How to Help as a Parent

Sexual misconduct can happen to anyone. As parents, guardians and family members, it can be very difficult and overwhelming to hear your student has been accused of sexually misconduct. When it happens, it can be hard to know how to act or what to say. Every person responds differently. Common emotions can include feelings of fear, distress, humiliation, anger, confusion, numbness, and guilt. The single most important thing you can do is help your student feel safe and supported. It is important your student be allowed to express and process through their feelings, without the fear of having these feelings invalidated or dismissed. 

What can you do

Be Patient. The story may likely change as details and information becomes available. Allow your student to disclose information at their own pace. Do not place blame on your student, or pressure them to talk. By letting them set the pace, you show you are focused on your student's needs. Remember, every person's emotional process is unique.

Listen and help your student process through their feelings.  Feelings of fear, anger, pain, are natural responses that need to be felt, expressed, and heard.

Talk with your student about taking the necessary steps to take to protect and ensure their safety.

Provide your student with resources where they can discuss options so they can make an informed decision about what to do next.

Help your student get the professional care and support they may need. Counseling can be very helpful in assisting your student and you through this process. Seek immediate professional help if your student displays any suicidal ideations/behaviors or if you are worried about their emotional or physical well-being.

Be Open.  Let them know you are open to talk about anything, even if it is uncomfortable. It is okay to tell your student this is a difficult situation.

Encourage your student to seek medical attention (prevent STD treatment), but understand they have the right to decide what medical attention is necessary. Whatever the choice, it's important your student make their own choices.

Control your own emotions. If you show great emotion, your student may find it harder to talk with you and may even feel guilty for upsetting you. Share your feelings, but make sure your feelings don't overwhelm your student.

Separate the anger you may feel at your student for having broken any rules or using poor judgment, from the anger you feel about the situation. The offender is the only one responsible for the assault. No matter how badly you need to vocalize your anger, refrain from venting your emotions toward your student or other family members.

Recognize your student's need for privacy. Respect your student’s time and space it takes to deal with such an incident.

Take care of yourself. Educate yourself about sexual misconduct. As you provide support for your student, it's also important to pay attention to how the information you learn impacts you. Realize when you've reached your own limitations, and encourage your student to talk to a professional.  Often parents will feel frustrated because they were unable to protect their student. It's ok to feel angry, depressed, helpless and/or overwhelmed when someone we love is hurt.  If you find yourself feeling this way, consider getting help. Your local crisis center can be a free and confidential place to talk about your feelings and get referrals to local mental health counselors that have experience working on these issues.