Listening to your friend without judging his or her choices is the best thing you can do. Reinforce the message that your friend is not to blame for what happened. Be sensitive to new fears and behaviors associated with the assault (such as avoiding crowds or feeling unsafe in previously comfortable locations). Most importantly, give your friend time to heal and let him or her know you are there to listen whenever needed.
Is sexual offending on the increase or is there just more reporting?
We do not really know. Because most sexual offenses go unreported, it is difficult to tell. There is speculation among many in the field that the implementation of new laws related to the registration and community notification of convicted sex offenders may cause an even higher rate of underreporting (remember, most victims know their assailants and many may not want to subject them to public scrutiny). However, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, victimization is increasing. In 1996, there were 307,100 victimizations of rape and sexual assault, and in 1999, there were 383,170 victimizations (an increase of 12.5%).
When should parents bring up questions about unwanted or inappropriate touching?
Kids hit and grab each other, sometimes in inappropriate places. They need to learn to keep their hands to themselves. However, this does not only apply to children. Adults frequently like to tickle little kids, and little kids enjoy it. However if a kid says stop, even if they are laughing, the best thing an adult can do is stop. This teaches kids when they’re young that they have control over their bodies.
When does it make sense to discuss consent?
The conversation about consent between two people engaged in intimate activities, even hugging or kissing should take place by middle school, perhaps earlier if the child is attending parties. It’s important to focus on not only the child’s behavior but to make sure they are aware of what their friends are doing as well. Kids today are exposed to a large number of conflicting images about what is appropriate or not during intimate activities, especially with the advent of sometimes violent and seemingly non-consensual pornography on the Internet. Parents should make sure their children know the difference between real and fantasy, and ask themselves, “If I saw this in real life would this be okay? Would I know when to stop? Do I know what could get me in trouble?”
What are key points to cover about getting consent?
You should say, “If you are going to engage in intimate acts with someone, you’ve got to make sure it is okay. You should ask if it’s okay. You need to look at a person’s body language and the things they are saying and sounds they are making. Just because someone says yes once before does not mean it’s okay in the future.”
How should parents raise the drinking issue?
It’s fair to acknowledge that some kids drink underage and that sexual activities may occur between kids while they have been drinking. It’s good advice to encourage kids not only to not drink, but if they do, to abstain from sexual activities with other people while drinking. Let them know that it is never okay to get someone drunk to lower their inhibitions to have sex or engage in other sexual activities. Tell them, “If you hear friends saying they want to get someone drunk so they can have sex with them, call them out on it. Be the friend that watches out for others at a party if drinking is involved.”