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A Tulane parent guide for talking with your student about sexual violence

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You have likely heard a lot about sexual assault on college campuses in recent years. While this topic can bring up a variety of feelings, including fear, anger, and discomfort, it is important for all members of our Tulane community, including parents, to be educated about sexual misconduct and how each of us contribute to creating a safe learning environment for all students to grow and succeed. Tulane is committed to ending sexual violence on our campus. In our effort to institutionalize sexual respect and community norms that protect individuals from and condemn acts of violence, we invite you to use this Guide for Parents to begin or continue conversations with your student about consent, sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, stalking, and the resources available at Tulane.  To learn more about Tulane's prevention and response efforts, we encourage you to view this webinar for parents that was recorded on January 26, 2022, featuring staff from the Title IX office, Student Resources and Support Services, and Campus Health. 

Understanding Sexual Violence

Scope of the Problem.

According to a 2017 sexual misconduct climate survey of Tulane students, 41% of undergraduate women and 18% of undergraduate men reported experiencing sexual assault* since enrolling at Tulane.² 
In most incidents of sexual assault* (73%), the perpetrator is someone known to the victim, such as a friend or romantic partner.²

*Sexual assault is defined broadly as nonconsensual sexual activity, including unwanted sexual contact, attempted rape, and rape.

Defining Sexual Violence.

A critical step in ending sexual violence is prioritizing primary prevention. Primary prevention is about stopping violence before it happens, and this begins with equipping all Tulane community members with shared language and definitions to talk about sexual violence.

Consent is an agreement between people to engage in sexual activity. This agreement is:

  • Freely and actively given using mutually understandable words and actions.
  • Free of threats and coercion.
  • Ongoing and can be withdrawn at any time.
  • Students who are incapacitated from alcohol and/or other drugs cannot give consent.

Sexual Violence refers collectively to sexual assault, stalking, sexual harassment, and intimate partner violence.

Sexual Misconduct is how the Code of Student Conduct refers to acts of sexual violence when they are committed by students against any person, whether the conduct occurs on-campus or off- campus.

Sexual Assault is sexual contact or sexual intercourse without affirmative consent. Sexual contact is intentional sexual touching with any object or body part by a person on another person.

Intimate Partner Violence, including dating violence and domestic violence, is any act of violence or threatened act of violence that occurs between
individuals who are involved or have been involved in a sexual, dating, spousal, domestic, or other intimate relationship.

Sexual Harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, non-verbal, graphic, or physical.

Stalking occurs when a person engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or to experience substantial
emotional distress.

To learn more about these definitions and policies, refer to the Code of Student Conduct.

How to Be Part of the Solution

Talking with your student about sex isn’t always easy so we understand that talking about sexual violence can seem daunting. The reality is that students are receiving mixed messages about sex and
relationships from digital media, and many students are not receiving comprehensive sex education in school that would provide them with the resources to make healthy, informed decisions. It is critical that young adults receive consistent and accurate information from adults they trust.

A NATIONAL STUDY of 18 to 25-year-olds found that 87% of survey respondents reported that at some point in their lives they had been the victim of some form of sexual harassment. In the same
study, 76% of survey respondents—72% of men and 80% of women— reported that they had never had a conversation with their parents about how to avoid sexually harassing others.³  Although it may not be easy having these conversations, and sometimes you may not feel heard, this humbling statistic highlights the importance of having honest and supportive dialogue with young adults about what sexual respect looks like.

These conversations will help both you and your student feel more confident in their ability to navigate the challenges that they will inevitably face in their social and romantic encounters during their college years and beyond.

Conversation Tips

Not sure where to begin? Here are some tips to help you approach and reinforce messages that endorse sexual respect. To get the conversation started, use the Parents Guide to Join the Conversation: Talking 
about Sex and Sexuality

Consent is often defined through the context of sex but the principles of giving and receiving consent apply to a variety of interpersonal interactions. To better understand the definition and elements of consent, watch “Consent is Like a Cup of Tea” with your student. This video is a simple, funny approach to understanding consent.

Students often share that they feel awkward in sexual interactions. They struggle with how to communicate what they want in a situation where they are very vulnerable and fear “ruining the moment.” Encourage your student to consider how they can realistically ask for consent and articulate their own boundaries and desires to a partner. It’s also important to talk about how to gracefully respond to rejection. Your conversations could help them understand that communication is a normal, healthy, and integral part of intimacy.

Talk to your student about examples of relationships among the couples you both know, examples from the media, or both. Which examples are healthy? Which ones are harmful? How would they define a relationship? These questions can help them identify signs of healthy and unhealthy behaviors.

For more tips and conversation starters regarding healthy relationships, refer to:
The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young People’s Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment²

Our university motto is “Not for one’s self but for one’s own.” This means that Tulane expects our community members to look out for one another. How can this principle apply to a risky situation that could potentially lead to a sexual assault? Talk with your student about how to be an active bystander:

  • Intervene directly.
    If you notice someone else is being harmed or at risk of being harmed, you can directly intervene with the parties involved.
  • Create a distraction.
    You can create a distraction to provide an opportunity for the potential victim to get away or to diffuse the harmful situation. The goal of distraction is to interrupt the harmful behavior, not necessarily to confront the behavior.
  • Ask for help.
    Get a friend to intervene, call TUPD, or involve someone who can interrupt the situation.

Encourage your student to attend a One Wave bystander intervention training that provides practical skills in identifying high risk situations and diffusing harm safely. To learn more, visit campushealth.tulane.edu/onewave.

While alcohol and drug use do not cause or excuse sexual assault or make an assault the victim’s fault, these substances increase the risk for perpetration and victimization. Intoxication inhibits people’s ability to communicate their wants and boundaries as well as interpret that of others. Research also suggests that perpetrators are more likely to target individuals who are intoxicated.

74% of women and 87% of men who experienced sexual assault* reported they were incapacitated by alcohol at the time of assault.²
*Defined broadly as nonconsensual sexual activity, including unwanted sexual contact, attempted rape, and rape.

Prior to New Student Orientation educational programs, all first-year students complete two online programs, Alcohol-Wise and Consent & Respect. These programs aim to reduce the risk of drug and alcohol misuse and abuse, and sexual violence among students. Ask your student what they learned from these programs and use them as an opportunity to talk about the complexities of substance use, sex, and consent.

Let your student know that sexual violence is never the fault of the victim and reassure them that they can expect support from you and others should they ever be impacted by sexual violence. 23% of Tulane undergraduate male victims and 42% of undergraduate female victims (of sexual assault, harassment by faculty, stalking or dating violence) told someone about the incident;Less than 2% of male victims and 18% of female victims told their parents.¹

Review with your student the response resources listed on the next page. Make sure they know where to turn if they need support for themselves or a friend.

Conversation Starter Ideas from Pop Culture

Consent Conversation Starters for Tulane Parents: A compilation of articles, interviews and videos on consent & rape culture

About Consent
  • Consent is like a Cup of Tea: This short video demonstrates the elements of consent by comparing it to making someone a cup of tea. In two minutes, you WILL understand consent!
  • Let's Talk About Consent: How about a hipper version of a consent education video made by NYU students? Inclusive and instructive, your child might really appreciate the message from their peers.
  • The Big Bang Theory, ‘The Opening Night Excitation’: When Sheldon and Amy have sex for the first time, they demonstrate how to communicate and care for your partner—and Sheldon’s commitment to obtaining consent. (Note: contracts are not required.)
  • When Talking About Sexual Consent, YA Books Can Be A Parent's Best Friend: When it comes to discussing consent with your kids, a good young adult novel can be a fantastic way in for a parent to talk about consent—and non-consent—for your children and giving you a starting point for conversation. Speak is a particularly notable novel about sexual assault (and has a movie that you can watch with your child, too), and John Green's novels The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down both have great examples of consent (in the latter, in something as small as being comfortable with kissing).
  • When Pop Culture Sells Dangerous Myths About Romance: Entertainment glorifying or excusing predatory male behavior is everywhere—from songs about “blurred lines” to TV shows where rapists marry their victims.
  • 5 Amazing Love Scenes Where Pop Culture Got Consent Exactly Right: But here are a few great examples--including family friendly and fabulous Frozen and Oz and Willow's first time on Buffy (sigh! Who didn't love Oz!).
  • 30 Healthy Ways To Teach Kids About Consent: Adapted from The Good Men project, here are thirty developmentally appropriate ways to teach toddlers to teens about how to ask for consent. Create a future with less rape and sexual assault by teaching children about having empathy for others and understanding consent.
  • What We Need to Learn from the Aziz Ansari Clusterf--k: In a blog post that went viral, actress Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) argues that consent isn't the gold standard, it's merely the basic foundation. The gold standard is "building on that with fun, mutual passion, equal arousal, interest and enthusiasm."
  • The Game Is Rigged. Why sex that’s consensual can still be bad. And why we’re not talking about it: This is the flip side of the article above, that the standard of mere consent does such a disservice to girls. (And if you want to read a full book on this topic, pick up Lisa Wade's fantastic 'American Hookup.' Our students say that it absolutely speaks to their experience.)
  • 'Girls & Sex' And The Importance Of Talking To Young Women About Pleasure: Here's the solution--Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls and Sex, talks about the “mixed messages” that girls are receiving about sexuality and how parents can better communicate with their daughters about having healthy and positive sexual experiences.
Understanding and Addressing “Rape Culture”
Supporting Your Child

Fewer than half of undergraduate women (42%) and a quarter of men (23%) who experienced sexual misconduct* reported disclosing their experiences to anyone.²
*Refers collectively to sexual harassment, stalking, dating violence, and sexual violence

While it is hard to think about your student being the victim of violence, it is important to consider how you can respond supportively to such a disclosure. Being believed and supported by family and friends can positively impact a survivor’s recovery. For a guide to supporting your child, click here.


1. Lisak, D. (2011). Understanding the predatory nature of sexual violence. Sexual Assault Report, 14(4), 49-57.
2. Tulane University Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct. Retrieved from tulane.edu/wave-of-change/climate-assessment
3. Weissbourd, R., Anderson, T. R., Cashin, A., & McIntyre, J. (2017). The Talk: How adults can promote young people’s healthy relationships and prevent misogyny and sexual harassment. Making Caring Common Project.