DEAR COUNSELLOR: Sexual abuse or sexual initiation?

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist

Dear Counsellor,
I am 16 years old. I live in the urban area of St Catherine and my parents are well known in the community where we reside. We have a helper who has been making advances and this makes me feel uncomfortable. The problem is that one evening she came into the bathroom while I was showering and performed oral sex. It was weird at first, but then I liked how she made me feel. I knew immediately afterwards that it was wrong, but it felt great. Now she is making plans for us to do more. She has pleaded with me not to tell my parents as she needs the job. But she says she loves me and that “this will be our little secret”. What should I do?

Dear O.G.,
Unfortunately, sexual abuse is prevalent in our society and should not be tolerated. Most times, the act of sex with teenagers is not seen as abuse, but as sexual initiation. This helper has acted not only illegally but also immorally/inappropriately. The fact that you felt uncomfortable the first time was a sign that you recognised that her advances were wrong. I did not get the impression from your email that you gave your consent, which would suggest that she violated your right to consent.

Under the Child Care and Protection Act in Jamaica, a child is anyone under the age of 18. Also, one of the protections afforded to children under the act is protection from sexual abuse, for example, when an adult, including family members, molests a child or has sex with a child. The age of sexual consent is 16, which creates some controversy in your particular case.


This person used the importance of the ‘job’ as a tool to manipulate and control the situation to her advantage. This is quite typical of predators; they find that aspect of the victim’s state of mind/situation and then they take advantage of the weakness – in your case, sympathy – they find. I also recognise that you “liked how it made you feel”, which is quite normal. Sex is pleasurable when it is performed within the acceptable conditions (legal age of consent, use of a condom).

I could not determine whether you are male or female; however, if you are a male, O.G., there is an increased risk of an unplanned pregnancy and exposure to sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS. If you are female, then you may be exposed to a sexually transmitted infection. O.G., there is also the psychological effect on your sense of self, your relationship with your parents, and how this experience will impact you later in life. ‘Keeping secrets’ is the beginning of other issues between parents and children.

I am obligated to encourage you to tell your parents about this sexual encounter as there are legal and possible health-related implications that need to be addressed, immediately.

We all have what is termed ‘gut feelings’; when your gut tells you that something is off, it usually is correct. In this life, we must always strive to do what is legally and/or morally right, even if it feels good. I appreciate that you chose this medium to seek counsel and, quite possibly, you may just have helped another teen.

Disclaimer: As a counselling psychologist, it is my responsibility to report any suspected or reported sexual act against a child below the age of consent. This medium does not allow for the identification of the client, and for the proper reporting of the incident related. My only hope is that the child will choose to report to his/her parents, despite the helper’s loss of her job.

“The right choice is sometimes a difficult one … but it will always be the right thing to do.”

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist


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