College can be a very big and frightening place for some. For incoming freshman, it is the beginning of a new adventure outside the ever-watchful eye of parents and other caregivers. For some, it is a time to get to know the adult they are becoming. But what about sexual education? Does it stop after high school? Should you have one more talk with your kid before they go off to college? In our experience, it isn’t about teaching them something new, but instead, expanding on what they may already know.
Parents, please do not jump into the conversation assuming that your college student knows all they are supposed to when it comes to sex. Most college students did not get proper sex education when they were in high school. Do not be afraid to ask them what they know about sex and most importantly for college students, consent. In order for the conversation to be beneficial for all, honesty and openness is vital and it helps to remind your child that this will be a judgment free conversation.
Remember the point is to educate and not to shame them for their thoughts or opinions. Also, as the educator in this talk, don’t be afraid to use examples from your life as well as other real-world examples. Sometimes people can fully understand a topic when they are able to see, using real life examples a clear example and how it can relate to them. For example, with the topic of consent, you can look up videos on YouTube and other current pop culture platforms to help you better get your point across.
For college students focusing on consent is something we believe is most important. To speak to them about consent is something that can help them to better understand other things like empathy. Empathy helps them put themselves into someone else’s shoes. Another thing they can learn about is bodily autonomy. Autonomy helps them to understand that just as no one has the right to touch them without their consent, they have to respect others rights to their bodies as well. Expect there to be some pushback on a few things like drunk sex but stand firm. Make them understand it isn’t about that they think is right but about what the rules and the law say is right. It is a very serious matter and they should hear about it from you first before the school has to be involved.
By: Deven Alvarez and Dana Carter, YWCA Northern NJ healingSPACE’s Youth Prevention and Education Specialists
YWCA Northern New Jersey healingSPACE—the only Sexual Violence Resource Center of its kind in Bergen County—is a safe and welcoming place for survivors of sexual assault/abuse, their families, and friends. Our 24/7 crisis intervention hotline (201-487-2227) provides free and confidential assistance, and trained advocates provide counseling and accompany survivors through medical, legal, or other proceedings associated with sexual violence. Support is available to anyone who has experienced sexual violence, whether it happened hours or years ago. healingSPACE offers support groups, volunteer training, and educational programs for schools and businesses, and sponsors activities to raise community awareness about sexual violence.