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Ten Tips for Parents of Teenagers—Teaching Your Teens to Be Safe

posted Jul 19, 2012, 11:26 AM by John Shaw

In the community where they work, Rod Moser, PA, PhD, and his wife who is also a PA, report a significant increase in the number of calls they receive for forensic examinations and sexual assault evidence collection every summer.  They frequently respond to six or more rape investigation calls over a single on-call weekend.  Demographic information indicates teens almost entirely make up the increase.  Like Hotline staff and volunteers, the Mosers have seen sexual assault victims inflicted with a frightening range of emotional and physical injuries.  In spite of the number of calls rape crisis response programs receive, many victims never report sexual assault to authorities.  Crime statistics show teens are among the largest group of sexual assault victims who do not report the crime or ask for medical treatment.  

In Dare County, a call from the Outer Banks Hospital or a local law enforcement agency triggers a response from a member of Outer Banks Hotline’s trained staff and volunteers who stay with the victim throughout the next several hours.  This presence is reassuring, comforting, and knowledgeable and an immediate victim rights advocate with family and friends, law enforcement investigators, or health care professionals.  In June, Hotline responded to six calls for advocacy for victims who had been sexually assaulted – a concerning increase that mirrors Moser’s findings.  If six people were sexually assaulted and called or came to the hospital for help, what is happening with the increasing number of victims who have not told anyone, and, how many more women will an unrestrained rapist assault?

Sexual assault laws are not preventing rapists from attacking and do not keep victims – female or male – safe.  Specific laws address age differences between the victim and assailant and the victim’s capacity or incapacity to consent.   Most victims know the person who sexually assaulted them.  Cunning predators carefully select and groom their victims.  It is not unusual for either or both the victim and attacker to have been drinking alcohol or using other mind altering substances, adding another layer of guilt for underage victims as well as people over 21.

We want everyone to be safe from predators and rapists but Moser’s list of parenting tips are especially fitting during our busy, summer season.

Moser suggests the following Ten Tips for Parents of Teenagers:

1.    Don’t relax the rules. If anything, take ‘em up a notch. And, don’t be surprised when the rules are stretched or broken.

2.    Make consequences clear… and make ‘em harsh. Write them down and get your teenagers to sign it. Seal the bond of trust with a hug.

3.    Supervise Your kids. Your teenager has plenty of friends; you need to be their PARENT. Be prepared and expect to be unpopular from time to time.

4.    Openly discuss alcohol use and abuse. Make it clear that teenage drinking is illegal and dangerous. As a parent, if you drink at home, do so responsibly and count your beers. Lock up your liquor. Make sure your vodka hasn’t mysteriously changed to water./li>

5.    Ask questions. Stay involved. Teenagers need and deserve a certain amount of privacy in their lives, but that does not imply parents should stop parenting.

6.    Check and double-check teenage party plans. Talk to those supervising parents. Do not hesitate to make surprised visits. Embarrassing your teenager is your privilege and right.

7.    Make sure your rules are not ambiguous. Teenagers are famous for being vague or “changing plans” at the last minute. If there is a loophole in the rules, a teenager will jump through.

8.    If you are going out of town, do not leave teens unsupervised overnight. Even responsible teenagers get into big trouble when the supervisory distance increases.

9.    Follow through with your consequences. Your primary mission is to keep your teenager safe and on the right road to responsible adulthood.

10.It’s okay to say NO.

Outer Banks Hotline’s confidential Crisis Line is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  If you have questions or concerns, if someone is hurting or frightening you or has in the past, or if you think your teen has been assaulted or is in a dangerous relationship, call 252-473-3366.  The Crisis Line is your connection with a compassionate, respectful, nonjudgmental listener who can link you with professionals who help teens and adults find their voices, their power, and safety.