College campuses are a microcosm of society and just as sexual violence happens in the larger society, it also occurs on college campuses. Salisbury University is committed to supporting students who experience sexual assault, relationship violence and/or stalking. As a parent, you may experience a range of emotions - including anger and sadness - upon learning that your child has been sexually assaulted, is in an abusive relationship or is being stalked. The Counseling Center is available to provide phone consultations to you and individual and group counseling services to your student.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why is there a program (Campus Against Violence) that focuses on sexual violence at SU. Is it a big problem on campus?
The Department of Justice reports that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted at some point during their college career. Sexual violence isn't an SU problem, but instead a societal problem. Salisbury University is committed to providing prevention education to students, building a community of empowered bystanders and supporting students who have experienced sexual violence, such as sexual assault, rape, stalking or relationship violence.
What support does the Counseling Center provide to students who have been sexually assaulted, stalked or involved in abusive relationships?
Through the Campus Against Violence Program, the Counseling Center offers one-on-one counseling services for students who have experienced sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking. Group counseling is also offered. In addition, legal advocacy is provided in collaboration with the local rape crisis and domestic violence agency as well as advocacy during on-campus judicial hearings. The Counseling Center, University Police, the Office of Student Affairs, Student Health Services, Residence Life and other departments on campus work together to provide a coordinated response to issues of sexual violence.
How can I convince my student to report the sexual assault to the police and move forward with criminal charges?
It is understandable that as a parent, you would wish for the person who sexually assaulted your child to be held accountable for his/her actions. When someone is sexually assaulted, they lose their sense of power and control not only over their body, but also their feelings of power and control over their lives. Healing from a sexual assault begins by regaining these feelings of power and control. It is important that your student make the final decision about whether or not to move forward with criminal charges. One of the most helpful things that you can do is to be supportive of your student's choice throughout their healing journey. The Counseling Center is also a good resource for students who are deciding if they would like to formally report their sexual assault. Counselors will not guide the student to one decision over another, but instead will help them to clarify their feelings so that they can make the best decision.
My student just disclosed that they were sexually assaulted. What do I do now?
It is normal to experience a multitude of emotions including shock, disbelief, anger, sadness and concern, often at the same time. One of the most important things that you can do is to believe your student and avoid asking questions that indirectly blame the student for the sexual assault.
Believe your student. Most survivors of sexual assault are fearful of being disbelieved by the people around them, especially their parents and other loved ones.
Listen. The power of a supportive, non-judgemental listening ear is often underestimated. Your student may not feel comfortable disclosing all of the details of their sexual assault experience. Do not press and allow the student to disclose and share the details with which they are comfortable.
Allow the student to make decisions. It is normal to want to rush in and "fix" everything. However, in situations where a sexual assault has occurred this often has the effect of making the survivor feel even more out of control. Provide the student with options, allow them time to grapple with the options and make the final decision. Empowering the student to make decisions supports their healing.
Don't blame. Examples of helpful responses:
Examples of unhelpful responses include:
Asking "why" questions or other questions that might imply blame. (i.e., "Why didn't you yell?" or "What were you doing there?")
Blaming or judging the student's actions. (i.e. "You shouldn't've have had so much to drink.)
Dismissing the student's feelings or minimizing his/her experiences. (i.e. "You should try to forget about it and just focus on school.")
Trying to "fix" the problem. (i.e. Pressuring the student to report and/or telling them what to do.)
Consider referring your student to the Counseling Center for additional support. It is not unusual for students to be hesitant to come into the Counseling Center because they may believe that they should be able to handle it on their own. However, many students report that once they overcome their initial resistance to coming in that the counseling experience is helpful.
Encourage your student to seek medical attention. Even if there are no visible physical injuries, seeking medical attention ensures that internal injuries and sexually transmitted diseases are not present.
Seek support for yourself. Learning that your student has experienced a sexual assault can be upsetting and unsettling. Remember to seek support for yourself. A trained counselor can help you be a greater support for your student by allowing you to express feelings that you may have. Most communities have rape crisis centers, which often provide free counseling services to the family and friends of sexual assault survivors. Phone consultations are also available at the Counseling Center.
Remind students of on-campus resources. Salisbury University has a host of on-campus resources and has relationships with off-campus support resources. Remember, to allow the student to make the initial contact with the agency if they choose to do so after you provide the option.
My student has described a relationship that is physically and/or emotionally abusive. What do I do now?
It is incredibly difficult and painful to watch your child being hurt in a relationship. The inherent unhealthy nature of an abusive relationship often makes it difficult to leave. It is not unusual for someone who is in an abusive relationship, whether physical or emotional abuse is present, to blame themselves for their partner's behavior and to minimize unhealthy aspects of the relationship. Emotional abuse is often a precursor for physical violence.
In addition to inviting your student to seek support at the Counseling Center, here are some additional things that you can do.
Listen. It may be difficult not to demand that your student end the relationship immediately. While this may be effective in the short-term, it does not tend to yield long-term success. A more effective tact involves listening to your student and calmly expressing your concerns about their safety and emotional well-being.
Be patient. Don't give up on your student. The average woman attempts to leave a relationship 7-9 times before she leaves for good. Break-ups and reconciliations are common in the context of relationship violence. This cycle can be one of the most frustrating things for parents to observe.
Help plan for safety. Help the student plan for ways that s/he can keep him/herself safe, identify resources both on campus and in the community. Remember the Campus Against Violence Program connects students with organizations in the community, accompanies students to peace and protective order hearings and provides individual counseling to students working through an unhealthy relationship.
Don't judge. It can be very difficult for someone to acknowledge that they are in an abusive relationship. The student may feel embarrassed, uncomfortable and be afraid that you will judge him/her. It may take a few conversations before s/he is comfortable talking to you about the relationship openly.
Remind students of on-campus resources. Counseling can provide a safe space for the student to explore his/her feelings about the relationship in a supportive, non-judgemental environment. If the student decides to seek a peace or protective order, a counselor can help them coordinate resources with the local domestic violence/sexual assault agency, secure legal representation and accompany them to the court hearing if the student wishes. Other services may also be available depending upon student need. Contact the Campus Against Violence Program Coordinator/Counselor for additional information.
Helpful Questions to Ask:
Don't blame the student for the abuse. Chances are very good that your student is already blaming him/herself for the abuse. In addition, his/her partner is probably deflecting blame as well. Place the blame where it belongs - squarely on the shoulders of his/her partner. Remember that there is nothing that anyone does that would justify abusive behavior.
My student is being stalked by another student. What do I do now?
Stalking is a crime in the state of Maryland and a violation of Salisbury University's Student Code of Conduct. Stalking is defined as "repetitive/menacing pursuit, following, harassment and/or interference with the peace and/or safety of a member of the community; or the safety of any of the immediate family of members of the community" at Salisbury University.
Document everything. Stalking is frequently defined as "unwanted repetitive contact." It is important that the student keep records of all unwanted contact including text messages, call logs, voicemail messages, emails, unwanted gifts, etc.
Be aware of legal options. Peace and protective orders are available to students who are being stalked. Peace and protective orders are legal sanctions that require the stalker to stay away from the student. The Campus Against Violence Program Coordinator/Counselor and University Police works with students to help them obtain peace or protective orders. In addition to this legal option, the Office of Student Affairs also works with students to ensure they feel safe on campus. Stalking is a violation of Salisbury University's Code of Conduct. Students who violate the policy are held accountable.
Remind student of on-campus resources. University Police, the Office of Student Affairs and the Campus Against Violence program, housed in the Counseling Center, work in collaboration to provide support to students affected by stalking.
Cyber-safety. Teach your student the importance of having strong passwords for email accounts and other online websites. Strong passwords are generally described as being at least 8 characters that include a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Social networks can unintentionally provide a wealth of information to a stalker. Teach your student to use their privacy settings on social networking sites as it relates to protecting their pictures, interests, status updates and other information. Both chat and social networking sites offer ways for students to block unwanted individuals who contact them.
Reporting Options. Stalking can be reported to University Police (if the stalker is a student), the local police (if the stalker is not affiliated with the university) and the Office of Student Affairs.
Sexual violence, whether it's relationship violence, stalking or sexual assault, is really hard to deal with alone. Support is available for students. Staff at the Counseling Center are available to provide support to students affected by relationship violence, stalking or sexual assault. Students can contact 410.543.6070 to schedule an appointment.