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Sexual Assault Prevention and Tips for Students and Parents

The following information is adapted from You’re on Your Own (But I’m Here If You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years, by Marjorie Savage. (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

Tips for Students

Don’t Be a Victim of Sexual Assault

  • When you’re preparing for a date or a party, take care of yourself first. Have enough money to pay for your meal and transportation home, if necessary. Have your cell phone charged and with you. Program a cab company phone number into your directory.
  • At parties and bars, keep a friend in sight. Watch out for each other, and check in from time to time to make sure you’re both comfortable with how things are going.
  • Trust your instincts. If you find yourself in a situation where something feels wrong, look for a way out of the situation—move closer to other people or seek out a safe way to get home.
  • Don’t ignore sudden feelings of mistrust just because you have known someone for a long time. You can’t tell if a person has the potential to rape based on past behaviors.
  • Never leave a drink unattended or accept a drink that you did not see poured. Date-rape drugs can leave you unable to protect yourself, or even know what is happening to you.
  • If you’re going to drink, stop when you begin to feel the effects of alcohol. The more you drink, the harder it is to know when to stop. When you’re drunk, you are more vulnerable.
  • Take assertiveness training and self-defense classes. Passive and submissive behaviors can be dangerous. If you become frightened, do your best to be assertive. Speak loudly and firmly or yell.
  • If you are sexually assaulted, go to a clinic or emergency room immediately. You can decide later whether or not to press charges, but it is critical that you receive medical attention and caring support as soon as possible.

Don’t Be a Rapist

  • First, be respectful. Anytime you are uncertain whether your partner is comfortable with your behavior, ask! You can simply say, “Are you okay with this?” Assume that “no” means no. What’s more, assume that “I’m not sure” means no.
  • Understand that a person who is drunk is not legally capable of giving consent. If the other person is not capable of making an informed decision, do not have sex.
  • Recognize that your sexual needs do not give you the right to do whatever you want. Any sexual activity should be mutually desired.
  • Know the definition of sexual assault. If you think a grope or “feeling someone up” is just innocent fun, you could be surprised. In some cases, you can be arrested for these actions.
  • If you’re going to drink, drink responsibly. Most sexual assaults on college campuses follow drinking by one or both individuals. In addition, be aware of how alcohol affects you. If drinking makes you more aggressive, you could be in danger of sexually assaulting someone. Being drunk is not a defense for committing sexual assault.
  • If your friend or roommate is sexually assaulting someone, do what you can to stop the assault. You can be charged with complicity if you know about an assault and fail to intervene.
  • Be aware that committing rape has severe consequences. For your victim, there can be years of emotional trauma, unwarranted guilt, and fear. For you, sexual assault can lead to criminal charges, attorney expenses, and prison. For both of you, a sexual assault can result in disease, pregnancy, and social stigma. A few minutes of sex are not worth years of regret.

Tips for Parents

In Case of Rape: How a Parent Can Help

  • First and foremost, listen and believe your child when she or he tells you about a rape. Talking about sexual assault is a critical step toward recovery, but it is very difficult for both the victim/survivor and for the listener.
  • Make sure that “first steps” are taken. Be certain that your child is no longer in danger. If the assault was recent, encourage your child to seek medical attention and support. Time is a factor in gathering evidence, preventing pregnancy, and treating sexually transmitted diseases. Many colleges and universities have sexual assault support programs, and community sexual assault support services are also available. At the University of Minnesota, students can contact the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education.
  • Avoid being overly protective or assuming a controlling role for your child. You cannot fix this; there is work to be done, but doing the work is part of the healing process for the victim/survivor. You can, however, encourage your child to seek help, while recognizing that it may take time for your child to muster the energy to move forward. The assault took away the student’s power, and it is critical for the victim/survivor to assume self-control again and to know that you support her or his decisions.
  • Recognize your own feelings of anger and helplessness. You can find helpful information for yourself by checking your library for resources on sexual assault issues or by talking to someone at your local rape-counseling program. You can also contact the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 800-656-HOPE.
  • While you can support your child as he or she presses charges or confronts the attacker, it is not your role to retaliate. Your child knows the situation best. In some cases, a victim may not be able or ready to confront the assailant; don’t put your child in the situation where she or he is defending the attacker to you.