Tips for Parents Whose Teen Has Been Sexually Assaulted

Sexual assault happens to male and female teens. But 10 million teen females aged 12–18 experience an attempted or completed rape. In contrast, 791,000 teen boys have experienced the same sexual violence. Sexual assault is never the survivor's fault. However, it can leave emotional, physical, and psychological wounds. Therefore, it is essential for parents of sexually assaulted teens to learn how to comfort and help their teens.

Key takeaways:
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    Teen sexual assault can happen to any adolescent regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or economic background.
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    Females experience teen sexual assault at higher rates than males.
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    Taking your teen to counseling might help them heal.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault occurs when sexual behavior or sexual contact happens without the victim's consent. It can be an attempted rape. It can also be unwanted sexual touching. Sexual assault is also penetration of the victim’s body or forcing the victim to perform oral sex.

Is teen sexual assault common?

Yes, teen sexual assault happens often. It occurs in female and male teens. It doesn’t matter their gender identity or their sexual orientation. Teen sexual assault happens on and off school grounds. Instances of teen sexual assault take many forms.

Some examples of teen sexual assault include:

  • Force. Girls and boys report being forced into sexual activity;
  • Partners. One in three teens experiences sexual or another form of abuse each year by a partner;
  • Rape by acquaintance. Rape victims between 14 and 19 being raped by an acquaintance;
  • College assault. Nearly 20% of college women reported suffering sexual assault acts on campus.

Who sexually assaults teens?

Teens can be sexually assaulted by anyone. However, statistics reveal teens are more likely to be attacked by someone they know or a peer. In fact, 43.6% of teen girls are assaulted by someone familiar to them. However, 27.7% of teen girls were the victims of assault by a family member.

Teens also need to be aware of teen dating violence. This happens when a teen experiences intimate partner violence. Alarmingly, 28.8% of teen girls were assaulted by a current or past intimate partner.

If a teen experiences sexual assault or teen dating violence, they need to receive help. The effects can be long-term and short-term. Therefore, you want to provide your teen with the tools they need to survive and thrive.

How can parents help their teens?

Parents of teens sexually assaulted have a difficult road ahead of them. They must prepare themselves to handle whatever effects of the attack their teen displays. So, taking action is crucial after learning their teen has been assaulted. Below you will find tips on how to help your teen.

Have a conversation

  • Compassion. Learning your teen was sexually assaulted will probably shock you. That reaction is normal. But you want to ensure your teen feels comfortable talking with you.
  • Time and place. When opening up the dialogue, select an appropriate place and time. You don’t want them to feel uncomfortable because that may cause them to shut down.
  • Tone. Use a friendly and nurturing tone during the conversation. You want to put them at ease as much as possible while discussing such a complex topic.
  • Listen. Allow your teen to express themselves. Try to refrain from interrupting as they speak. Use your listening skills.
  • Questions. Once they pause, you can ask questions about a point they mentioned.
  • Reassurance. Try not to place blame or sound judgmental. Consider phrasing your sentences with “I” instead of “You.” A statement like “I am listening to you” can give your teen confirmation and reassurance that you are paying attention.
  • Patience. Practicing patience is vital when having a conversation about teen sexual assault. Be prepared to take breaks and return to the subject.

Call the police

Sexual assault is illegal and should be reported to the police. If you know the perpetrator's name and location, tell the police. They will take action and conduct an investigation. Handing over objects to the police that may have been used during the assault is also essential.

After contacting the police, be patient. They will work on the investigation and may wait to follow up with you.

Get a medical exam

Getting a medical exam after a sexual assault is crucial. It allows the hospital staff to collect evidence such as hair or semen. If possible, ensure your teen does not brush their teeth, wash their hands, or bathe after the assault.

It is also important to not wash the clothing worn during the sexual assault.

Counseling

Parents want to help their teens heal. Allowing them to speak with a counselor will provide them with the necessary tools to heal themselves.

Your teen might feel more comfortable speaking with a counselor. That’s okay if this is the case. Counselors can use their skills and evidence-based practice forms of treatment.

How to prevent teen sexual assault

Teen sexual assault is an unfortunate aspect of our communities. However, there are methods of prevention to reduce the risk:

  • Involvement. Be involved in your teen’s lives.
  • Meeting. Meet their friends and intimate partners.
  • Mindful. Be mindful of who you allow around your teen. This includes family members.
  • Availability. Make yourself available when your teen needs you.
  • Awareness. Teach them to be aware of their surroundings.
  • Defence. Teach your teen how to defend themselves.

Although this list is not exhaustive, it is valuable for teen sexual assault prevention. If you or your teen wants to speak with a trained professional, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can also use the chat option through their website.

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