How to Talk with Your Teen About Dating & Sexual Assault

08/17/2017 11:40 am ET

The greatest way a parent can talk with their child about sexual assault is to first know that you the parent cannot 100% prevent it from happening to those you love. You CAN share skills and options with your children that can be life-saving. You CAN give them specific "how to" lesson for dating, parties, and healthy relationships. You can teach child about asking first, respecting boundaries, and letting him/her know you will ALWAYS be there if anything happens.

“Asking First”

The #1 approach to ensuring your child fully understands the importance of respecting their and their partners' boundaries is to teach your child the concept of “Asking First”. Here are four questions to ask your teenager to help them understand about “Asking First”.

1. Do you always deserve to have a choice BEFORE someone touches you sexually or intimately? The answer is “Yes!” One of the biggest mistakes some teens make is “Going for it” with a partner – which FAILS to give the partner a choice and instead may force them to stop the action that is already taking place. A choice means to have an say in the decision BEFORE it occurs and during. Asking first ensures all partners WANT the intimacy before anything occurs.

2.   Do you ever owe a dating partner sexual intimacy (whether it be a kiss or more)? No! Whether it is a first date or marriage, you should only engage in intimacy that you are ready for, want, are excited to have, will be safe in doing (including are legally of age to participate in), have talked about in detail with your partner, and are of sound mind to participate, i.e, not drunk or high (ideally sober).

3. How are you going to ensure you give your dating partners a choice before you kiss someone or engage in any level of sexual intimacy with that person? Ask First! If you can’t ask because you think asking is awkward, then this shows you are not comfortable with the person and/or the intimacy.

If you are not going to ask because you are afraid of hearing, “No” that means you’d rather not give your partner a choice. I know you are not a mean person who doesn’t care about your partner’s wants and boundaries. Thus, there is no reason to fear hearing, “No” (plus #4 below teaches you how to respond to a “No”).

4.   How will you respond to a partner who says, “No” or is not comfortable with the intimacy you want? RESPECT the ANSWER. Say,

“Then I’m glad I asked. The last thing I want to do is make you feel uncomfortable.”

Odds are that your partner will thank you for how much respect you gave them.

Alcohol and Dating

What About Alcohol? For a person to give consent, they must be of sound mind!

When alcohol is used to gain power over another person in a sexual situation, iteach your child to INTERVENE. Have your teen encourage their friends to take an oath together that they will look out for each other at parties and in other settings by intervening if they ever see someone using alcohol to try and facilitate a sexual assault (students often refer to these situations as “drunk hookup” or “being taken advantage of” – both of which are sexual assault).

Support and Reassure Your Teenager

Sexual assault occurs more often in teen dating and partying than most parents want to acknowledge. Many parents tell teenagers “If you drink, you are putting yourself at risk” and then the teen blames themselves for being sexual assaulted. You never want to make a survivor feel at fault for what the assailant did.

You want to do your best to remove the FEAR many children have with telling their parents after they have been sexually assaulted. The top reason most survivors do not tell their parents is because of fear. Why? Too many parents make statements such as “If anyone ever touches you, I’ll kill them.” With that statement, the teen decides the parent will be too hurt by finding out or won’t be able to handle being told.

Instead, reassure your teenager and tell them, “If you do choose to consume alcohol and/or drugs, know that no one has the right to do anything sexually or intimately with your body when you are not of sound mind. If anyone ever has or ever does sexually touch you against your will or without your consent, I will ALWAYS be here for YOU. ALWAYS!!!

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If you have any questions about our programs at The DATE SAFE Project or speaking engagements please contact Rita at 800-329-9390 or you can email her at Rita@datesafeproject.org

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