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Supporting Your Student After Sexual Abuse

Parents and other caregivers are a valuable resource and support system for college students. Researchers have found that close relationships and open communication with one’s parents help a student adjust to college life, to make effective career and relationship choices, and to develop self-confidence and a sense of personal autonomy.

You probably know your son or daughter better than anyone else. It is likely that you could be the first to notice changes in your child’s mood or behavior that may be an early indication of emotional or psychological distress. Some indications that your child is in trauma may include:

  • Changes in academic performance, motivation, concentration, grades, or class attendance.
  • Changes in behavior, energy, personal hygiene, speech, mood, sleep or appetite.
  • Changes in relationship patterns or the way they interact with loved ones, conflict in close relationships, social isolation.
  • Depression or references to suicide, statements about hopelessness or helplessness, or pessimism about the future.

Students tend to turn to their parents when making important decisions. You can help build an important web of support that will help your child recover if he or she has been sexually assaulted. Some tips on supporting your student include:

  • Speaking to your son or daughter when you notice something unusual.
  • Communicating directly and in a caring manner about the behaviors that are causing concern.
  • Avoid being critical or judgmental.
  • Be willing to listen.
  • Ask directly how you can best be of help.
  • Encourage responsibility by helping your son or daughter define the problem and identify possible solutions.
  • Encourage your student to seek counseling.
  • Consider seeking counseling for yourself to help you work through any anxiety you might be feeling as a result of your child’s trauma.

Last Updated: 1/14/11