Have you had the talk?

Note: Check out the illustrated version on Pinterest here.

Teenagers walking with books and backpacksIt’s more important than ever to talk with your college-bound teen about the risks of sexual assault. With national attention focused on sexual assault on college campuses, everyone from administrators to Congress and the White House have been talking about tangible ways to address the problem.

By talking about it now, you can better equip your child to navigate social situations on campus, and intervene if necessary to keep their friends safe. Here are some tips on how approach the conversation with your teen:

Start the conversation
Use the high-profile news coverage of college sexual assault to start a dialogue. A case making local news in your community or Congress’ recent legislative action could be a good starting point.

→ Ask what they think about the case and how it could relate to their experience on campus.

Talk about real risks, not myths
Arm your college-bound kid with information about the reality of sexual assaults. For instance, many people are surprised to learn the majority of these kinds of crimes are committed by someone the victim knows, like a classmate or friend — not by a stranger hiding on campus.

→ Reinforce the fact that a sexual assault is never the fault of the victim.

Offer your vote of confidence
Encourage them to trust their instincts. Just because they are in a new place doesn’t mean they’re a new person. If a situation feels uncomfortable or dangerous, encourage your teen to find a way to get out.

→ It’s better to lie and make up an excuse for why they need to leave, rather than stay and be uncomfortable.

College is a great opportunity to establish new friendships. Remind your child that while it’s important to fit in and make friends, it’s just as important to keep an eye on things. If they see someone doing something that's not right or dangerous, they can subtly step in to help a friend in need, such as by redirecting a conversation or suggesting their friend join them outside.

→ Remind them of previous times they stood up for themselves or others.

Get consent
Talk to your college-bound student about obtaining permission before engaging in sexual activity. Not only is rape a criminal offense, but it can also result in serious harm to the victim for years to come.

→ Encourage them to think twice before having sex with someone who can’t verbally consent.

Identify campus resources and support systems
Ask your child if he or she knows where to go on campus if in need of help. For instance, do they know where to go for medical care, for academic support, or where to report a crime? Encourage them to build relationships with peers and administrators in support roles, such as the dorm resident advisor or a trusted professor.

→ Make sure your child knows about key resources on campus, such as Student Affairs or the Health & Wellness Center, as well as their locations.

Establish an open line of communication
Whether your child commutes to school from your house or lives thousands of miles away, remind him or her that you are there during the transition. Let them know that if something happens, they can tell you, no matter what the circumstances.

→ Remind your teen that you’re an ally.

If you or someone you know is struggling with on-campus sexual violence, you are not alone. Help is available 24/7 via the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org).

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