Preventing sexual assault among adolescents starts with giving them the tools to develop their self-esteem and their ability to provide themselves with self-affirmations. This allows them to internalize how important they are, and to consider their needs and limits first.
Teens who have good self-esteem and the ability to provide self-affirmations will have an easier time respecting their needs and limits when they’re with friends, romantic partners, or strangers.
To promote an adolescents’ self-esteem, we can:
- show them we love them (even if they don’t always seem to appreciate it)
- highlight their strengths, successes, and talents
- show interest in their values, opinions, points of view on things, etc.
Discuss Safe Behaviours
For example, if they find themselves at a party where there is alcohol, we can explain to them that it is important to stay close to their friends, to always keep an eye on their drink to ensure it’s not tampered with or drugged, to drink responsibly, etc.
We can also explain safe Internet practices, and make sure that they fully understand what ‘public’ means when it comes to posting messages, images, or videos on the Internet.
It is important to remind our teens that even though these safe behaviours can reduce risk, it is only the assailant who is responsible for the assault.
What is Safe Sexual Behaviour? [French only]
Above All, Be Supportive
Sadly, too many adolescents don’t talk about being assaulted because they feel ashamed, guilty, or because they did something they shouldn’t have and are afraid of the consequences if they talk about it.
If they have been sexually assaulted, providing them with our help and support should always be more important than punishing them for doing something they shouldn’t have. The most important thing is that they clearly understand that they should not isolate themselves if they have been sexually assaulted.
It’s also important that our teens are familiar with the resources that are available if they are sexually assaulted. They need to be able to speak to an adult they can trust. They can contact a Tel-jeunes counsellor or the Sexual Violence Hotline (1-888-933-9007), as well as the Centre d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractères sexuels (Sexual Violence Prevention and Help Centre) (CALACS). They can also choose to speak to a school or CLSC counsellor.