As a Parent / Guardian
Your words and actions matter
As a parent, learning that your son or daughter was the victim of sexual violence, relationship violence or stalking can be incredibly overwhelming. Feeling rage, helplessness, guilt, anguish, fear and anxiety is natural. You might feel the urge to hurry up and “fix” things even when you know that’s probably not possible. Here are some guidelines to help you support your student’s recovery.
Speaking out is often very difficult for a victim. Your reaction can strongly influence whether or not they choose to share information with others, including the police, the university or mental and physical health counseling services. If your student shares their story with you, tell them you believe them and want to support them in any way you can.
It might feel like a role-reversal, but in this situation, as a parent, your job is to listen actively and non-judgmentally. Let your student control what and how much information they want to share with you. Digging for every detail can overwhelm or alienate them. Tell them you are there to listen and support them.
Self-blame and self-doubt are common reactions of victims of sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking. Assure and reassure them that what happened was not their fault.
Accept that your student might not have come to you before their friends, professors, university administration, counselors, or others. Don’t put them on the defense. What matters is that they came to you now. Now is the time to support them and help them heal.
Allow your student to decide the next steps. There is no way to undo the past. Victim -survivors of sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking need to maintain the ability to control the next steps and their personal healing process. Where possible, offer guidance and information about available resources and additional support, but let them choose.
Control Your Emotions
It is natural to grieve with your student, but try to control your emotions when talking about what happened. It’s hard for a student to see their parent struggle or lose emotional control, and they might feel guilt or shame for sharing their situation with you.
Seek out support for yourself. Neglecting your own emotional, mental and physical health to take care of your student will make it more difficult for you to support your student.
Parents of Stalking Victims
Stalking victims often alienate themselves from friends, family or partners to try to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. If your student or partner is a stalking victim, here’s how you can help:
- Be a source of encouragement. Do not question or doubt what they are telling you. Don’t amplify your student’s self-doubt.
- Obtain photos and other information about the stalker from your student.
- Screen calls, messages and visitors for your student.
- No matter how friendly, polite or persistent, never share the victim’s personal information or whereabouts with a stalker, including on social media, online, written or verbally.
- Never confront the stalker yourself. Confronting a stalker may result in greater danger to your student or you. Contact the police for assistance.
- Be aware of your own safety. Stalkers often see the victim’s loved ones as “obstacles” and threaten to harm them in order to further harm or control their victim.