Congratulations! Your student graduated! Before you know it, you’ll be moving your student to campus with twin XL sheets, shower caddies, and mini-fridges in tow. There are many important conversations to have with your student this summer – and consent needs to be one of them.
Sexual assault is prevalent right here in Kenosha. Over a million people statewide were affected last year, according to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault. In Kenosha County, 17.7% of women reported being the victim of rape, while 41.3% of women and 23.7% of men reported being victims of other forms of unwanted sexual contact. That means, almost one-quarter of men and almost one-half of women in our county have experienced some form of sexual assault.
According to a study by Dr. Campbell at Michigan State University, survivors are unlikely to report. And 80% were unlikely to report at all after their first negative interaction –whether with family or friends, law enforcement, or campus staff – because they felt blamed, depressed, anxious, or “not heard.” The Neurobiology of Sexual Assault (2005, rev 2018).
Of everthing you’ll tell your student this summer, these two are musts:
1. You have a right to consent, and to withdraw your consent, at any time.
Do not ask questions like—But what were you wearing? Did you say NO? What did you do to lead her on? Why were you out so late at night? Why didn’t you take a friend to that party? Why did you let him buy you a drink? And so on. These questions shift blame for an assault on what the survivor did, rather than the perpetrator’s decision to act intentionally. And the fact is, sexual assault is an intentional act – it is no one’s fault but the perpetrator’s.
2. If you were assaulted, there are free resources to help you.
Federal law requires your campus to provide you services. These include a thorough, fair investigation, a right to report, and a neutral advocate to advise you. WCH provides these services for free on and off campus for survivors year-round.
Encourage the student to seek professional support from agencies like WCH, which operates a 24/7 crisis line and provides free services irrespective of income.
Keep the blame on the perpetrator by reassuring the survivor that nothing the survivor did – not the clothing worn, not the place of a date, not what the survivor said, or ate, or drank – caused the perpetrator to act.
Practice what you preach –actively promote healthy relationship boundaries for your student to model.
Finally, educate yourself. There are several free resources available online with WCASA, MSU, and our agency, to help you.
If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault, contact us for free, confidential support 24/7 at 262-652-9900.