A Tulane parent guide for talking with your student about sexual violence
You can make a difference.
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.
Scope of the Problem.
According to a 2022 sexual misconduct climate survey of Tulane students, 27% of all female respondents, 21% of all gender non-conforming, non-binary and transgender respondents and 9% of all male respondents reported being raped since enrolling at Tulane.1
In most incidents of sexual assault*, the perpetrator is someone known to the victim, such as a friend (26%), acquaintance (36%), current romantic partner (19%), or former romantic partner (15%).1 To learn more about the climate results, visit allin.tulane.edu/climate-assessment.
*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- Ongoing and can be withdrawn at any time.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
To learn more about these definitions and policies, refer to the Code of Student Conduct.
Talking with young people about sex and sexual violence is something that many parents feel uncomfortable with or intimidated by, which is why if you feel this way, you’re not alone. While talking with your young person about sex may feel difficult, we believe parents are the most important sex educators for their children. We also know that early education on sexuality, consent, reproductive health, and sexual violence is an important component of violence prevention. We encourage parents of Tulane students to have these challenging conversations with their young people before arriving at Tulane University and to continue the conversation throughout their tenure here.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.2
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.
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.
TALK ABOUT CONSENT.
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.
NORMALIZE COMMUNICATION ABOUT SEX.
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 ABOUT CHARACTERISTICS OF HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.
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
TALK ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MEMBER OF THE TULANE COMMUNITY.
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.
ENCOURAGE SEXUAL HEALTH FOR STUDENTS AND SEXUAL LITERACY FOR STUDENTS.
Each incoming student receives two online sexual wellness modules. These modules act as sexual violence prevention tools by empowering students with basic information about their sexual health, consent, boundaries, healthy relationships, and available campus resources and health services at Tulane University. Encourage your student to actively participate in these two required trainings.
TALK ABOUT THE COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ALCOHOL AND SEX.
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.
93% all undergraduate, female victims, 89% of all undergraduate, male victims and 74% of all undergraduate, gender non-conforming, nonbinary and transgender victims reported that they were incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol at the time they were a victim of rape.1
*Rape was defined as completed oral, anal or vaginal sex without a person’s consent by incapacitation or force.
Prior to New Student Orientation educational programs, all first-year students complete two online programs, Alcohol and Other Drugs and Sexual Misconduct for Students. 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.
TELL THEM YOU CARE AND TALK THROUGH THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE.
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.
72% of all undergraduate female respondents, 65% of all undergraduate gender non-conforming, non-binary and transgender respondents and 61% of all undergraduate male respondents disclosed their experience of unwanted sexual contact and/or rape victimization to someone prior to taking the sexual misconduct climate survey. 40% of all female undergraduate respondents, 23% of all undergraduate gender non-conforming, nonbinary, transgender respondents, and 17% of all male undergraduate respondents 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.
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR CHILD
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.
As a parent, you may have questions about campus policies, procedures, and reporting options. At Tulane, we encourage students to make the best decision for themselves, which may or may not include reporting. Someone may choose to report for a variety of reasons, including:
- To ensure that their experience is recognized.
- To get the support they need to feel safe and healthy.
- To hold the perpetrator accountable for their behavior
1. Tulane University 2022 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct. Retrieved from Tulane allin.tulane.edu/climate-assessment
2. 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.