Our Founder, Mike Domitrz, was asked to write an article for North Texas Kids advising parents on how to have this important conversation with teens.
How to Talk to Your Teenager About Dating and Sexual Assault
The greatest way a parent can help reduce the probability of a child being sexually assaulted on a date (you can’t 100% prevent it) is to teach your child about asking first, respecting boundaries, and letting him/her know you will ALWAYS be there if anything happens.
1. Do you always deserve to have a choice BEFORE someone touches you sexually or intimately? The answer is “Yes!” One of the biggest mistakes some teens make is “Going for it” with a partner – which forces the partner to stop the action that is already taking place. “Going for it” is NOT giving someone a choice. Asking first ensures both people WANT the intimacy before anything occurs.
2. Do you ever owe a dating partner sexual intimacy (whether it be a kiss or more)? No! Whether it is a first date or marriage, you should only engage in intimacy that you are ready for, want, are excited to have, will be with safe in doing, have talked about in detail with your partner, and are of sound mind to participate, i.e, not drunk, but sober.
3. How are you going to ensure you give your dating partners a choice before you kiss someone or engage in any level of sexual intimacy with that person? Ask First! If you can’t ask because you think asking is awkward, then this shows you are not comfortable with the person and/or the intimacy.
If you are not going to ask because you are afraid of hearing, “No” that means you’d rather not give your partner a choice. I know you are not a mean person who doesn’t care about your partner’s wants and boundaries. Thus, there is no reason to fear hearing, “No” (plus #4 below teaches you how to respond to a “No”).
4. How will you respond to a partner who says, “No” or is not comfortable with the intimacy you want? RESPECT the ANSWER. Say, “Then I’m glad I asked. The last thing I want to do is make you feel uncomfortable.” Odds are that your partner will thank you for how much respect you gave him/her.
Alcohol and Dating
What About Alcohol? For a person to give consent, he/she must be of sound mind!
When alcohol is involved in intimacy, teach your child to INTERVENE. Have your teen encourage their friends to take an oath together that they will look out for each other by intervening if they ever see someone using alcohol to try and facilitate a sexual assault (students often refer to these situations as “drunk hookup” or “being taken advantage of” – both of which are sexual assault).
Support and Reassure Your Teenager
Sexual assault occurs more often than most parents want to acknowledge in teenage dating. Many parents tell teenagers “If you drink, you are putting yourself at risk” and then the teen blames his/her self for being sexual assaulted. No survivor should ever feel blame.
No survivor should have to FEAR telling their parents. The top reason most survivors do not tell their parents is because of fear. Why? Too many parents make statements such as “If anyone ever touches you, I’ll kill them.” With that statement, the teen decides the parent will be too hurt by finding out or won’t be able to handle being told.
Instead, reassure your teenager and tell them, “If you do choose to consume alcohol and/or drugs, know that no one has the right to do anything sexually or intimately with your body when you are not of sound mind. If anyone ever has or ever does sexually touch you against your will or without your consent, I will ALWAYS be here for YOU. ALWAYS!!!”
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