crime” in this case is necessarily all, or even mostly, the fault of the child.

They can’t just say, “What a monster!” and lock this kid up. They really have to go beyond that, as @Buttonstc and others have suggested, to determine, “How was this behavior learned, anyway?”

I’m not awarding this a GQ because I like the subject matter! But it is a great Q for discussion, and on that basis a GQ.

Janka's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I did not mean to suggest that it would necessarily have anything to do with victimization. It might indeed simply be that he does not know better because the option has not arisen for any adult to actually teach him better yet after some other boys put the idea into his head. In that case and if no harm was actually done, simple parental guidance might solve the matter. I tried to say that we do not know enough from the OP to know what it is about, so while obviously he is old enough to understand the concept of “rape”, the best way to handle this particular case does not follow from it.

I’m sorry if I was unclear and thanks for pointing it out.

CMaz's avatar

“swiping a beer from his fridge and spiking some drink and tricking her into drinking it”

Premeditated rape.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I think that at a very young age children should be warned that some bad people might want to do bad things to their body. This can be taught to them even before the issue of sex is raised.

CMaz's avatar

That is good advice, but they may not understand or see it coming when it is by another “friend.”

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@ChazMaz True, they need to be taught that certain parts of the body cannot be touched even by friends.

Val123's avatar

Somebody seriously needs to check into that boy’s home life. I didn’t even know what beer was at the age of 11, much less what affect it could have on you.

phillis's avatar

Two things come to mind. First, the law (paraphrased) describes rape as forced sex, and sexual assault as anything having to do with insertion or mutilation of the breast and genitalia and anus, regardless of the age of the attacker.

His age is another issue entirely, and it’s murky, knowing WHEN to talk with your kids about it. I would say that 13–14 would be preferable, but that option has been completely taken off the table for parents due to sexual predators preying on children. If you care about your kid, you MUST tell them as much as you can in accordance to what they are psychologically able to handle. You’re ALWAYS pushing the envelop with them on this because of the crime factor.

As soon as he knows the mechanics of sex, he’s guilty as hell. THe pleasure factor is already known by most children at a very early age. He did it for his own pleasure. His ability to empathize with his victim was non-existent. This is a psychopath.

I ended up teaching my older daughter about sex over two years ago. She had just turned 9. Frankly, it infuriates me, but I had no choice. Keep her stupid or keep her safe.

Val123's avatar

@phillis Heck! I started teaching my kids about sex the first time they knew enough to ask a question like, “Mom. What would happen if a bear had a chicken and a chicken had a bear?” I said, “Ugggh. You’d have a dead chicken and a frustrated bear?” Then I proceeded to tell her the deal, and why a bear will never have a chicken. She was kind of..disgusted! LOL! She was 6. IMO, there is no such thing as “too young” to talk about sex.

phillis's avatar

@Val123It makes sense that every parent should be able to relate the birds and bees tales when they feel their child is READY. I won’t fault someone for telling it at age 3 or at age 13. That’s none of my business. BUT – It’s the degradation and deceit that goes along with it, that these sexual predators possess. How the hell do you explain THAT? A sense of urgency motivates you to tell your children, but it’s hard to relate to them just how dangerous these people are without giving specifics in a way they understand, because children think in absolutes.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I know and an terrified at being accused of it, My internal and social barriers make my filx more bearablre, by caused a asshole pereon I isolate myselt an heavily as possible to avoid pain of rejection.

casheroo's avatar

I’m not sure if they’re capable of the concept..I must admit though, I don’t recall what it was like to think as an 11 year old. If I were around them more, I might be able to answer better.
American History X came out in 1998, and I remember watching it at home with my parents. I’m not sure why they let me sit in on that, I was only 12. But, I did see the scene of the main character get raped in the shower by other men…I do remember pretending not to look (since there were penises all over the screen, and I was 12 and with my parents) But, I fully understood that he was being held against his will. I don’t remember asking any questions, but I do know I knew what was happening.

I was 14 when I was raped by a 15 or 16 year old, I’m not sure his exact age. I would often wonder if he remembers and if he considers what he did rape. I wasn’t sure at the time what really happened to me, as it was acquaintance rape and I didn’t struggle for my life like I know I would do now.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@casheroo That is why it is hard to put a blanket on when a person is old or too young to know really what they are doing. And they may KNOW what they are doing but not that is was really wrong or that bad. The aquaintence you know that forced himself on you may not have seen it as rape like the classic jump from behind a car, slap her around, shove her into the back of his van, rip her clothes off, gag her with her stockings or panties, have her bound or with a knife to her neck and just have his way type of rape. The kid had an agenda for sure:
Sex is great, I want to have some but I need a girl (find a friend who is a girl)

Get her to want to take her clothes off (movies say use booze or drugs)

No way to get drugs but dad has alcohol (get the beer from the fridge)

Get her to take the booze to make her more willing (disguise it in another drink)

When she drank enough and is on cloud 9 take off her clothes.

Once clothes are off, do whatever I want to use her for pleasure.

Because there was no violence in it as with your aquaintance you didn’t mention any so I assume he did it a different way it might not be seen as rape even if he knew it was not the thing to do.

casheroo's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central You are correct, it wasn’t a violent act…but it was still rape. It bothers me when people argue that in that situation it could be seen as the girls fault…which took me a lot of therapy to overcome. The fact that I didn’t struggle, that I have no physical battle wounds, that I wasn’t drugged..I said no and thought that would be enough.
I think society makes girls feel that they deserve it sometimes, which I know I felt. I hope when my boys are older, that I can explain to them right from wrong. With girls, you teach them to protect themselves, with my boys, I want to tell them straight up “If a girl says no, you get your hands off of her immediately” of course that sounds like common sense, but I don’t think it hurts to educate them.

Val123's avatar

@phillis Well, I was thinking in terms of explaining sex, just sex, not necessarily bringing up the “bad” things that some adults are capable of doing. I mean, we don’t tell our kids about all the bad things unless there is a reason. Making them reasonably cautious is important, but you don’t want to terrify them with the evil possiblities. Just like, when you’re educating your kids about using caution around strangers you don’t want to terrify the kid with the details of what could happen… I’m not sure I understood your post. I wasn’t motivated to discuss sex with my kids to warn them of the dangers, but because sex is part of life

phillis's avatar

@Val123That’s the difference! I didn’t tell my daughter JUST to teach her the B&B story. I HAD to protect her (I did show her what a condom was and how to use it over a hard penis, with a cucumber as an example). The fine line that leaves parents guessing is how much to include when you tell them to be careful! They HAVE to know enough so that it makes sense. Deciding what the child is capable of handling emotionally is largely nothing more than a damn good guess. You love your kids and don’t want to give them nightmares. But if you DON’T give them an indication of why they have to be so cautious, then it doesn’t register at all because children think in black and white. Deceit, disguised in various forms to entice children, is NOT black and white. That’s the problem.

Val123's avatar

@phillis I was thinking along the lines of discussing sex with a six year old! But if your kid is moving into an age where they will or could become sexually active, then yes, it is definitely time for the warnings!

Buttonstc's avatar

Most kids have an instinctual sense of when something is not what it should be, but they need to be consistently validated throughout their life that they have a right to decide who does what with and to their bodies.

I wish that more parents truly understood how important this is even in seemingly minor things. It never ceases to amaze me when I’m doing face painting (particularly at a festival) how parents will insist that I paint the face of an obviously resisting child.

I just flat out refuse to do that and try to jokingly tell them that I only do mutually consensual face painting, ha ha. But I’m totally serious about it and some of them can be surprisingly insistent about it.

Most kids love it but there are a few who just don’t like the idea of some stranger gooping up there face with wet stuff. And they have every right to feel that way.

It’s similar in some respects to kids having to endure being slobbered with kisses by Aunt or Uncle Busybody. If the child is not comfortable with that they can still be taught basic manners with a courteous handshake instead. Why should they have to endure body contact that makes them uncomfortable. Yes, I know that it’s over zealous relatives and most likely innocent, but why can’t the childs wishes be honored?

I think it is important for them to feel validated about their choices of what degree of body contact is comfortable for them in multiple situations. If parents continually override a cautious childs wishes, they can hardly be expected to have any confidence in themselves when the situation is not so benign.

I’m not saying that anybody here is like that, but there are plenty of parents who are without realizing the potential damage being done.

The one thing that educators try to emphasize to kids is to trust that “icky” feeling in their tummy. Kids don’t need all the horrid details of potential scenarios if their response to that icky feeling can be encouraged and strengthened.

Unfortunately, many child predators take advantage of being an authority figure (coach, scout leader, priest) so kids need to be validated in their right to resist authority if they get that icky feeling.

But what kind of message are parents sending to a reluctant child by trying to force him to endure unwanted face painting or slobbery kisses from relatives?

I think it’s something that bears reflection.

phillis's avatar

@Val123The problem wasn’t just that eventually she would become sexually active (probably long before her mother would be comfortable with). I have had, and will continue to have, numerous talks with her before, preaching condoms, condoms, condoms like a southern Baptist preacher bangs on his Bible at a Sunday service. I had to teach the mechanics of sex specifically because of the child sexual predators. I belong to two organizations who alert and update me on sexual predators within a 2,5 and 7 mile radius of my home. They have pictures of these men and women, and also tell if they have absconded. No matter where I have lived, there have never been any less than SIX registered sex offenders in a 5 mile radius, even in well-to-do areas. I had no choice but to tell her.

Val123's avatar

@Buttonstc That was a great post!

phillis's avatar

@Val123Stranger Danger talks have been discussed OFTEN since the girls reached the age of three, and are still ongoing. My youngest is only 5, and still HAPPILY crawled up into the TV repairman’s van this past summer. How do you impress upon a child the dangers without giving them a clear picture of what danger IS?

Buttonstc's avatar


Thanks. I hope it inspires people to validate and strengthen their childs instincts in new ways and consistently so.

Val123's avatar

@phillis That’s tough! It really is, because there is such a fine line. I walked into the pediatricians office with my 18 month old one day several years ago. There was a kid there, she looked at me, I looked at her and smiled and said “Hi!” The kid turned pale and ran to her mom and said, “I think that lady said “Come here!” to me!” That’s not good.

Buttonstc's avatar


That’s a really good question and I’m glad you asked it.

I think part of the problem is that exact phrase.

It tends to give children the wrong impression in several ways.

Firstly, not every single stranger is dangerous. They need to learn how to recognize which strangers are more likely dangerous than others.

Secondly, this phrase totally ignores the statistical likelihood that the child will be victimized by someone known to them. The stranger rapes are the ones which hit the headlines but for every one of them, how many more are being abused by the neighbor, relative, authority figure in their life.

I need to gather my thoughts before I continue but that’s my first thoughts on the question.

phillis's avatar

@ButtonstcEXACTLY!! 90% of child molestation come from family members or close friends of the family. I can’t even bring that up with my girls!!! I can’t have my 11 year old running from strangers AND family members! It will totally fuck her mind! I had to weigh the quality of her childhood against the odds of someone in my family being a closet abuser. Since I had never seen anyone in my family sexually abuse ME (it was my mothers numerous “friends” who did that to me, not family members), the choice, eventually, was to opt in favor of her emotional security and a happy, well-adjusted childhood.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@casheroo It often comes down to perception, this boy whom you knew did not do the classic violent traits of rape but you felt icky and sick about it, Because you did not fight for your life of bite off the horndog’s little weenie etc, maybe in your mind wondered, or at least wondered if anyone else would think he did it since you did not have bruising. I don’t excuse him but I think in a clueless way he don’t think he raped anyone because the classic traits were not there. Now he was old enough to should have known better but if you are 9 to 12 as n the article linked by bunnygrl, maybe not all of them know they are doing a rape when they by the text book are.

Buttonstc's avatar

It’s really difficult to formulate principles which are applicable to every age group. My general rule of thumb for age 6 and under for whom I’m responsible would be pretty simple: Dont let them out of my sight EVER period.

And I will also share the single best piece of advice I’ve ever heard regarding the unthinkable scenario of being separated accidentally in a large crowd or store.

This advice was by a retired Chicago Homicide cop who now teaches safety. Telling the child to find the nearest policeman if they are lost wastes valuable time. Tell your child to find a woman ( someone who looks like Mommy or Grandma) and ask them to help you.

There were several sound reasons 1) it’s easy for the smallest child to remember
2)the percentage of child predators who are women is so low as to be negligible
3)women have a natural maternal instinct and won’t ignore a child in distress who directly asks for help.

That’s what I told my students if they ever got separated from us on a field trip. It never happened, but good to know as a backup.

This also illustrates the fallacy behind Stranger Danger. Not ALL strangers are dangerous and the right ones can be lifesaving.

Buttonstc's avatar


Actually I think you are doing one of the most important things of all which is communicating with them about these and similar issues on an ongoing basis all the time.

You realize that just having “The Talk” is not enough. It takes many talks over many years so that this is an ongoing dialogue and they realize that if anything weird is going on that they can check in with you about it. You aren’t an oblivious parent who will freak out because you have an ongoing dialogue with them about sexual and safety matters.

You really can’t expect the 5yr old to have judgment about this stuff. They are still in the happy coccoon of childhood and checking out the installers van is just a normal part of exploring their world. And presumably the installer was not purposely trying to entice the kid. But that’s why you don’t take your eyes off them at that age.

Your 11yr old is definitely able to evaluate things for herself. I don’t think you need to scare older kids with specifics. But just working from the basis of the fact that there are people out there seeking to take advantage of them emotionally as well as physically.

But there are many teachable moments in everyday life that can be fruitful for ongoing dialogue. Every time one of these cases hits the news is a good opportunity to ask the child for what their thoughts about it are.

They certainly are aware of these cases due to the media saturation so it may as well be a good opportunity for dialogue. Maybe ask them how they could respond if they were ever in that situation.

Another thing safety experts advise for older kids is to make them aware of some of the ruses used by these guys. Help me find my lost pet, etc.

But the most important thing is to get them clues in on how to listen to that inner warning voice that is their protection and what specifically to do when they feel that warning about anyone, even authority figures. If they know they can check in with you about anything or anyone and be believed this is one of the most important gifts a parent can give to their child.

Kids have a lot more ability at critical thinking skills than we usually think they do. But it’s like a muscle that needs to be strengthened.

I much prefer to teach kids Stranger Awareness rather than just stranger danger in all kinds of scenarios both now and later in life. Kids need practice in evaluating people based upon their actions rather than how they look or whether they are strangers or not.

They need to know which behaviors can be safely ignored (such as a friendly lady in the safety of the Drs office like in Val’s example) vs the adult neighbor who wants them to come over and play video games with them. One is normal and not dangerous. The second one is decidedly inappropriate. Let the neighbor find a playmate his own damn age.

All of this takes place in ongoing dialogue and role playing scenarios so evaluating situations for danger of all sorts becomes natural.

It’s all about judgment and learning to trust your instincts because not every situation is cut according to pattern

But the most important as you already know is to be accessible and keep the lines of communication open. That’s the best that anyone can do for their kids.

phillis's avatar

@ButtonstcI’ve ALWAYS banged it into my kid’s heads, IF I CAN’T SEE YOU, YOU’RE TOO FAR AWAY. IF YOU CAN’T SEE MOMMY, YOU’RE TOO FAR AWAY. When we use a public restroom, I insist that they stay at the door so that I can see their feet. I have had to spank to drive that lesson home. I never had another problem seeing feet anymore. When Bellie told me why she climed into the van, she said it was because no stranger was in there. Shit! How do you foresee THAT? She was right. I felt like a grade-A idiot. Kids are good at that illuminating your shortcomings. I had to explain to her how to respect a person’s propert, instead of stranger danger. Hey, whatever it takes to keep them safe.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@phillis Well that is a good example when tanning that back side is needed. If you had only treated it with a “naughty chair” or time out they might never have fully understood this is a very, very BIG deal to mommy and I need to take head. Sometimes parents have to think about the greater good then “Oh my, I hit my kid”, better a soft behind and have them safe then an unspanked one abused or way worse.

Buttonstc's avatar

“she said it was because no stranger was in there”

Ah, the infallible logic of a 5yr old following instructions to the letter :D

I got such a good chuckle out of that. Makes sense to me:)

phillis's avatar

@Hypocrisy_CentralAll I want is never to get the phone call from the authorities that they’ve found my child’s body, or pick her up from the middle of the damn street, cradling her dead body because she was hit by a car. These things are not guaranteed, and have happened to better parents than I will ever be. If I have to spank to keep them safe, I’ll by God do it. But because of the environment I grew up in, I am more intuitive than the average person what the consequences are when you spank indisciminantly. I am not an idiot. I know the difference between spanking to release anger, and spanking to teach a child things that will keep them safe.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

My last two responses were posted to the wrong question. Please disregard.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@phillis I agree, you have my FULL SUPPORT on that. I always say better a soft behind to keep a kid safe because to not have done it and have a dead child is far worse; for you and the child. <hugs>

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Dang…....and I would have never known it if you had not said anything, you gave yourself up Hee hee hee ;-)

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central The Valium was kicking in and I was answering the wrong question, rather incomprehensibly at that.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@phillis I know you know the difference between a spanking and a beating, I know that. Some people just want to be so PC that a dead kid unstruck is better than a live kid who has been paddled, Go figure? :-)

phillis's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central—-Thank you for the confidence. I do know the difference, and both of my kids are high functioning because of it. They are THE most polite children to be found! They sure as hell weren’t born like that. That takes a lot of encouragement!

allie01's avatar

you are never too young to know what tht is ?


@bunnygrl I doubt those young boys carried out “rape” in the technical sense——ie., forced penetration and sex with the young girl. I don’t believe boys that young can have sex, let alone ejaculate. They were more likely to have been guilty of tearing off the girl’s clothes and performing “simulated” sex on her, or fingered her instead of using their penises like men would. In other words, the term rape was used not in the technical sense, but loosely.

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