Sexual assault is prevalent and frequent on college campuses across the United States. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men experience sexual assault while in college. If you are a parent whose child will soon leave for college, it is important to acknowledge that this issue exists and talk to your child about how to stay safe.
#1: Understand and Communicate the Facts
Sexual assault is a major problem, and educating yourself and your child about the issue is the first step to raising awareness. Read about the statistics surrounding campus sexual assault — the NVRSC has a fact sheet on college campus sexual assault, and the organization End Rape on Campus (EROC) also has a wide range of resources.
You can also look at your child’s college’s website to see what resources they offer survivors of sexual assault. Look at the resource center the school provides and the process students must undergo to file a report.
You should also search for information on how your child’s college handles these cases. Under the Jeanne Clery Act, colleges and universities who receive federal funding must disclose campus crime statistics and security information. Communicate what you’ve learned to your child once you’ve gathered the facts.
#2: Discuss the Concept of Consent
Sexual violence occurs when someone commits a sexual act against another person without his or her consent. Understanding the concept of consent is integral for your child to navigate the complex situations in college, so it is important to talk about what consent means and looks like.
- Explain that consent must be free, informed, voluntary, and mutual. You cannot obtain consent through force, coercion, threats, or while the person is unconscious, mentally or physically impaired, or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs.
- Remind your child that consent is necessary for every sexual activity — even if the person is a long-term partner. Sex without consent is assault.
- Explain that each party in a sexual encounter can revoke consent at any time, even after consensual sex begins. If someone says no, the other person must stop.
#3: Talk About Drugs and Alcohol
Substances like drugs and alcohol are widespread on college campuses, and many sexual assaults occur in situations where these substances are present. However, it is important to communicate to your child that sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor, regardless if he or she was drunk or high.
Instead, share safe drinking tips to help your child stay safe while in social situations.
- Encourage your child to attend social gatherings in groups, and stay with his or her friends through the night.
- Educate your child about smart alcohol consumption and how to understand his or her limit.
- Explain the dangers of binge drinking, blackouts, and how these behaviors can lead to dangerous situations such as sexual assault.
With these tips, you can foster a healthy and informed conversation with your child about college sexual assault. However, assault can occur whether or not your child is aware that it is an issue.
If your child is sexually assaulted while at college, contact an attorney with experience representing survivors in the courtroom as soon as possible. Your sexual assault attorney will meet with your child to learn his or her side of the story and explain his or her legal options so you can take action.