Date Rape Prevention for Pre-Teen Daughters

How do I talk to my pre-teen daughter about the danger of date rape? I've heard date rape is becoming more common, and this worries me as a parent. My daughter is approaching adolescence, and I want to know what I can do to prevent her from becoming a victim. How should I bring this up? And what's the best and most effective way of discussing the subject with her?

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If your daughter is just “approaching adolescence,” it might be a good idea to address this topic within the context of a broader discussion. Include it as part of a dialogue on subjects such as puberty, sexuality, and the many different challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities she’s going to encounter as she moves through the storms, the trials, the triumphs, and the emotional ups and downs of the teen years.

You can start by explaining that the baton will soon begin to shift from parent to child in several key areas. One of the most important of these is the realm of safety. In a very general way, help your daughter understand that in the years ahead you won’t always be around to take care of her and shield her from danger. As a result, it will increasingly be up to her to give some serious thought to safeguarding her own security and well-being. When riding in a car she’ll need to make sure that her seat-belt is buckled. While learning to drive, she’ll have to abide by the rules of the road. At school, in the workplace, when out and about on the town, she’ll have to be aware of other people. This will include learning to read their facial expressions and gestures and figuring out ways of gauging their motives and intentions. It’s all part of developing a healthy measure of shrewd “street sense.” It’s a matter of becoming “as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove” (Matthew 10:16).

We recommend that you put off a more specific treatment of the topic until your daughter has reached or is approaching the age where she will be dating. At that point, you can transition into a discussion of safety in the dating context. Say something like, “You know that it’s important to wear a helmet when you ride a bike. What do you think you would need to do in order to stay safe while out on a date with a boy?” Without being graphic or alarmist, give her an introduction to the “wild and crazy” side of life in the teenage world. Explain that contemporary dating is radically different from what it was a few decades ago. Tell her that sexual promiscuity is rampant, even among Christian teens. Like it or not, many young people receive little or no moral guidance from their parents. Drug and alcohol abuse, binge drinking, date violence, and even date rape are far too common. In light of this, it’s important for a young girl to think ahead and have a specific plan in mind if she’s serious about protecting herself from violence and sexual abuse.

As part of this conversation, you might sketch out some hypothetical scenarios. Ask your daughter, “What would you do if this happened?” Get her to think out loud. Role-play several such situations. Talk about the typical personality traits of untrustworthy individuals. Discuss the earmarks of an unhealthy relationship. Identify some potential warning signs of dangerous situations. Spend time wrestling with the problem of distinguishing the truth from a lie. Launch a joint study of the subject of date rape. Encourage your daughter to ask questions and to discuss her concerns with a school counselor or a youth leader. Urge her to take her cell phone along whenever she’s out with friends and to contact you immediately if she ever finds herself in uncomfortable circumstances.

Here are several specific points you may want to bring to your daughter’s attention as you go through this process together:

  • You’re much better off dating someone you know fairly well rather than someone who is a casual or chance acquaintance.
  • Know yourself. The better you understand your own needs, likes, and dislikes, the better you’ll be able to choose trustworthy companions.
  • Remember that family game nights at home can be a good alternative to dates.
  • In general, group activities are less risky and more fun than single dates.
  • Single dates – especially the first time – should take place in public places.
  • A blind date should be accepted only on the strong recommendation of someone you trust. It should never be a single date.
  • Bring your own money and pay your own way in the early stages of a relationship.
  • Stay sober. This is an extremely important point, since inebriation is an extremely common factor in many cases of date rape. Alcohol and drugs cloud judgment and put you off guard. Be aware of the danger of being “slipped a mickey.” If you feel such precautions are warranted, bring your own refreshments and don’t eat or drink anything that’s offered to you.
  • Stay alert. Music headphones or earbuds can compromise your safety by cutting you off from your immediate surroundings.
  • Never leave a restaurant, party, or other get-together with someone you just met.
  • Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel right about the way a date is going, bail out.
  • Avoid situations in which you do not feel on an equal footing with your companion.
  • Beware of expensive gifts and lavish dates. Too many guys still have the Neanderthal notion that picking up the tab for a nice evening entitles them to a sexual thank-you.
  • Watch out for the control-freak. Beware of anyone who insists on his way and ignores your likes and dislikes. This type of behavior indicates a potential abuser.
  • Beware of the person who tries to isolate you from friends or family or who constantly bad-mouths them. This is another red flag for potential abuse.
  • Steer clear of guys who tell raunchy jokes, listen to sexually explicit music, enjoy pornography, or make degrading comments about women.
  • Don’t waste your time with anyone who won’t accept your limits. Any guy who pressures you for sexual favors is a loser and an abuser. He certainly doesn’t love you.

Remember this basic rule of thumb: if you have to do something in secret, behind closed doors, or under cover of night, it’s probably not healthy.

Again, bear in mind that much of this advice will become applicable only as your daughter moves into the later teen years. It will mean more to her when she achieves a greater degree of personal independence. Generally speaking, we don’t recommend that boys and girls under the age of seventeen be allowed to go out on one-on-one dates. As mentioned above, we think it’s wiser to encourage younger teens to participate in group dates with Christian friends who share their moral and spiritual values. Even then, mom and dad should make sure that they are well acquainted with the other kids in the group and their parents.

Some parents may feel comfortable allowing a mature, responsible seventeen- or eighteen-year-old to go out on individual dates. It’s their call, of course. But here again we believe it’s crucial that mom and dad know their child’s dating partner and his or her parents well. They should also remember that while eighteen-year-olds may be legal “adults,” the fact remains that many of them haven’t developed the maturity to monitor and control their own actions in a dating situation. You should probably discuss all of this with your daughter long before her first “suitor” comes knocking at the door.

If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas at greater length with a member of the Focus team, our staff counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone. They’ll be happy to assist you in any way they can.

 

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Boundaries in Dating

Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date: 8 Steps to No Regrets

Referrals
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)

Articles
Red Flags in a Relationship

Adapted from The Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care, an official book of the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family, published by Tyndale House Publishers.. Copyright © 1997, 2007, Focus on the Family.

This information has been approved by the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family.

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