It may sound like an intense sports commentator show on ESPN, but in reality the Red Zone is much more unsettling. It refers to the time period on college campuses from the first day of classes until Thanksgiving break when the incidence of sexual assaults spike, especially among female freshmen. Incoming freshmen are especially vulnerable at this time because for many, it’s their first time away from home, they may not have an established friend group, and they may try to fit in by drinking or using drugs.

Don’t have kids entering college quite yet?

Sexual assault prevention and consent are lessons we need to be teaching our kids at every age. Because before you know it, your 7 year old will be in high school, and it’s never too early to teach kids to establish boundaries and respect other people’s boundaries.

The reality of sexual assault

Rape is a form of sexual assault, but sexual assault is any type of sexual contact, including touching and kissing, that happens without explicit consent. The statistics are startling – according to the CDC nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the US have been raped in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration. 42% of female victims were raped before the age of 18. The reality is that this isn’t just a problem we see on college campuses during the Red Zone. These assaults happen year-round and they are happening in our high schools too.

Are 20% of men rapists?

Even though 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted, that does not mean that 1 in 5 men are rapists. Most boys and men would never commit sexual assault. Rather, what we see is a small subset of the male population sexually assaulting multiple victims. They get away with it once, so they continue to do it. It’s estimated that less than one in three sexual assaults are reported, with even fewer resulting in prosecution.

How can you educate your older children?

Many campuses provide training to incoming students about how to avoid being sexually assaulted. Much of this training revolves around educating girls on how to not get sexually assaulted, giving advice like: don’t walk alone at night, go to parties with a group, and never let anything you’re drinking out of your sight. This is all great advice, but it leaves one important group out – men who commit sexual assault.

So if you’re sending your kids off to college this fall, or even just back to high school, here are a couple things you may want to talk to them about:

  • Alcohol is the #1 date rape drug – it’s cheap, legal (if you’re 21), relatively easy to get, and socially acceptable. A person who is under the influence of alcohol cannot consent to sex. If they’re too drunk to drive, they’re too drunk to consent. Period.
  • Nearly 85% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. It could be their friend’s brother, someone they have class with, or even someone they are dating.
  • Sexual assault is not a victim’s fault. It is a perpetrator’s choice. It doesn’t matter what the victim said, wore, was drinking, or even if they had been kissing the person who assaulted them.
  • We’re often asking for consent from people we’re in relationships with, so talk about feelings and how to deal with them:
    • Rejection – if someone turns you down – remember, they don’t want to do that one thing with you, they aren’t rejecting you as a whole person! Talk about strategies to keep rejection in perspective.
    • Guilt – if you feel like you should say, “Yes” to someone so you don’t hurt their feelings, but you really want to say “No…” – brainstorm how to say, “No,” in a way that is kind and helps the other person save face. Note: your child should also be able to say, “No,” as firmly as they want without further explanation or trying to save the other person’s feelings.
  • Talk to them about the importance of getting (and giving) consent before engaging in any sexual act. Consent is:
    • Affirmative – Yes means yes. Lack of a “No,” is not a “Yes!”
    • Clear – Someone couldn’t confuse their answer with a different answer.
    • Conscious – Neither asleep nor drunk nor high.
    • Ongoing – Both people have to continue to want to participate in the activity the whole time they’re doing it. If one person says they don’t want to do it anymore, then they take back their consent, and the activity should stop.

And if you want to inject a little humor into the conversation, watch this video together to find out how getting consent is as easy as making a cup of tea!

How can you educate your younger children?

You don’t have to wait until high school to start teaching children that they have autonomy over their own bodies. Even a toddler can start learning this important concept! The next time a long-lost relative visits, let your child decide if they want to hug them. Next time you say, “Mommy wants a kiss,” and they holler and try to squirm away, apologize and explain to them that they get to decide who gets to kiss them and when.

Additionally, teach them that no one should touch them where their bathing suit touches them (aside from you if you still need to help them bathe or a doctor if they need to help them stay healthy). If someone does, they should tell you. It’s that easy. Some call it good touch/bad touch where good touch is a way to appropriately show someone you love them such as hugging or high 5-ing and bad touch hurts or scares you in some way, such as kicking, hitting or touching someone’s private parts.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to learn skills and strategies for how to talk to your kids about sensitive topics like consent, contact Cami at Bridgercare. She offers free workshops for parents to help them learn how to talk to their kids of all ages about sexuality in an age-appropriate way.