How to talk to your student about sexual assault

This post comes to us from our amazing partner InterAct of Wake County, an organization that provides support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. For those of us here at InterAct, this is a busy month for us to connect with the community to support survivors and to stop sexual violence. As a parent, we know that it’s awkward to talk to children about healthy sexuality for a number of reasons. However, it’s vital that you open up that dialogue with your teen to educate them and keep them safe.

But what is sexual assault? According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), sexual assault is any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms include:

rape – unwanted penetration of the victim’s body

attempted rape – unwanted sexual touching or fondling or forcing a victim to perform a sexual act. In speaking about sexual assault, it is important to remember that this is a violent crime. As such, it’s never the fault of the victim.

Woman and girls ages 14-19 are 4x more likely than the general population to be victims of actual or attempted sexual assault. RAINN also found that 82% of victims of sexual assault under 18 are female, while 90% of all victims over 18 are female. Sexual assaults are more common in colleges compared to other violent crimes, such as robbery.

Talking to your children about consent and healthy sexuality, without sounding like you’re condoning behavior you are uncomfortable with, can be a tricky conversation. However, being open and honest with your teen about what is and is not healthy sexual behavior will only serve to protect your child. Below, we have some Dos and Don’ts for talking with your child.

  • DO let your child know you will always be supportive and willing to listen. You want them to come to you if they’re in trouble.
  • DO stay away from rape myths. Rape myths are common, but untrue, stereotypes about rape. Common myths include men cannot be assaulted, women are asking for it because of how they dress or act, women often lie about being sexually assaulted, or rape and sexual assaults are “misunderstandings.” Sexual assaults are violent crimes.
  • DON’T blame the victim. No matter what, a victim of sexual assault is never ‘asking for it.’ No one deserves to be sexually assaulted.
  • DO hold your child accountable for their actions. If you hear victim blaming language, abusive or misogynistic language, or casual jokes about rape and sexual assault from your child, talk to them about it. Turn it into a teachable moment where you can help your child grow.
  • DON’T be vague with your language. Tell your child exactly what you mean. Don’t use euphemisms or indirect language when speaking to your child. Own your words. Tell them exactly what you will and won’t accept. Give them the knowledge to protect themselves and make good choices.

Join us this April to go beyond “no means no” and create a culture of consent. For more information, check out the following resources: RAINN.org, LoveIsRespect.org, BreakTheCycle.org, or ItsOnUS.org.

InterAct is always here as a resource for any victim of domestic or sexual violence. Our hours are M-F from 9-5. We are located at 1012 Oberlin Road, Raleigh NC 27605. We’re available 24/7 by calling 919-828-7740.

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