If your son or daughter confides in you that he/she has been sexually assaulted, there are many conflicting emotions you may experience. As a parent, it is normal to feel any or all of these emotions at once. Your student has put a lot of trust in you to share their experience, as well as entrusting you with a lot of responsibility. You may feel:
- Concern for your student. You may not know how to help them deal with the trauma.
- Helplessness. Parents may wish they could have protected their student and want to fix the situation so life can go back to normal.
- Out of Control. Just like your student, you may feel you have lost control of your life. The assault has changed the parent's relationship with the survivor, and it is out of the parent's control to change that.
- Anger. You may want to harm the offender. While this is a natural reaction, it is not realistic and creates further crisis. In fact, in some cases, the survivor may feel the need to protect the offender.
How to Help Your Student:
Believe them! The best thing you can do is to believe them when they tell you that they were sexually assaulted.
Give them control. Sexual assault victims need the chance to re-establish a sense of personal control over what happens in their lives. The victim needs to be heard, respected, to understand all of the options available to them, and to move at his/her own pace through the recovery process.
Time is of the essence. Your student will be in crisis and in need of immediate support. Also, the window for securing evidence for possible prosecution is short. At the same time, the victim will need time and ongoing support to recover from the assault in a constructive manner.
Be a partner in healing. In addition to the effects it has on the victim, sexual assault profoundly affects the victim's loved ones. Here are some helpful hints to be a good partner in healing:
- Direct your student to resources. They can help your student understand what might happen next. This is a difficult, confusing, and emotional time for both of you. Encourage your student to speak with the Student Care Team at 509.359.7924 to learn more about what to expect.
- Recommend that your student seek counseling. There are a lot of emotions that can surface because of a sexual assault. A counselor can help your student sort through these emotions in a healthy way. It may also be helpful for you to seek counseling to deal with the emotions you may be experiencing as a result of this situation.
- Get educated on the issue of sexual assault. The more information you know, the better you will understand what your student is going through. The information on this website can be helpful in answering your questions.
- Be available to listen. Even though your student may be uncomfortable talking about the matter, let them know that you are available to listen to them.
- Avoid judging. Remember, being a parent doesn't mean that you need to agree with everything your student does. You can help them without making a judgment as to whether or not a sexual assault occurred, or how they choose to move forward.