Parents: How to Support Your Student
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
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
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
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'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
Consider referring your student to the
Counseling Center for additional support. It is not unusual
for students to be hesistant 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 reconcilations
are common in the context of relationship violence. This cycle
can be one of the most frustrating things for parents to
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 embarassed, 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
Helpful Questions to Ask:
- What can I do to help?
- What can you do to keep yourself
- What are your concerns if you leave?
- How have you been dealing with the
- Would you like to make an appointment
with the Counseling Center?
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/herpartner 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
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 "repetitve/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
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
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.