Resources - Faculty, Staff, Parents

Recognizing a Student in Distress

Indicators of distress

Below are general indicators that a student may be having difficulty coping with a trauma such as sexual assault.

Academic Indicators

  • Deterioration in quality of work
  • A drop in grades
  • A negative change in classroom performance
  • Missed assignments
  • Repeated absences from class
  • Disorganized or erratic performance
  • Continual seeking of special accommodations (extensions, postponed examination)
  • Essays or creative work portraying extremes of hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair

Interpersonal Indicators

  • Direct statements indicating distress or other difficulties
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Exaggerated personality traits (more withdrawn or more animated than usual)
  • Excessive dependency
  • Expression of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Peers expressing concern about a fellow student
  • If you have a hunch or gut-level reaction that something is wrong

Physical Indicators

  • Deterioration in physical appearance
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Visible changes in weight
  • Indications of substance abuse or chemical dependency

Safety Risk Indicators

  • Any written note or verbal statement which has a sense of finality or suicidal ideation
  • Essays or papers that focus on hopelessness, helplessness, despair, suicide, or death
  • Severe depression
  • Self-destructive or self-injurious behaviors
  • Any other behavior which seems out of control or extreme
What You Can Do
  • You may call the Student Counseling Center for a consultation about the student. The staff will be glad to talk with you about any worries or concerns you may have.
  • You can discuss your concerns with the student and listen to the response. Talking about a problem or labeling a crisis does not make it worse. It is the first step toward resolving it.
  • You may also call the Ombudsperson to make them aware of your concern.
Issues to Consider
  • It is acceptable to stay "in role" as a faculty/staff member. Refer the students to the resources that are in place to help.
  • Remember, if you encounter a student who has been sexually assaulted, it is ultimately up to him/her to decide how to heal. Being supportive and suggesting options will empower students by allowing them to regain control over their lives.
  • If you are in doubt or have questions, please contact a member of the SVRT.
  • SVRT members can also provide consultations, technical training, curriculum ideas, and special presentations on sexual assault and related issues.

Supporting Your Student

You probably know your student better than anyone else. It is likely that you could be the first to notice changes in your students's mood or behavior, which may be early indicators of emotional or psychological distress. Some indications that your student is in trauma may include:

  • Changes in academic performance, motivation, concentration, grades, or class attendance
  • Changes in behavior, energy, personal hygiene, speech, mood, sleep or appetite
  • Changes in relationship patterns or the way they interact with loved ones; conflict in close relationships or social isolation
  • Depression or references to suicide, statements about hopelessness or helplessness, or pessimism about the future

Students tend to turn to their parents when making important decisions. You can help build an important web of support that will help your child recover if they have been sexually assaulted. Some tips on supporting your student include:

  • Speaking to your student when you notice something unusual
  • Communicating directly in a caring manner about the behaviors that are causing concern
  • Avoid being critical or judgmental
  • Be willing to listen
  • Ask directly how you can best be of help
  • Help your student define the problem and identify possible solutions
  • Encourage your student to seek counseling
  • Consider seeking counseling for yourself to help you work through any anxiety you might be feeling as a result of your student's trauma

For Parents of a Sexual Assault Survivor

If your student confides in you that they have been sexually assaulted, you may experience a number of conflicting emotions, such as anger, guilt, self-blame, betrayal, and helplessness. As a parent, it is normal to feel any or all of these emotions at once. Your student has put a lot of trust in you to share such a sensitive experience, and perhaps without realizing it, she or he has placed a lot of responsibility on you as well. Some common feelings you may have include:

  • Concern for the survivor: How to help the survivor deal with the trauma.
  • Helplessness: Parents may wish they could have protected their child and want to fix the situation so that life can get back to normal.
  • Feeling out of control: Just as the survivor is feeling the effects of the loss of control in her or his life, so do parents.
  • Wanting to harm the offender: This is a natural reaction, but not a realistic one. This creates further crisis and your child might feel the need to protect the offender, especially if the offender is known to the survivor.
  • Loss of trust: Because the survivor needs time to work on trust issues, the loss of trust affects any relationship in which they are involved.
  • Guilt: Parents often feel guilty about their own feelings of anger at how the crisis is disrupting their family.
  • Difficulty expressing feelings: Parents may feel that, because they aren't the ones who experienced the assault, they should be able to deal with their feelings and "just get over it."

It is important for parents to realize that their feelings are valid. Everyone who is directly involved with the survivor will be affected by his or her sexual assault. As you care for your child, it is also important that you take care of yourself and seek a form of emotional support.

General Guidelines for Helping Your Child
  • Believe your child.
  • Don't blame your student.
  • Let your child ask you for what they need, and try not to assume that you will automatically know.
  • Seek outside resources and support for yourself.

For Parents of a Student Accused of Sexual Assault

If you learn that your student has been accused of sexual misconduct, you can contact the Student Conduct and Integrity to access resources for your child.

Your Student's Safety

As a parent, you may have mixed feelings about your student leaving home and being on his or her own. Like many parents, you may be concerned for your student’s personal safety and well-being. We encourage you to talk with your student about personal safety and using protective strategies. Here is a list of general safety tips your son or daughter can use to help remain safe:

  • Always keep doors locked--even when at home
  • Do not prop open exterior doors
  • Do not lend your keys or key card to anyone
  • Do not carry large sums of money or valuable items (or keep them in the residence halls)
  • Always find out who is knocking before opening the door
  • Do not walk alone--Campus Escorts are available to provide safe walks around campus. Call (812)237-5555.
  • For a complete list of campus safety tips, please visit the University Police website.

In addition to talking to your student about personal safety, you may suggest that your student develop a safety plan with roommates or friends. A safety plan might include:

  • Posting emergency contact numbers
  • Sharing weekly/daily schedules
  • A process for checking in if someone is going to be out past a certain time
  • A signal to indicate when someone is in danger and needs assistance (this could be a code word or phrase)
  • An escape route from the residence
  • A designated “safe place" to meet
  • Secure but easy access to emergency money, credit cards, and identifying information
  • A plan for “going-out” which includes
    • numbers for taxis and/or campus escorts
    • a sign or word indicating that a person needs help
    • a promise to leave--as a group--any situation that may feel uncomfortable

It is also important to remember that a student may do everything possible to protect themself and still be a victim of a crime, such as sexual assault. The use of protective strategies does not exclude someone from being a target – such strategies can only reduce the chances. If your student becomes a victim of a crime, there are campus systems in place to help with recovery. And your support is vital. Questioning whether or not your student used protective strategies implies they are somehow to blame for what has happened. Only an offender can truly prevent a crime from taking place.

Your Student's Sexual Decision Making Supporting Good Decisions

Many college students are in a transitional stage. They are learning to make many important decisions on their own – including decisions about intimate relationships and sexual activity. By supporting your students, communicating with them, and offering facts and education, you can have a positive influence on their sexual decision making. It’s never too late to start an open dialogue with your student about sex.

W.I.S.E. Tips for Talking

ISU police officers respond to emergency situations on campus. ISU Police is also a great resource for individuals who want to talk to an officer about options for reporting a sexual assault.

  • Welcome: Be available to your student, treat each other with respect and trust
  • Interest: Ask about your student’s opinions, friends, and college experiences
  • Support Good Goals: Ask what your student’s goals are, for both the long and short term, and share your support
  • Encourage, Educate, and Empower: Give your student the guidance, information, and skills to be successful
Conversation Starters

Talk to your student about how they think and feel.

Talk to your student about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Conversation Starter: “They never talk about STIs on that television show, even though the show features lots of stuff about sex. Have you heard about anybody at your school who has been diagnosed with an STI?” This could open the door for…

  • Reminding your student that unprotected sexual activity can lead to contracting an STI
  • Telling your student that as many as 50% of new cases of STIs occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24*
  • Telling your student that many STIs do not have symptoms, so students should be tested for STIs regularly (this can be done at Student Health Center)
  • Telling your student that a new vaccine (Gardasil) is now available to prevent Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and it is available at the University Health Services

Talk to your student about condoms.

Conversation Starter: “I heard that they give out free condoms at the University Health Services on campus. Have you seen them?” This could open the door for…

  • Telling your student that condoms should be used for all sexual acts
  • Telling your student that condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, if used correctly and consistently (for example, if they are used for every sexual act and put on before any penetration occurs)**
  • Reminding your student that using condoms reduces their risk for STIs, such as HIV

Talk to your student about pregnancy.

Conversation Starter: “Since you’ve been at ISU, have you met any students who are pregnant or young parents?” This could open the door for…

  • Talking to your student about abstinence and the benefits of waiting to have sex
  • Reminding your student that it is both parties’ responsibility to be safe and to prevent pregnancy
  • Talking to your students about various methods of contraception
  • Telling your student that they may go to University Health Services for contraception and regular gynecological appointments
  • Telling your student that Plan B is now available over the counter for students over the age of 18 and can be obtained at University Health Services

Talk to your student about sex and alcohol.

Conversation Starter: “I know that there will be opportunities for you to drink alcohol and/or try drugs at college. Have your friends been talking about this?" This could open the door for…

  • Talking to your student about making his or her personal decisions about sex well before consuming any alcohol
  • Telling your student that when alcohol is involved, it can be difficult to give or receive clear consent for sexual activity
Teach your student the “N.I.C.E.” way to say “No”***

ISU police officers respond to emergency situations on campus. ISU Police is also a great resource for individuals who want to talk to an officer about options for reporting a sexual assault.

  • N---Say “No” instead of “maybe” or “later.” Remind your student to set boundaries and be decisive. If your student makes the decision not to have sex before being confronted by the pressure to have sex, it will be easier to say “no” when the situation arises.
  • I--- Follow with an “I” statement. For example, “I plan to wait several years before I have sex.” Or “I’m not going to have sex until I get married.” Or “Sex isn’t part of my game plan right now.”
  • C--- if pressure continues, “Change.” Teach your student to change the topic: “Did you see the game on TV last night?” or change their conversation partner: “Julie is over there, I need to ask her something” or change the location: “I’m going back into the kitchen.”
  • E--- if these strategies do not help, your student needs an “Exit” plan. Your student should know to leave a bad situation immediately. If he or she does not have a way home, he/she should call a trusted friend or adult. Your student can also call a Campus Escort for a safe walk home. It is a good idea for your student to have a code phrase that she or he could say to a friend that will let them know that they need to leave quickly.