College Relationships and Financial Abuse
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
Financial abuse is one form of abuse that is rarely talked about and is less understood than other types of abuse. This especially holds true for the college population. Financial abuse occurs when one partner uses abuse tactics to maintain power and control over their partner. Some pretty common forms of financial abuse include things such as controlling where and when your partner takes a job, not allowing your partner to work, not allowing your partner to have control over their own income, or hiding or keeping money from your partner.
Students who find themselves in financially abusive relationships during college may be dealing with some similar, yet specific forms of this abuse. Many students rely on financial aid to not only help them pay for classes, but afford things like meals, toiletries, and clothing. Financial aid monetary funds can be used to easily maintain power over a partner. Stealing a partner’s financial aid check, or limiting what they are allowed to use that financial aid on is certainly a form of abuse. Partners may also use their financial aid package as a way to ensure that their partner does not leave the relationship.
Things like student ID’s make it easy for abusers to purchase food and other items using their partner's money. They may also use ID cards as a way to monitor and dictate the amount of money that their partner is able to use. For instance, an abuser may maintain control over a student’s access to their online ID Card account, giving them the ability to add money to that card when they chose.
Students from varying backgrounds may also face financial abuse if their partners use their own financial privilege over their partner. Making your partner feel bad because they are unable to afford things such as off-campus meals, weekend getaways, and athletic games can also be a form of abuse.
Just like physical or emotional abuse, abuse is abuse, and it is never okay. Students who are dealing with financial abuse may consider reaching out to an on-campus office for help, such as a Women’s Center, Counseling Center, Campus Police, or the Office of Student Conduct.
By: Sara Forcella, See The Triumph Contributor
The time directly following a sexual assault can be an extremely overwhelming time for survivors. During this time survivors are faced with not only the physical and psychological trauma, but lots of difficult and time-sensitive decisions that need to be made. Right after an assault, survivors may need to process through the following options: to go to the hospital for a medical exam or not, to have STD testing done or not, to get evidence collected (a rape kit) or not, to report to the police or not, to tell someone or to tell no one. Some options, such as evidence collection, have an expiration date--survivors are only able to collect evidence for up to 72 hours immediately following an assault.
As an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, my role is to help students understand their reporting and support options. I am able to help students conceptualize what each of these options may look like should they chose to use them. As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I thought it may be helpful to discuss some more general options, which most four-year universities offer students. Remember, not all universities’ sexual assault protocol and resources are the same; however, most will offer the following reporting options for survivors.
University or Local Police Departments: Police departments are non-confidential resources. Utilizing these legal services may seem like the simplest option for survivors of sexual violence; however, they can also be the most emotionally taxing. Reporting to Police Departments opens a legal investigation of the alleged crime. Once a survivor reports, they have the power to decide if they want to participate in the investigation fully or not at all. They can decide to go to court hearings and be questioned by detectives who collect information. Utilizing the Police Department is the only true way to impact perpetrators legally--by reporting to the police you open up an entire legal avenue.
Possible pro’s of using the legal system can vary. One benefit of use the police is that it gives survivors a chance to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes and it may ensure that assailants are not able to become repeat offenders. By reporting an assault, it may also be easier to obtain a court-ordered protective order.
A Possible con of using the legal system is that not all police officers are taught to use “trauma-informed care”. This means simply that some officers do not understand the way that major trauma impacts survivors. Survivors are typically asked to recount the assault more than once, leading to possible re-traumatization and emotional drainage. The legal route takes a long time--some survivors will have wait for well over a year before a verdict is reached. Some cases may never even reach the court system due to a lack of evidence. Overall, this can be infuriating for survivors, and may even leave them feeling unheard or not believed.
Student Conduct: Student conduct is another non-confidential resource on college campuses. Student conduct investigations and hearings are separate from legal ones. The findings of student conduct cases have nothing to do with the findings of police investigations, though witnesses, evidence and facts may overlap. Student conduct allows survivors to hold other students accountable for their actions on campus. Because of Title IX, universities must follow certain rules and regulations for incidences of interpersonal violence on campus. All survivors are allowed access to a ‘quick’ and equitable hearing. They are mandated to learn the outcome of their case, as well as have the ability to appeal a hearing decision.
A possible pro of utilizing student conduct is that similarly to police investigations, it allows survivors to hold perpetrators accountable. A distinct difference between student conduct and legal investigations is that universities require a substantially lower burden of proof. In accordance with Title IX regulations, schools must decide if an assault occurred ‘more likely than not,’ NOT beyond reasonable doubt, like in legal courts.
Possible cons of using student conduct may vary depending on the university. Again, not all student conduct offices approach investigations using trauma informed care. Sometimes dealing with an on campus investigation can be overwhelming to survivors. It’s important to note that student conduct is only limited to supporting survivors whose assailant is another student at that university.
University Counseling Services: University counseling services are mandated confidential resources. In fact, the only time a counselor is allowed to report anything discussed with a student is when the student asserts that he or she may harm themselves, or someone else. Most university counseling service fees are included with student fees meaning that they are free of charge during the time of visits.
A possible pro of using university counseling services is that students are able to share their experiences and talk about the incident without having to be concerned about it ever being reported. Of course, there are also tons of benefits to having access to mental health care. This can especially help survivors who may also be dealing with anxiety, depression or substance abuse.
A possible con of using university counseling services is that some students may feel uncomfortable using on-campus resources. Also, mental health is still highly stigmatized by our society making it harder for many students to take the first step and make an appointment to meet with a counselor.
As you can see, reporting options can be overwhelming and at times confusing. It’s also important to note that I have only covered a few common campus resources; however, most schools will have many more. Students may look into utilizing Title IX offices, Women’s Center’s and Interpersonal Violence Centers. Also, community resources are always another option that students have to utilize. The key for any survivor, is to feel connected and supported, regardless of what office they utilize following a sexual assault.
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
It’s just about that time again; college students across the United States are making Target runs, stocking up on mac-n-cheese, ordering their textbooks, and loading up vehicles, ready to make the move into university housing. This is an exciting time for both parents and students alike, but it can also prove to be one of the most dangerous times for students as well.
The ‘red zone’ is a term used to describe a heightened risk of unwanted sexual contact, specifically for first- and second-year women. The span of the ‘red zone’ has been debated; however, most research suggests that it may last as long as to the end of the fall semester. The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services of the U.S. Department of Justice states, “College students are the most vulnerable to rape during the first few weeks of the freshman and sophomore years. In fact, the first few days of the freshman year are the riskiest” (p. 7).
The ‘red zone’ is creates a seemingly perfect storm for sexual assaults to occur. During the first few weeks, up until the end of the fall semester, incoming students are overwhelmed by an influx of new realities and are forced to quickly alter the lifestyles they had adapted over the course of the previous 18 or so years. It’s now up to the students themselves to decide how late at night will stay out, who they’ll go out with, what or if they drink alcohol, what their sexual expectations and limits are, and much more. For most students, this is the first time where they have no real parental rules; they have complete autonomy over their lives. It is also a vulnerable time for freshmen because they are not as familiar with their surroundings as upperclassmen are. They may rely on other freshmen or even upperclassmen to help them get around or figure out the college culture (Flack et. al, 2008). Relying on others to get around or understand the college atmosphere can be both tricky and at times risky. It’s important that while students work on building new friendships and relationships they rely on their instincts--trusting their gut is one of the main ways students can keep themselves safe their first few weeks on campus.
Fraternity and sorority life activities also compound this increased period of danger with their “rush” weeks. It’s common for traditional fraternities and sororities to rush new members during the first few weeks of school. Typically this means that fraternities have an increased number of off-campus, parties where alcohol and drugs are easy to obtain. Due to the culture of many fraternities, this also provides an opportunity for upperclassmen to take advantage of the “naive newcomers” (Flack et. al, 2008). A 2008 study found that approximately 1 in 3 women (30 %), reported experiencing at least some level of non-consensual sexual touching during this time (Flack et. al). This number may leave parents and students feeling uneasy; however, it’s important to know that there are ways to reduce one’s risk of being a victim of the ‘red zone.’
Sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact is never a survivor's fault. Ever! The way they dress, the amount they drink, the people they choose to hang out with and their amount of previous sexual activity have no impact whatsoever on one’s victimization. A sexual assault can only ever be blamed on the perpetrator(s). Nonetheless, it’s unhelpful to simply share this information with you, potentially leaving students and parents feeling scared and disempowered. There are ways that students can prepare themselves to have a fun, and hopefully safe, experience at college during their first semester.
Here are a few things that incoming students may want to do to feel more empowered over their first-year experience during the ‘red zone’:
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
College is a time of vast change for young adults. It is also a time of many firsts, which could involve your first time living on your own, first time having a roommate, first time taking college-level courses, first committed romantic relationship, and possibly first time drinking alcohol. While not all students on college campuses drink, many do. College culture as a whole is affected largely by the influence of alcohol and the sense of comradery that occurs among students who live together on campus. However, alcohol also inhibits students' decision making skills. Therefore, as a sexual violence prevention educator, I believe that ignoring the amount of drinking that takes place on college campuses is not only counterproductive, it's downright dangerous!
The danger of ignoring students’ use of alcohol lies not only within the alcohol drinking alone, but its connection to sexual assault. On college campuses, perpetrators of sexual assault use the consumption of alcohol as a tool to reduce their victims’ decision making and motor skills. It’s important to note that alcohol is not the cause of sexual assault on college campuses--the perpetrators themselves are the only ones to blame. Nevertheless, the use of this drug to inhibit victims is clearly identifiable. Consider this: research shows that as many as 90% of all rapes on college campuses occur when either the perpetrator or victim was using alcohol (Brown University, Health Promotions).
Where does this statistic leave parents, educators, and students? Does it mean that we don’t send our children off to college? Or that even college students over the age of 21 shouldn’t be allowed to drink? Neither of these seem to be the answer--but what is? For me, the answer lies in education. Just like with any other health concern, we must educate students about sexual assault before they attend college and again while they are on campus.
Research shows that women in late adolescence to early adulthood are at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted. Therefore, we must educate young women that sexual assault is a daily risk, with or without the consumption of alcohol, especially for those between the ages of 18 and 24 (Collins & Messerschmidt, 1993). Furthermore, when alcohol is added to the equation, women are even more at risk for being sexually assaulted. Most importantly though, we need to educate women that sexual assault is never okay and that it is never their fault. But we can’t stop there! We can’t just educate half of the population and make it their responsibility to fend off criminals.
Research also shows that most perpetrators of sexual assault are men (Sedgwick, 2006). Instead of victim blaming, lets hold the perpetrators accountable! We need to teach them that just because a partner has agreed to some level of intimacy, it does not mean they are entitled to take it farther, and that if they do so without permission, it’s sexual assault. They should know that getting sex by using coercion and manipulation are in fact forms of sexual assault. Men need to understand that feeding someone drinks in order to make obtaining sex easier is sexual assault. It’s our responsibility to teach men to look for ‘enthusiastic consent’ before engaging in sexual activity, instead of acting upon a lack of a ‘no.’ Finally, men need to face the reality that if somebody reports that they were sexually assaulted while drunk, it can not only change their own lives, but also that survivor’s life.
It’s not only women who are affected by sexual assault on campus, men are too. Women, like men, can be perpetrators of sexual assault. It’s our responsibility to teach both men and women (beginning at a young age) to understand personal boundaries. This means asking for consent before engaging in any kind of intimate act, whether it be as silly as tickling or as serious as sex. When it comes to alcohol, both men and women need to know that if either party is intoxicated that they can not legally give consent. Alcohol has the potential to change things, and it only takes a matter of seconds to violate, shame, degrade and sexually assault someone--therefore before these things are ever able to happen, let’s take the time to educate our young adults.
By Juliette Grimmett, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Founder, Chrysalis Network
I cannot recall a Thanksgiving dinner that did not include me starting up a discussion about sexism and gender-based violence (GBV). There have been times where I facilitated activities on my parents kitchen chalkboard about how the use of problematic words like “bitch” and the pervasive, all-encompassing term “guys,” are dismissive of women and contributes to rape culture. I’ve explained that my partner and I encouraging our two young boys to wear whatever makes them happy, even if it is glittery shoes or pink-heart leggings, is a form of sexual violence prevention. And I’ve talked about how we must change our narrative surrounding GBV to focus on the perpetrator and not the survivor, such as shifting the question from “Why did s/he stay?” to “Why did s/he abuse her/him?” My beautiful and open-minded family listens, interacts respectfully, and often expresses gratitude for these talks.
We all have different roles within our family and circle of friends. One of mine is to start conversations about challenging and uncomfortable issues, particularly with the people I know who do not do this work. I am mostly happy to have this role, though at times the pressure to start the conversations can be overwhelming. I wish that my daily conversations and thoughts about women’s safety and gender equality were also their norm.
Over the past two years, as a result of pervasive media attention focused on sexual and dating violence, particularly on college campuses, I have felt a remarkable shift among my loved ones. They have tweeted and posted relevant articles on Facebook, referenced actual cases in our discussions, and my 75 year-old uncle called to tell me about the front-page article of the NY Times on campus sexual assault. People in my life are now creating space for these conversations, along with public figures like Diane Rehm from National Public Radio, John Stewart from the Daily Show, Brian Williams from NBC Nightly News, and perhaps most importantly, Vice-President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama.
Of course GBV on college campuses is nothing new. My story of rape from almost 20 years ago is no different than the ones we hear about today. Further, countless women, people of color and members of LGBTQI communities have been talking about this violence for decades, demanding action and accountability. While those of us doing this work are frustrated with how long it has taken to get to this meaningful national dialogue, we are equally inspired that this shift has occurred within our lifetime. I think of how different the aftermath of my assault would have been if it happened today. Survivors voices are beginning to be respected and perpetrator accountability means suspension or expulsion, not social probation as it was in my case.
Almost all of us have heard at least one story from the courageous survivors throughout the country who are holding their institutions of higher education accountable for mishandling their sexual assault, specifically as violations of Title IX. The White House (the White House!!) has launched a national campaign Not Alone that provides resource information on how to respond to and prevent sexual assault on college and university campuses and in our schools. We are also learning about the long-awaited Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE) signed into law in March 2013 as part of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization. Campus SaVE, designed as a companion to Title IX, was developed to increase transparency about the scope of sexual violence, guarantee survivors enhanced rights, provide standards for institutional conduct proceedings, and provide campus community wide prevention educational programming. Dating and domestic violence and stalking are clearly identified as components of sexual violence in Campus SaVE, which had been unclear in Title IX. Additionally, Campus SaVE currently defines primary prevention programs as: “programming, initiatives, and strategies informed by research that are intended to stop dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking before they occur through the promotion of positive and healthy behaviors and beliefs that foster healthy, mutually respectful relationships and sexuality, encourage safe bystander intervention, and seek to change behavior and social norms in healthy and safe directions.”
Primary prevention of sexual violence requires us to fundamentally change the responsibility narrative from survivor behavior to perpetrator and community accountability. Consider the different message that is conveyed in headlines that read “18 year-old college student was raped” compared to “18 year-old college student committed rape.” When the norm changes to make violent behavior and perpetrator accountability the subjects of the discussion, we move forward in ending rape culture. I hope that primary prevention messages will shift our conversations away from casual victim-blaming interrogations of “What was she thinking wearing that?” “Why didn’t she use her pepper spray?” “Why didn’t she watch her drink?” and the soon to be, “She should have used that rape-drug detecting nail polish.” The new survivor supportive and community engaged norm would ask questions that advance positive cultural change such as “Why did that person choose to rape?” “Why do men feel entitled to degrade and abuse women’s bodies?” “How can we redefine masculinity to include love, respect and empathy?” “How can we stop perpetrators from perpetrating?”
The present national dialogue and related possibilities are unprecedented. It helps to change how our culture understands GBV. I believe it would be hard to find a first-year college student who has not heard something about campus sexual assault before coming to college this year. In addition, Campus SaVE requires that campuses educate incoming students on sexual violence prevention strategies, resources, policies (including a definition of consent), and laws. If done correctly, a campus culture is fostered in which survivors are supported, resources for help are clear, and the message of accountability is strong. With institutional structures in place, campus spaces are created in which survivors feel they will be believed and supported and may be more likely to report the abuse they experience. Presently, there is an active national community of campus survivors committed to holding campuses accountable. One tool developed by these activists is the website Know Your IX, a campaign that aims to educate all college students in the U.S. about their rights under Title IX. As survivor Annie Clark shared at a May 2013 press conference, “victims of sexual violence have reached a critical mass where we can no longer be ignored.”
While I am excited about the current climate, I remain guarded. We can require campuses to do all sorts of things, however the real test of success will be when value statements and institutional policies are aligned. Certain questions of commitment, adaptability, and sustainability remain. Will resources for survivors be safe for our LGBTQI community members, male survivors, and people of color? Will encouragement to report incidents be matched with a sensitive and understanding responder? Will the campus do the bare minimum or will they invest significant resources into effective, accessible and comprehensive prevention and response programs? Still, I remain encouraged as I know change has come because my uncle called me. I know change has come because of all the “likes” on my Facebook posts about these issues. I know change has come because this year, on my birthday, I heard this: “Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted; you are not alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back.” - Barack Obama, January 22, 2014
You are not alone. You are believed. It is not your fault. Tell someone.
Juliette has over nineteen years of professional experience working with communities, schools, and college and university campuses. During this time she has provided education and training to students, faculty, and staff on issues concerning sexual and dating violence prevention, advocacy, policy, and activism. Her past 10 years have focused on creating and implementing violence prevention and response programs on various college campuses including the University of South Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and most recently, NC State University where she was the Assistant Director of the Women’s Center. She served two terms on the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Board of Directors as the Campus Representative, and chaired the Legislative and Development Committees. She currently serves as an appointed member of the NC Sexual Violence Prevention Team as well as the Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancements and Leadership through Alliances (DELTA) team. Juliette grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and France, loves the Boston Red Sox, feminism, and being an activist. Most of all, she adores spending time with her two young sons Harper and Sky and her partner, Marc who teaches her to always lead with love.
"Went On To Counsel Others"
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
All this month, we’re focusing on how colleges and universities can become non-stigmatizing environments for survivors of intimate partner violence and other forms of abuse. Recently, there has been a lot of media attention to the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, especially how victims are often blamed and face significant barriers when they come forward to report their abuse. These news stories call attention to the significant stigma that often surrounds abuse and assault on many college campuses, and this stigma is one of the main reasons we are focusing on this topic this month.
However, there’s another important reason why we are so concerned about the climate on college campuses for survivors of abuse, and it stems from the findings of our research with survivors of past abusive relationships. One of the issues we’ve focused on learning about in our research is how people overcome past experiences of abuse and move forward into peaceful, nonviolent lives and relationships. A theme we heard from so many participants in our research was that attending and completing college was a major stepping stone for their own process of overcoming the past abuse in their lives.
Of course, we don’t want to convey that college or university studies are the only way people can overcome past abuse. Many survivors had already completed their highest levels of education before they experienced abuse. Still others find other paths to overcoming past abuse, such as by pursuing other career paths, finding support from other people in their lives, or seeking counseling--and any particular path may be the right direction for each person. College may or may not be a part of that equation.
However, there are many reasons why college and university studies can play an important role in helping survivors overcome past abuse, and many of these reasons are illustrated by quotes from participants on our research.
First, a college education can provide survivors with tools and qualifications that help them achieve financial independence and career success. For example, consider the following quotes from participants in our research:
Third, many survivors in our research noted that attending college was one part of their overall journeys to overcoming their past abuse. Examples of statements reflecting this theme are as follows:
Ultimately, there are so many possible benefits that survivors can achieve by furthering their education as part of their process of overcoming past abuse. Because of this, we believe that colleges and universities have a valuable and unique opportunity to help support survivors in achieving financial independence, career success, enhanced self-awareness, and greater knowledge about common dynamics involved in both healthy and unsafe relationships. Colleges can choose to intentionally embrace these opportunities and help foster supportive environments for survivors. In so doing, they can both serve their educational missions and help survivors and others who’ve faced traumatic events to take meaningful, life-changing steps toward safety and empowerment.
Understanding Intimate Partner Rape
Rape and sexual assault are recognized as important issues on college campuses. Many colleges and universities across the country are working to prevent sexual violence, provide better resources for survivors, and hold offenders accountable. Within these efforts, it's important to remember that rape and sexual assault can occur within intimate relationships, including dating relationships, committed partnerships, and marriage. The following infographic provides some important information for understanding sexual assault and rape within the context of an intimate relationship.
This infographic was created by Jennifer Schenker, who is a graduate student in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Sources of information used in the infographic were as follows:
Because Playing Defense Isn't Enough: Five Things Our Sons and Daughters Should Hear From Parents About Sex Before They Start College
By Elissa P. Pope, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Enough is enough. Acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses seem to be out of control. And though recently universities are facing the fire for their lackluster response to the epidemic, the fact is that many campuses simply are not prepared to be the hand of the law when it comes to sexual violence on their campuses. Something needs to change, because according the U.S. Department of Justice, rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses today. In fact, statistics say that 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of sexual assault during her college career. Those statistics should be sobering to parents – of both boys and girls alike.
We are living in a culture of rape, and we’re sending our children into the thick of that culture when they leave home for college. But even as we begin to acknowledge that reality, we also can’t just sit back and hope that someone else will take care of it for us. No, we as parents are responsible for teaching our children about this reality, and for instilling in them the values necessary to help them survive it. For many years, the focus has been on parents teaching their daughters how to protect themselves from sexual violence perpetrated by males. But teaching our girls to play defense simply isn’t enough.
The fact remains that statistics say that many will still fall victim, and that alcohol is usually involved. Victims of sexual assault are then left to navigate the treacherous waters of victim blaming and shame. Teaching how not to get raped is only part of the battle. We need to teach all of our young people how to respect others’ bodies and how to treat other people with nothing but the utmost respect for others’ rights to make their own decisions about their bodies and their sexuality. To help our children prepare for rape culture on college campuses, let’s be a different voice for our young people to hear throughout their childhood and adolescence. Let’s make sure that they leave home with these words in their hearts:
1. Respect your body – and everyone else’s too. When our babies are new, we revel in the miracle that is the human body, spending hours staring at their beautiful fingers, tiny toes, button noses, and perfect ears. As they grow into toddlers, we strive to help them adopt that same reverence for the human body, as they discover all that is new and wonderful about themselves. We want them to love themselves as much as we love them and to extend that love and respect to others. But those lessons continue throughout their lives. The voice that tells them to love and respect all human bodies should be ever-present. Because with every passing year, their world is getting bigger and broader, and they will meet situations where that respect for another is hard to come by. And they will experience someone who isn’t respecting them. In those instances, we want their heart to be screaming that this isn’t right.
2. Your body should not be the cause of pain for another. A child’s relationship with their parents sets the stage for all future relationships. In even the most loving households, violence creeps in, often through innocent play. In our house, parents and children roughhouse with one another. I think it’s a great teaching opportunity for our children, so that roughhousing comes with a set of rules. One of which is that it is NEVER okay to slap, punch, or pinch one another, even when we’re playing. Even if anger isn’t the source. Our bodies are NEVER to be used for hurting another. Never.
3. When it comes to your body, you’re in charge. As I mentioned above, my children and I like to engage in physical play, which, according to some experts is incredibly beneficial for their development. It usually involves a lot of laughter and joy, and is a great way to bond with one another. But when we’re roughhousing or tickling, and someone says stop, even if they’re giggling through their words, we stop. Always. This is a hard one for almost everyone, because it sometimes means that the person who’s having tons of fun has to put a halt to it. And sometimes it means that the person who said, “Stop” didn’t really mean it and they want to keep playing. We’ve had countless conversations about why we have this rule, and what it means. My hope is that our children are truly internalizing the idea that all people get to be in charge when it comes to their body.
4. You don’t deserve to get everything you want. Everyone hears no at some point in their lives. With any luck, a child’s parents deny them something that they want on a regular basis, because that’s a reality of life at any age. We don’t always get what we want. People tell us no all the time. The lesson goes deeper than that, though. We can’t just tell a child no and dust off our hands before giving ourselves a hearty pat on the back for a job well done. We need to go further and actually teach our children how to respond afterward. Should they throw a temper tantrum? Hit because they’re angry? Try to take it anyway? Argue and persist until they change someone’s mind? That last one works on parents time and time again. We end up raising children who don’t know how to handle denial, or worse yet, who don’t believe that no is the final answer. The bottom line is that no means no. Parents can reinforce this message by setting—and sticking to—limits with their children.
5. Sex has value. I think most of America’s teenagers already come of age knowing this to be true. Value is ascribed to sex in almost every facet of our culture. Sadly, one of the loudest voices spoken to our children says that a primary value of sex is in making young people into men and women. Teens can internalize the message that having sex should be their primary objective if they want not to be seen as a child. And what teenager wants to be seen as a child? That’s an influential message, and it comes at them from countless directions. How then can we, as parents, minimize something with so much power? It’s unlikely that we can be a louder voice than the others. What we can be though, is an earlier voice. Talking about sex with our children is uncomfortable. For many of us, it makes our stomachs churn just thinking about it. So we put it off…we are great at procrastinating! But while we’re busy doing all that procrastinating, the other voices aren’t shy, and they chime in full-force. Before we know it, we’ve missed our opportunity, at which point many of us sigh and say, “Oh well.” Nope. We need to suck it up and talk to our children about sex before the other voices take top billing. Be there first to plant the seed so that your voice has a chance to take root before the onslaught ensues.
We’ve got a hard job, us parents. And the world around us isn’t doing a thing to make it easier for us. The ever-growing presence of screens is opening the whole world up to our children, and in many ways, that’s amazingly wonderful. But at the same time, it’s quieting our voices in our child’s world, and we can’t afford to simply let that happen. Sexually violent images, words, and ideas are frantically swirling around our children and they are getting swept up in the tornado. As parents, we can be their anchor in the storm and help them navigate the challenges they face as they confront rape culture in college.
Elissa Pope graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Elementary Education. After spending several years working in public schools, she is now a graduate student at UNC-Greensboro, pursuing an MS in Couple and Family Counseling. She is passionate about the value of healthy family relationships and the ways in which the counseling profession can be a part of the healing process for those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.