Reading Time: 6 minutes Dating long distance? These communication tips can help keep your relationship on course.
Reading Time: 5 minutes If you or a friend have experienced sexual assault or harassment, it’s important to know that there isn’t one “right” way to proceed. Here are some of the resources that are available to survivors.
Reading Time: 8 minutes Try these self-care strategies after experiencing sexual assault or harassment.
Reading Time: 5 minutes The Title IX office is an important resource at your school that you should be familiar with. Here’s why.
Reading Time: 6 minutes Learn the risks, etiquette, and damage-limitation strategies of sexting.
Reading Time: 8 minutes Learn what you can do if you see someone experiencing unwanted pressure or harassment. Here are key strategies for bystander intervention.
Reading Time: 6 minutes Understanding the connection between alcohol and sexual assault can help us foster stronger, more respectful communities.
Reading Time: 10 minutes Certain sexual assault survivors may experience marginalization based on their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, class, sexual orientation, or gender. Keep these strategies in mind as you support your friend through this difficult time.
Reading Time: 17 minutes Do you suspect your friend is in an abusive relationship? Here’s how you can help.
Reading Time: 11 minutes Social events are an important part of the college experience. Whether you’re a host or a guest, here’s how to make your next gathering fun for everyone.
Sexting—digitally sharing sexually explicit messages or pictures—has become a common part of young people’s lives. While estimates of the prevalence of sexting vary, a study involving 1,650 first-year undergraduates at a large southeastern college found that 65 percent of the students had sent at least one sext to a current or potential partner.
Despite worries among many adults, sexting can be a healthy part of a sexual encounter. However, like any sexual interaction, it carries risks. Because sexting has become such a common phenomenon and one in which many young people report having positive experiences, it’s important that we adopt a harm-reduction strategy to help students mitigate the risks.
Here’s how you can help develop productive conversations about sexting:
1. Talk about it.
Acknowledge that students may decide to sext. Even if students aren’t planning on sexting themselves, it’s useful for them to reflect on how they might support a friend or handle an unsolicited message in their inbox.
2. Create a non-judgmental space.
Avoid using excessive fear tactics. Focusing exclusively on the risks of sexting can increase shame and victim blame, decreasing the likelihood that people who receive unwanted sexts or who have their image shared without their consent will seek help. Assume a non-judgmental attitude and invite students to reflect on ways they can minimize the risks of their sexual choices.
- Suggest that students talk to the person they’re messaging with about what types of messages they’re both comfortable with (e.g., they could agree to only send sexy messages instead of images).
- If they decide to send images, recommend that they leave out their faces or identifying marks such as tattoos or birthmarks.
- Stress the importance of maintaining privacy and respect by never sharing or forwarding sexts to others.
3. Broaden the conversation.
Sexting is just one piece of the broader campus culture surrounding sexuality. Give students opportunities to reflect on their core values and to consider ways to live out these values in all areas of their lives.
When explicit images are shared
If you learn that sexual images of a student were shared without their consent, offer the student support. This is a serious violation of trust, and—depending on the specific circumstances—may constitute sexual harassment and may be a crime. Refer students to university counseling resources, as well as to Title IX coordinators.
“Title IX coordinators are available to talk confidentially to any student who has concerns about an uncomfortable situation or experience,” says Ksenia Sidorenko, Title IX coordinator at Yale College in Connecticut. “Students can come to a Title IX coordinator to let them know of problems or behaviors that need to be addressed, to access support resources, or to learn more about the options for filing a complaint of sexual misconduct. Title IX coordinators can also help arrange accommodations and practical remedies—things like academic extensions, changes in class schedules, alternate housing arrangements, and no-contact agreements between students who want to avoid further interactions. They’re here to assist and support students based on the students’ needs.”
[school_resource sh101resources=’no’ category='[school_resource sh101resources=’no’ category=’healthservices,wellnesspromotion,studentservices,titleix,studentlife’]GET HELP OR FIND OUT MORE
If you are experiencing an issue with online harassment or stalking on campus,
your university’s Title IX coordinator or a representative of the campus counseling center can help.
Marla Eisenberg, ScD, MPH, associate professor and director of research, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, University of Minnesota.
Holly Moses, PhD, MSHE, CHES, instructor, academic advisor, and internship program, coordinator in the Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida.
Ksenia Sidorenko, PhD, deputy Title IX coordinator for Yale College, Yale University.
Albury, K., Hasinoff, A. A., & Senft, T. (2017). From media abstinence to media production: Sexting, young people and education. In The Palgrave Handbook of Sexuality Education (pp. 527–545). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Burkett, M. (2015). Sex(t) talk: A qualitative analysis of young adults’ negotiations of the pleasures and perils of sexting. Sexuality & Culture, 19(4), 835–863.
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Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015, January). State sexting laws: A brief review of state sexting laws and policies. Retrieved from http://cyberbullying.us/state-sexting-laws.pdf
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Lee, M., & Crofts, T. (2015). Gender, pressure, coercion and pleasure: Untangling motivations for sexting between young people. British Journal of Criminology, 55(3), 454–473.
Lounsbury, K., Mitchell, K. J., & Finkelhor, D. (2011, April 29). The true prevalence of sexting. Retrieved from http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/Sexting%20Fact%20Sheet%204_29_11.pdf
Madigan, S., Ly, A., Rash, C. L., Van Ouytsel, J., et al. (2018). Prevalence of multiple forms of sexting behavior among youth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 172(4), 327–335.
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CampusWell survey, June 2015, August 2018.
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Thomas, A. G., & Cauffman, E. (2014). Youth sexting as child pornography? Developmental science supports less harsh sanctions for juvenile sexters. New Criminal Law Review: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal, 17(4). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/nclr.2014.17.4.631?origin=JSTOR-pdf
Thomas, S. E. (2018). “What should I do?”: Young women’s reported dilemmas with nude photographs. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 15(2), 192–207.
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Research has shown that student communities include many survivors of sexual abuse and assault. When survivors receive positive social support, they’re less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or substance abuse issues, research shows.
Survivors are most likely to disclose to a friend, but may come to staff or faculty seeking helpful resources and referrals. Here’s how to prepare for that conversation.
Know what your college or university expects of you
If you’re a “responsible employee” or “mandatory reporter,” and if it seems a student may be working up to disclosing an assault, explain up front to the student that you’re legally obligated to share such disclosures with the Title IX coordinator or equivalent colleague. If you’re unclear about your reporting obligations or have concerns about the limits of confidentiality, talk to your Title IX coordinator.
Know resources on and off campus
Familiarize yourself with resources that can support students who’ve experienced gender-based violence—for example, the Title IX office, counseling center, and local sexual assault crisis center.
Consider all facets of a student’s identity
“Taking an intersectional approach when responding to a friend who has disclosed is crucial. An individual’s multiple identities—racial, socioeconomic, geographic, religious—all intersect and can inform how easy or difficult it may be to navigate the services and information to help them,” says Nadiah Mohajir, founder and executive director of HEART Women & Girls, an organization that promotes sexual health and sexual violence awareness in Muslim communities.
Some students, particularly those who experience marginalization based on their identity, may be more comfortable connecting with a resource from their community (e.g., a counselor of color, a police officer who has worked with people with disabilities, or a religious professional). Reach out to your Title IX coordinator, who can tell you about resources such as multicultural and LGBTQ+ centers, chaplains, offices of international students, disability resource offices, and others.
Know the key messages for supporting survivors
- “Thank you for sharing this with me.”
- “I want to support you. What do you think might be helpful?”
- “Would you like me to come with you to [helpful resource]?”
Kelly Addington, founder, One Student, Rearview, Florida.
Cristina Ayala, executive director, Asian American Task Force Against Domestic Violence, Boston, Massachusetts.
Melanie Boyd, PhD, assistant dean of student affairs; director, Office of Gender and Campus Culture, Yale University in Connecticut; and lecturer in women, gender, and sexuality studies at Yale University in Connecticut.
Nadiah Mohajir, founder and executive director, HEART Women & Girls, Chicago, Illinois.
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Sabina, C., & Ho, L. Y. (2014). Campus and college victim responses to sexual assault and dating violence: Disclosure, service utilization, and service provision. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 15(3), 201–226.
Sable, M. R., Danis, F., Mauzy, D. L., & Gallagher, S. K. (2006). Barriers to reporting sexual assault for women and men: Perspectives of college students. Journal of American College Health, 55(3), 157–162.
Tillman, S., Bryant-Davis, T., Smith, K., & Marks, A. (2010). Shattering silence: Exploring barriers to disclosure for African American sexual assault survivors. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 11(2), 59–70.
Todahl, J. L., Linville, D., Bustin, A., Wheeler, J., & Gau, J. (2009). Sexual assault support services and community systems: Understanding critical issues and needs in the LGBTQ community. Violence Against Women, 15(8), 952–976.