Unfortunately, sexual assault does occur on college campuses across the nation. Approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while in college. Eastern Washington University is dedicated to teaching students about consent and healthy relationships, changing the culture on campus to one of consent, and advocating for survivors of sexual assault.
How to start the conversation at home
Talk to your student about consent. Explain that they are required to receive consent before engaging in any sexual activity. Consent must be verbal, voluntary, and enthusiastic – and it cannot be given under force, threat, or coercion, or if their partner lacks the mental capacity to consent, such as if the other person is unconscious, intoxicated, or has a mental disability.
Teach your student how to ask for consent. You can give them examples on how to ask for consent, such as “Would you like to do XYZ?” or “Is this okay with you?” You can also explain to them what consent sounds like – “Yes!,” “Absolutely,” or “I’d love to!”
Explain how alcohol and sexual assault relate. Studies have shown that approximately 50% of sexual assault cases occur when alcohol is involved. Make sure that your student understands that consent cannot be given under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Discuss what a healthy relationship looks like. Talk to your student about respect, trust, and communication, to name a few. Discuss unhealthy relationship behaviors, such as intimidation, jealousy, or abuse – and be clear that these behaviors are not acceptable.
Teach your student how to be an active bystander. Bystander intervention is commonly known as the “See Something, Say Something” movement. If your student witnesses a sexual assault, or that a sexual assault may be about to occur, teach them strategies to step in and address the situation – from calling out the behavior to distracting the perpetrator to calling in back-up to stop the situation.
If your student has been sexually assaulted
Believe them. Your student may be hesitant to discuss sexual assault with you, especially as their parent; they might feel ashamed or embarrassed. You can build trust with your student by believing what they say. Remember, research shows that only 2-7% of sexual assault reports are false, so most likely, your student is being truthful.
Talk to them about their resources. You can refer them to EWU's Student Care Team to learn about the resources available to them as survivors of sexual assault on EWU's campus. You may also refer them to EWU's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for confidential counseling services or you can help them get in touch with a 24/7 sexual assault helpline.
Do not force them to report. Every survivor of sexual assault has the right to determine whether they would like to report or not. They should never be forced to report. You can, however, provide them with options – reporting on campus, reporting to the police, doing both, or doing neither. Keep in mind that encouraging them to seek counseling support is different than encouraging them to report.