The role of parents is often understated when we discuss issues of relationship and sexual violence. Starting the discussions at home can open the door to future conversations when there are questions or concerns. It also influences the community expectations and standards your student will bring to school with them. We invite you to talk with your student about respect and continual and mutual communication in their relationships. We also encourage you to be aware of the university expectations, policies and definitions of sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking, and to learn more about resources and campus initiatives such as Green Dot, LIVE and SARAH.
The most important things to consider as you talk with your student or listen to your student are:
- Listen without judgment. Be a good listener. Imposing judgment about behavior or opinions often shuts the conversation down and does not allow for a differing opinion or an engaging conversation.
- Advise your student in a way that does not impose judgment. Saying things like “ Don’t drink too much at parties because bad things will happen” can inhibit future conversations. Statements like these can lead to internalized blame if ever anything “bad” did happen, and creates barriers to your student sharing openly with you.
- Educate your student on how to recognize high-risk situations and empower them to be an active bystander in situations that could potentially be high-risk.
What if my Student is a Victim of Violence
Learning your student has been hurt in any way is extremely upsetting and shocking. For most parents who are not physically located in St. Louis, supporting from afar can feel daunting and helpless. It is normal as a parent to feel overwhelmed, helpless, responsible and angry. It is important to know there are 24-hour resources on and off campus to help you support your student, despite the distance and the gamut of emotions. As a parent, the most important things you can do are:
- Always listen, believe and support.
- Listen more than talk.
- Assure your student it is not their fault. Being a victim of violence is never the victim’s fault.
- Be careful not to judge or use language that could be “victim blaming” (e.g. Were you drinking? Did you go up to their room? Did you say no?). These types of statements serve to remove blame from the perpetrator and place responsibility on the victim.
- Honor their wishes about what they would like to do next. Research shows giving a student agency is imperative to the healing process. It is important for them to regain control following a situation in which they had no control.
- Control your emotions.
- Do not impose your thoughts or wishes and do not talk about retaliation. These behaviors take the focus away from the victim who needs the most support at this time.
- Understand that your student may not want to share the details of what happened to them. Sharing details can be re-traumatizing. Respect that they might not want to talk and do not pry for details.
- Understand that there may be a significant delay before your student discloses to you. There are many reasons for delayed reporting. The most important thing is to support your student instead of questioning them about why they withheld information and having them justify their decisions.
- Know that there are campuses and community resources available to support victims with acute and continuing care.
- Know students always have the right to report, the right to appropriate housing and academic accommodations, the right to ongoing care, and the right to choose what is best for them.
- Understand Rape Trauma Syndrome, but understand your student’s reaction may not be the same.
- Don’t forget to get support for yourself.