Parents


The time to be prepared is now.

What Every Parent Needs to Know About Sexual Assault

Sexual assault in schools is the epidemic no one is talking about. Being informed is the first step to action.

If Your Child Has Been Sexually Assaulted

Know That You Have Support

The sexual assault of a loved one can feel paralyzing. In the aftermath of trauma, it is critical that survivors find people who will listen to, love, and support them. Here is how to show up with love and support your child survivor.

As a secondary survivor of assault, it is important for you to get the support you need, too. This resource from our partner As One Project can help.

Here are additional FAQs about supporting a survivor of sexual assault that may be on your mind, too.
WHAT DO I DO WHEN MY CHILD REPORTS SEXUAL ASSAULT?

There are several steps to take immediately after receiving a disclosure of sexual assault. The first is to respond to your child in a way that prioritizes their safety and well-being.  Whether the assault happened minutes prior, or weeks,  months or even longer ago, your feelings at hearing this disclosure must take a back-seat to acting in a productive and loving way.  Do not underestimate the trauma your child feels in disclosing to you, even if an assault happened some time ago.

We recommend using the A.B.L.L.E. phrases: affirm the survivor, believe them, let them lead the conversation, listen, and extend only what you can.

Once you have responded to your child’s disclosure in a loving and affirming way, consider the next steps your child can take, like undergoing a sexual assault forensic examination and reporting to law enforcement. There are implications to these decisions, and some are more time sensitive than others. Be equipped with information from a reputable source, such as a child advocate from your local coalition against domestic and sexual violence.  The National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the National Sexual Assault hotline can also be sources of immediate support. These organizations can connect you and your child with trained advocates to help your child consider their options.

It is important to note that adults are mandatory reporters of sexual assault against a minor, although not a person 18 or older. While this means you are required to report the assault to law enforcement, it does not mean your child must proceed with filing charges. That step can happen at a later date. 

Above all, remember that your child has the right to make decisions regarding their recovery and any next steps. Your job as a parent is to support them, love them, and put their needs and desires before your own. 

HOW DO I SUPPORT MY CHILD AFTER THEY’VE BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED?

The golden rule when supporting your child after an assault is to keep them at the center of their recovery. It can be easy for parents to encourage their children to do what they want them to do when recovering from a trauma like sexual assault. The key to supporting your child, however, is to put your child’s needs and desires before your own. 

This means respecting the choices your child makes regarding pressing charges against the perpetrator, to undergo or forgo an examination, to return to school immediately or to take some time at home. Though your job as parent is to guide and support your child in their decision-making, ultimately, the course that the survivor chooses to chart for their recovery is solely their decision to make.

Putting your child’s needs first also means enveloping your child in love and support from other trusted, trauma-informed individuals. Find a counselor who has experience and training working with survivors of sexual assault. Engage the help and support of family or family friends who your child knows and trusts.  Act as gatekeeper against peers, teachers, or other individuals who do not have your child’s best interests at heart. Telltale signs of these individuals are phrases like “this isn’t that big of a deal”, or “suck it up and move on,” or “think about how much speaking out could harm the perpetrator.“ These phrases are an indication that an individual does not belong in your or your child’s immediate circle. Kindly see them out.

A word of caution: be careful about how you communicate your child’s assault to their school, if your child chooses to do so. Most administrators, educators, and even school counselors are not equipped or trained to respond to such a disclosure. Oftentimes, premature conversations with these individuals can be a detriment to a survivor’s recovery.

WILL LIFE EVER BE THE SAME AFTER MY CHILD’S SEXUAL ASSAULT?

Life will never go back to the way things were for your child or family. However, it is possible that as your child and family begin to heal, your family as individuals and as a whole will become stronger and more capable of authentic love. At I Have The Right To, we see this again and again in our work with survivors and their families. 

To visualize the healing and growth that is possible after a sexual assault, we often refer to the art of kintsugi

Kintsugi, which literally means “to join with gold,” is also referred to as the art of “golden repair.” It treats breakage and the resulting repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to discard or disguise. In kintsugi, the broken pieces of an accidentally-smashed pot are carefully picked up, reassembled, and then glued together with lacquer inflected with a luxuriant gold powder. There is no attempt to disguise the damage but rather to emphasize the fault lines as beautiful and strong. The precious veins of gold that remain long after the repair become the focal point of the piece, not something to hide. 

The same is possible for your family following a child’s sexual assault: one day, with the proper work and effort, the family vessel that feels shattered before you will glisten even more beautifully than before. We are here to help this be so.

HOW CAN I REACH OUT TO OTHER PARENTS OF SURVIVORS?

Too often survivors and families are siloed and isolated in seeking healing and justice following a child’s sexual assault. If you are a parent and care about supporting your survivor, you are not alone. We are here for you. While we are not always able to connect parents to other parents due to privacy concerns, we can suggest other ways to find community based on your specific circumstance. We also have one of our own in the works. Stay tuned!

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT DURING MY CHILD’S RECOVERY? HOW CAN I SUPPORT THEM?

Recovery from a trauma like sexual assault is rarely linear and uniform. Every recovery looks different based on the circumstance, survivor, and broader family. However, parents can be informed about the stages of recovery and know what to expect in each one. Here’s a starting point.

WHAT IS PTSD AND HOW DO I SPOT IT?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when a past trauma affects present behavior. Though PTSD will look different for every survivor, in general, PTSD symptoms fall into four categories: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood. Learn more about each category of symptom, what to look for in your child, and how to help your child manage any symptoms that present..

What to Do Before It Happens To Your Child

Talking about sexual assault is uncomfortable. And yet doing so is vitally important to keeping our children safe at school. Here is what to ask your child’s school about its policies to prevent and respond to sexual assault.

Sexual assault in schools is, sadly, all too prevalent. Search our proprietary map of assault cases worldwide to see if there are recorded issues with sexual misconduct at your child’s school.

Visualize the impact of student activism against sexual assault and add a mark.

Know of a case of student activism that isn’t reflected on the map?  Tell us by sharing a news story.

Here are additional FAQs about preventing sexual assault that we often hear from parents.
WHAT IS SEXUAL ASSAULT AND HOW DO I TALK TO MY CHILDREN ABOUT IT?

Sexual assault is the term given to the crime of a nonconsensual sexual act, including if an individual lacks the capacity to consent. (For more on consent, read the FAQ below). Talking to your children about sexual assault is difficult and may make you feel uncomfortable, but you can be proactive and positive about it. Your early and ongoing intervention may be the only reminder your child has about their right to feel safe at school. Here is a guide to initiating this conversation.

WHAT IS CONSENT?

Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in any form of sexual activity. It goes further. According to the Consent Awareness Network, consent must be a freely given, knowledgeable, and informed agreement without force, fear, or fraud. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. Individuals who are under the age of consent, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or unconscious cannot legally give consent. Further, the absence of a “no” does not equal a “yes,” and consent by someone’s body language or their dress or state of dress cannot be taken as consent.

Consent should be a continuous dialogue between participants to ensure their experience is positive and safe.

A related concept to be aware of as a parent is sexual coercion. Sexual coercion is unwanted sexual activity that happens when someone is pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way. A partner using coercion can make one think they “owe” sex. Common scenarios include someone who wears their partner down by repeatedly asking for sex, who lies to their partner to trick them into having sex, or who threatens to end a relationship or spread rumors if their partner doesn’t have sex with them. Another common scenario of coercion is when an authority figure (like an older student, relative, friend, teacher, coach, counselor, boss, or professor) takes advantage of a power imbalance or uses their authority to pressure someone into having sex.

Because there is so little public knowledge about sexual coercion, many women who have been sexually coerced are not aware that what happened to them qualifies as sexual assault and may instead blame themselves for their trauma. If your child said “yes” to sexual activity when they didn’t want to, know that they may have been sexually coerced and that what happened is considered an assault. Your child is not at fault.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT SEXUAL ASSAULT FROM HAPPENING TO MY CHILD?

The truth is, no one can prevent sexual assault – except the perpetrator.  They alone are responsible for not sexually assaulting another human being.  

However, communication is vital in your relationship with your minor: both to remind them that they have the right to feel safe at school, and to be able to spot the signs of harassment or assault if it does happen to them. Even if it feels uncomfortable to do, talk to your child in age-appropriate ways about healthy relationships, anatomy and sex, and consent. Learn other strategies to maintain strong communication with your child and model healthy relationships here.

Communication with your child’s school is equally important. Review the list of questions we recommend asking your school’s representative and be on the look-out for what we call “red flag responses.” 

If You’re Ready to Make Change Now

Ready to protect your child and millions of others against the threat of sexual assault at school?

Here’s how.

Sign the I Have The Right To Pledge to raise awareness about and speak out against sexual assault.

Ask your child’s school for I Have The Right To programming to make sure your child has an education free from sexual assault. Here’s how to do so.

Tell Your Leaders to Take Action

Get in touch with your national congressional representatives and ask them to make school sexual assault prevention a priority. Do the same for your state representatives. Consider mailing a letter or placing a phone call before sending an email; sending letters and placing calls can help your message stand out.

Learn more about the prevalence of sexual assault and how it impacts survivors.

Talk About It

Facilitate a discussion of I Have the Right To, the true story of I Have the Right To’s co-founder, Chessy Prout, and her searing, visceral story of assault, justice, and healing. 

🙌 We support the students in Grand Junction, Colorado, who are using their voices to call on ....
🙌 We support the students in Grand Junction, Colorado, who are using their voices to call on their schools to ensure that all students can receive an education free from sexual assault and harassment. ...
💥 We can't bust this myth enough! It's deeply concerning that some students we talk to are mo....
💥 We can't bust this myth enough! It's deeply concerning that some students we talk to are more worried about being falsely accused than about the prevalence of sexual violence.
💥 Research finds tha ...
🔥 To all of you survivors out there, we believe you, we support you, and we cherish and celeb....
🔥 To all of you survivors out there, we believe you, we support you, and we cherish and celebrate you.
🧡 You may never know how your light and courage inspire the world, but your life makes all the ...
✍️ The I Have The Right To Pledge reminds us of the importance of committing to learning abo....
✍️ The I Have The Right To Pledge reminds us of the importance of committing to learning about healthy relationships and consent.
🙌 Building healthy relationships and understanding the definition of ...
⭐️ We are always on the lookout for courageous activism by students and parents and were enc....
⭐️ We are always on the lookout for courageous activism by students and parents and were encouraged by these parents in Ripley, WV, who called on their local school board to be more transparent about ...

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