Back-to-school season is here! Class schedules, school supply sales, dorm room décor—these are all part of the excitement that August brings as a new school year approaches. You may have a loved one entering a new grade, a new school, or heading off to college for the first time, and each situation may bring up unique emotions for everyone.
For those sending a loved one off to college, preparing your student for new adventures and opportunities can be overwhelming as lots of new information is sent your way, including the issue of sexual violence at academic institutions.
Because we know this time of year can be hectic, here is a quick checklist of things to know when preparing your student for life on campus:
- Have conversations about consent. While high school sex education may have covered contraception and disease prevention, the definition of consent may or may not have been discussed. Caring adults can take this time to discuss consent and remind young adults that their boundaries and others’ boundaries are valid, real, and should be respected.
- Know the facts. There is a lot of misinformation and myths out there about people who harm others. While we know that assaults by a stranger occur, the truth is that the majority of survivors know the person who hurt them. It is often a friend, acquaintance, or dating partner. This reality can create multiple layers of difficulty, and the survivor might not come forward out of fear of not being believed, especially if we’re led to think that perpetrators only look like the “creepy stranger in the bushes.” NJCASA’s website has additional information on our resources page.
- We can work together to create safer campuses. Prevention is multi-faceted. However, we know that risk reduction techniques such as taking a self-defense course, carrying mace, wearing color-changing nail polish, or any number of similar products are not a true or reliable form of prevention and contribute to myths about sexual violence. Many institutions have started implementing their own sexual violence prevention initiatives on campus. Take a closer look at programming on your student’s campus to find out how students, staff, and faculty are working together to create safer communities.
- What about alcohol? Encouraging folks to drink responsibly is important, but we have to remember that drinking alcohol is never an excuse for a person to harm another person. Everyone deserves to feel safe and drinking alcohol is not an exception. If someone takes advantage of someone who is drunk, the person who harmed should be held accountable, and the survivor is never at fault for another person’s actions against them.
You can always reach out for support! In New Jersey, there is a sexual violence service provider in each county. Support is available 24/7. Students can also get acquainted with the available services on their campus, through their Title IX office, health center, public safety, and more. Knowing what is available will equip students with important information, should they or a friend need services.
Remember, it is never too early to start! Despite the necessary focus on campus communities, we know that sexual violence prevention can start earlier than young adulthood. We can have consent and boundary conversations early. If you have younger students in your life, consider starting this conversations before they head to college. It’s never too early to talk about creating safer spaces for all.
Want to stay in the know?
We also want you to know that New Jersey is working together through the Governor’s Campus Sexual Assault Taskforce to discuss solutions to sexual violence on campuses.