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Parental advice to help cope with teenage sexual assault

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Posted: Friday, December 6, 2013 8:53 am

Dear Straight Talk: Parties come with tremendous pressure to drink — followed by more pressure to hook up and have sex. But many don’t realize that taking advantage of an intoxicated person is rape. Instead of blaming the assailant, however, girls usually blame themselves — and fear their parents will do the same. With nowhere to turn, survivors can end up more traumatized as time passes.

New conversations are desperately needed.

For daughters, I beg parents to avoid statements like, “Don’t drink or you’ll get raped” or, “Don’t drink, something bad will happen.” This just sets the stage for self-blame. Instead, repeatedly tell your daughter how special she is, how her body and sexuality always deserve respect, and how incredible sex is when people are mature — with not a drop of alcohol needed! Tell her she deserves that! And that if anyone takes advantage of her when she is unable to give consent, she is not to blame and you are there for her ALWAYS! — Mike Domitrz, founder Date Safe Project.

P.S.: While this letter focuses on girls, males are also sexually assaulted.

Katie, 20, Auburn: A change in conversation is so needed! I struggled for years with guilt and low self-worth over being taken advantage of. I always blamed myself and never told anyone. Learning that alcohol consumption renders any consent invalid made me better able to cope.

Molly, 21, Oakland: I was taken advantage of while passed out drunk in what I thought was a safe space. The guy was a close friend, sober, and he knew I wasn’t interested in him. I certainly wasn’t “asking for it,” as some victim-blamers claim. It was so traumatic it took me almost two months to tell anyone. This happens FAR too often. We need to teach girls that this is not their fault and teach boys that it is, indeed, rape.

Warren, 24, Nashville, Mich.: Women, please remember — THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!! There was nothing you “did” that caused this. It does not reflect you, but the person who took advantage of you.

Ashley, 25, Auburn: What about teaching young men not to take advantage of drunk girls? This is rarely taught to the male child. Often guys are encouraged to have sex regardless!

Austin, 24, Alpena, Mich.: If you get drunk, expect out-of-control things to happen. People get drunk for that reason. However, targeting a drunk girl is wrong.

Treyvon, 20, Yorba Linda: Sexual abuse following alcohol consumption is an epidemic, especially on college campuses. It’s complicated because both guys and girls party with the intention of hooking up. So what separates drunk sex from sexual assault? According to the law, nothing. Guys need to wake up to the line, “If she really wants you, she’ll still want you when she’s sober.” Besides, drunk sex isn’t that fun compared to non-drunk sex.

Dear Mike: Thank you for an extremely important letter. Parents commonly use “don’t-drink-or-else” warnings with their daughters. We want daughters to be safe, but unwittingly, our choice of words causes them to blame themselves. This just makes everything worse, both for the girl (who, traumatized, often isolates or starts “acting out” the false reputation she places on herself) and for society (because if girls are silenced, the problem grows).

Parents: I urge you to begin telling both girls and boys that while you disapprove of drinking, taking advantage of someone when they are drunk is really wrong. Teach your kids that this is, indeed, sexual assault and ensure your daughters that it’s safe to tell you if someone takes advantage of them. — Lauren

Straight Talk TNT.org tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice. Go deeper in today’s conversation or ask a question at www.straighttalktnt.org. We are a 501c3 nonprofit. If today’s column has been useful, please consider a donation!

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