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Why parents need to talk to their sons about sexual assault

Many parents who have daughters going off to college this fall have talked to them about steps they can take to help avoid becoming victims of sexual assault and the importance of reporting it if it happens. However, parents of sons need to discuss the subject as well.

A frank discussion about sexual assault may be uncomfortable. However, it can help keep your son from being accused of a crime that could derail his college career and even his professional and personal life well into the future.

A big part of that conversation needs to involve consent. Explain that it's not enough just to ask, but to listen to the response and then respect it. If there are young women in your son's life, whether sisters, friends or a girlfriend, emphasize the importance of listening to them to better understand the opposite sex.

Talk with your son openly about what sexual assault is. It's also essential that he learns to respect others' personal space and their wishes. Sexual assault is possible even within an intimate relationship. Men may be able to overpower women (or other men) simply based on their size and strength.

We've seen some high-profile examples of famous, wealthy, successful men using their power in the workplace to abuse women. While that's less likely to be the case with teens, it's good for all young men to learn that power comes in many forms and it shouldn't be abused.

Emphasize the importance of speaking up if your son sees a peer sexually harassing, assaulting or even bullying someone else. Too often, young men will look the other way or even encourage the behavior because they want to be popular. It takes bravery to speak up. However, by becoming an "engaged bystander," they can help prevent or stop an assault.

Finally, let your son know that he can come to you if he finds himself accused of sexual assault. Whether it was a misunderstanding, alcohol or drugs were involved, there was peer pressure or it's a completely false accusation, a charge of any type of sex offense is serious. If your child is facing these charges, it's essential to seek experienced legal guidance.

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