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Where Do I Start? A Parents' Guide for Talking to Teens About Acquaintance Rape

NCJ Number
P Bateman; G Stringer
Date Published
51 pages
During the teenage years when children experiment with their own independence, the most important thing parents can do is to give teenagers the skills to protect themselves against many social problems, such as sexual assault and acquaintance rape.
Parents often have a sense of helplessness when it comes to teenagers, feeling that they must frequently stand by and let children make their own mistakes. Talking to teenagers about sexual assault can be particularly difficult, since both teenagers and parents are sometimes embarrassed to discuss the subject of sex. A continuum model of sexual exploitation, coercion, and assault is probably the most helpful to teenagers in understanding what acquaintance rape is. This model encompasses mutual sexual exploration, persuasion of a reluctant partner, exploitative sexual activity, sexual coercion, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Teenage boys learn to view sexual activity as an end in itself, while teenage girls learn that it is important to have a boyfriend. Differences between boys and girls in learning sexuality lead to some confusion and lack of communication that may contribute to exploitation, coercion, and acquaintance rape. The importance of open communication between parents and teenagers and parental respect for teenagers' capabilities is stressed. A positive approach to parent-teenager discussions is recommended, considering how social pressures and the media affect teenagers' lives. Consideration is given to fears and issues in sexual assault reporting, single parents of teenagers, teenagers who were victimized in their earlier years, and parents who are former victims. Resources to enhance parent and teenage understanding of sexuality, sexual assault, and communication are noted.