As we send our kids off to college, teens and parents have  dreams and expectations. Dreams for an education that leads to a career and stable life. Dreams for learning more about something that really interests you (instead of the basic curriculum that everyone took in high school.) Dreams of a new beginning where you can be the person you are now… without everyone else remembering the person you were 10 years ago.  Dreams of freedom from curfews and parental oversight (and on the parent side, freedom from those regular battles.) It’s an exciting time with new beginnings, new opportunities, new peer groups and new freedoms.

And it can also be a risky time– for sexual victimization. In fact, the period from freshman orientation until Thanksgiving break is called the Red Zone, as it’s the period with the highest incidence of campus sexual assault. So it’s important to talk with your daughters– and your sons– about consent before sending them off to college. So here are some talking points to help you with that discussion…. and to make it even easier we’ve got a quick video just for parents about why and how to talk with your teen about consent.

What is consent? Consent is “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. When sex is consensual, it means everyone involved has agreed to what they are doing and has given their permission. Non-consensual sex, or sex without someone’s agreement or permission, is sexual assault. Some important things to know about consent:
  • Drugs and alcohol blur consent. Drugs and alcohol impact decision making. When drugs and alcohol are involved, clear consent cannot be obtained. In many states, an intoxicated person cannot legally give consent.
  • Consent needs to be clear.Consent is more than not hearing the word “no.” A partner saying nothing is not the same as a partner saying “yes.” Don’t rely on body language, past sexual interactions or any other non-verbal cues. Never assume you have consent. Always be sure you have consent.
  •  Consent can be fun. Consent does not have to be something that “ruins the mood.” In fact, clear and enthusiastic consent can actually enhance sexual interactions. Not only does it allow one to know that their partner is comfortable with the interaction, it lets both partners clearly express what they want.
  •   Consent is specific. Just because someone consents to one set of actions and activities does not mean consent has been given to any other sexual act. Similarly, if a partner has given consent in the past to sexual activity this does not apply to current or future interactions. Consent can be initially given and later withdrawn.

[1] All content regarding consent is taken directly from the National Sexual Violence resource Center and retrieved from on August 3, 2016.