Sexual Misconduct is an umbrella term used to encompass any form of non-consensual sexual contact. Learning that your child has been a victim of sexual violence or has been accused of sexual misconduct can leave you feeling angry, helpless, and confused. If your student is involved in a sexual misconduct case, either as a reporting or responding party to a complaint, there is information available on MMC’s website about the College’s sexual misconduct process and resources to support students who have experienced a sexual assault.
How to Help as a Parent:
Here are some strategies that you may find useful if your child has been a victim of sexual violence:
Believe them. When a student has experienced a sexual assault, they are sometimes reluctant to share the information with their families for fear of disappointment, blame, judgment or overreaction. You can be most helpful by listening and supporting your child as they work their way through the complex range of emotions they might be feeling. Show them your unconditional love and acceptance – and that you will support them in any way that you can.
Make sure they know what resources and options are available to them. While sexual assault is not an issue that you can “fix” for them, you can certainly help them understand all of their choices and options so that they can make an informed decision about how to proceed.
Let them decide how to move forward. Finding out that your child has been a victim of sexual violence is shocking. In fact, your natural instinct may be to assert yourself and take control over the situation in order to protect them. While these feelings are very typical, it is important to respect your child’s wishes about the next steps. Do not try to dictate actions or decisions about matters that they must decide for themselves. This is probably the most difficult thing to do as a parent.
Reserve judgment. Do your best to listen non-judgmentally. You will likely have many questions and will feel compelled to understand every detail about what happened. But firing questions can shut down communication, especially when the question “why” is asked. It’s very important to respect your child’s boundaries and allow them to decide how much to share. Let your child know you are there to listen and understand whatever they feel ready to talk about.
Don’t blame them. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted, regardless of the facts and circumstances leading up to the incident. Assure your child that the assault was not their fault, even if drugs and alcohol were involved or they were otherwise engaged in activities that you do not approve of. Especially in the initial stages, it is best to keep any judgments to yourself or you might diminish your child’s willingness to share information about the trauma and communication may shut down.
The recovery process is unique to your child. It may take time for your child to recover from the experience. They may also have a difficult time returning to their usual routine or their grades may suffer. Support your child for as long as necessary. Encourage them to reach out to the College’s Title IX Coordinator for help and support if the experience from the assault is making it difficult to meet their obligations as a student.
Self-Care is Important. Don’t neglect your own mental health. This can be a traumatic experience for you as a parent. In fact, it’s easy to forget about your own mental health when you are so concerned about the well-being of your child. Taking care of yourself is critical so that you can be more present for your child.
Here are some helpful strategies if your child has been accused of sexual violence:
Let them know that you love and support them. There is a difference between showing support for your child and showing support for your child’s conduct. Let them know you will be there to love and support them even if they have made a mistake that has serious consequences.
Make sure they have accurate information about the College’s Sexual Misconduct Process. The full policy is at www.mmm.edu/misconductpolicy. Any questions may be directed to the Chief Diversity Officer and Title IX Coordinator, Rebecca Pinard, at email@example.com or by telephone at (212) 517-0563.
Encourage them to see a counselor. When a student has been accused of sexual misconduct, it can be a very traumatic experience. It may also cause a major disruption in their life, personally, socially and academically. Make sure your child has support in place to help deal with the stress, helplessness, and possibly anger that they might be feeling.
Avoid placing blame on your child’s accuser. This is difficult, but making judgments and finding blame is counterproductive. The people who were present are the only ones who will ever really know what happened. Focus instead on helping your child learn and grow from the experience.
Don’t neglect your own mental health. Take care of yourself during this experience. It can be difficult to cope with the range of emotions you might be feeling. Talking to a counselor can be helpful for your own well-being and so that you may be more present for your child.
Contact us for more information:
If you have any questions or concerns about the College’s sexual misconduct process, please contact our Chief Diversity Officer and Title IX Coordinator, Rebecca Pinard. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (212) 517-0563.