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Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A.
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Talk to your sons about sexual assault as they head to college

As young people head off for their freshman year in college, parents have a number of concerns for their safety. Parents of daughters need to talk to them about how to avoid being sexually assaulted and what to do if it happens. However, parents whose sons who are starting college also need to discuss sexual harassment and assault.

The college culture, particularly in fraternities, can encourage misogyny, one-night stands, sexual harassment and sexual assault. A Harvard University survey showed that 87 percent of college women reported experiencing some type of gender-related insult, harassment or assault.

However, more than a majority of respondents said that their parents had never spoken to them about nonconsensual sex or the "importance of not having sex with someone who is too intoxicated or impaired to make a decision about sex." As one Harvard psychologist noted, "Adults have really neglected this issue and are not providing wisdom to young people."

It can be uncomfortable for parents to talk to older teens about sex, and just as uncomfortable for young people to hear what their parents have to say. It's likely been awhile since the "birds and bees" talk. However, that discussion needs to be updated to address the issues and temptations they'll face in college.

One family counselor recommends depersonalizing the conversation a bit by relating it to a TV show you may both be watching or discussing an issue that a friend mentioned that his son or daughter was having at college. Avoid judgment or lectures. You want your kids to feel free to open up to you if and when they face these issues.

The consequences of a sexual assault charge can derail a young man's college career and impact his future well after that. If your son is facing such a charge, regardless of the circumstances, it's essential to take the matter seriously and seek experienced legal guidance.

Source: USA Today, "Consent. Hook-ups. Harassment. Why you must talk to your teen about all of it before college.," Matthew Diebel, accessed Aug. 29, 2017

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