Parents, I know you’re probably busy trying to prepare for a piece of your heart to go out into the real world very soon. You’ve done your best to ensure that your college-bound teen knows the basics of adulting—you’ve covered all of the important stuff, right? Before you send your kid off, there’s one thing I need you to talk about, because even the most thorough, approachable, parents can miss this:
Your college-bound teen needs to know about casual rape.
My mother told me about date rape. I knew about predators. She did her best to emphasize the importance of looking out for myself. Unfortunately, in my naive mind, I always figured an attacker would be some very obviously, villainous person; I never expected the bad guy to be a friend.
Four months into my college career, I was drugged and raped by my friend in the on-campus dorms. A person who I considered to be a friend, took advantage of me in ways I couldn’t have seen coming. I kept this disturbing assault within my own heart for a long time, Although I was incoherent and incapable of consenting to sex at the time, rape culture said I was probably experiencing regret.
I’ve learned that there is a dark side to life in the college dorms. Having this awkward conversation could save your teen from the heartache that comes with the territory of being sexually assaulted by someone you know—take it from someone who’s stood in those shameful shoes.
Here’s a list of things your teens needs to know about casual rape before they head to college:
1. Rapists are opportunists.
According to RAINN.org, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, 7/10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. People who commit sex crimes don’t always have to attack aggressively. By gaining the trust of a victim, it is easy to cross boundaries. Teach your young adults to be cautious about the closeness of new friendships.
2. Flirting doesn’t excuse unwanted sexual advances.
I can relate so hard to this one. The person who raped me was a friend. Within our flirtatious friendship, he saw an opportunity and ran with it. So parents, I’m begging you, please tell your young adults that no matter how much they flirt, they could never deserve to be raped.
3. There’s a thin line between rape and regret.
Oftentimes, victims of casual rape struggle with guilt because rape culture tells them they’re probably just experiencing post-hookup regret. I can tell you, from the front lines of that battlefield, that absolutely is not the case. Please assure your teens that there is a difference between regretting a hook up, and being unable—for whatever reason it may be—to say no.
4. Consent. Consent. Consent.
Consent is about communication. Consent is defined as a verbal agreement. It’s important for your college bound teen to understand there is nothing they could ever do to passively give someone permission to do as they please with their body. A verbal “yes” is always a must. Wearing certain clothes, engaging in flirtatious behavior, kissing a person, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or even previously engaging in sex are NEVER reasons to assume consent. It’s absolutely crucial to assure your future collegiate that even if they’ve wound up in a situation where everything is clearly moving on the path towards sex, they always have the right to say “no”.
5. It’s OK to talk about it.
When I was raped by my college friend, I didn’t speak out. I didn’t tell the housing staff. I didn’t file charges. I didn’t even call it rape. It took a lot of reevaluating in order to come to the realization that my friend had no right to take advantage of my incoherent and unable to firmly consent state. If I could go back and tell my young, naive self anything in the world, I would absolutely say, “It’s OK to talk about it.” So parents, before you see your college bound teen off, please assure them you’ll be there to tackle the tough stuff right along with them.
Sending your child off to college is such an exciting time. You have ensured that your teen stayed on the straight and narrow path toward earning a diploma. You’ve invested endless hours into nurturing their soul. Now, the young adult you’ve raised is about to embark on perhaps their most exciting journey thus far. Please, take the time to discuss all of the things your college bound teen should know about rape in the college dorms. Awareness is the strongest defense in this battle.
For more information about everything pertaining to sexual assault, please visit RAINN.org