Middle schoolers can be especially vulnerable to the sexual advances of a grownup. Someone in authority, like a teacher, can take advantage of the child's interstices and begin a relationship that quickly crosses the line.
Young teens are a constant work in progress, emotionally, mentally and physically.
"The decision-making process, the impulse control, is really being fine-tuned all through your adolescence," Child's Voice Medical Director Dr. Nancy Free said.
Dr. Nancy Free of Child's Voice says that kind of fine-tuning can cloud red flags that are raised when an adult initiates an inappropriate relationship.
"Adolescents often times don't have that extra sense to say wait, this isn't quite right, they soak it up and say, wow, I'm finally loved," Free said.
Young victims can be more trusting of women; but both women and men can violate that trust.
"Sometimes yes, because women are considered more nurturing, people may not have their defenses up. But sometimes, if you're a man and the child is lacking a strong man in her life, sometimes kids are more vulnerable to that," Free said.
Some teens going through that "awkward age" crave reassurances that an adult, with the wrong intentions, will be happy to supply.
Dr. Free says parents should be alert to possible warning signs that their teen is in an inappropriate relationship. They include the child isolating him, or herself, from the rest of the family. Also, a change in personality, clothing, or hairstyle. And coming home with new gifts, like jewelry, that you don't know where they came from.