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Talking About Consent with Your College-Age Teen

So you've moved your teenager into a residence hall or apartment at college and you've checked lots of items off your list!

Dormitory supplies, a car, laptop, books, money the meal plan and food.

All are important. But what about making sure your teen college student understands the intricacies of consent? Have you had the “you need to make sure that every encounter you have is consensual” talk with them?

Here is a place to start the Consent Conversation . . .

Make sure your college-age teen understands that consent is about having open communication between two people. It must be Ongoing and Active throughout every step of every intimate encounter. There cannot be coercion. Consent must be given willingly. Consent must be conscious and voluntary. Each person involved in the intimate activity is responsible for ensuring that there is active, ongoing consent.

Both partners must be sober. If one or both people are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, there cannot be consent. If you cannot legally sign your name to a document, then you cannot consent to an intimate act. If one partner is unconscious, there is no consent.

The communication should happen each and every time there is intimacy between the couple, even if they are dating and/or in a steady relationship. Giving consent for one activity does not mean giving consent for increased intimacy or future sexual intimacy.


  • Agreeing to hold someone’s hand does not give that person permission to kiss you.

  • Agreeing to kiss someone does not give that person permission to take off your clothes.

  • Agreeing to have sex with someone today does not give that person permission to have sex with you tomorrow.

  • Remember, consent is ongoing and can be withdrawn at any time. It’s very important to have open communication and respect for the other person’s wishes each and every time there is an intimate act between two people.

Facts to Keep in Mind:

  • Sexual assaults are often committed by someone the victim knows. In 39 percent of cases, the victim knows of the perpetrator as a casual acquaintance. In 33 percent of cases, the perpetrator is a current boyfriend/girlfriend/dating interest of the victim. Only in 19 percent of sexual assault cases is the assailant a stranger.

  • Active consent is not silence. Active consent is not lack of protest. Active consent is not no resistance. Active consent is not assuming the person will consent because he/she has done so in the past or because you are in a current sexual, dating or marital relationship with that person. Active consent is not being asleep or unconscious.

If you are still trying to figure out or explain consent, watch this with your teen:

As a parent, will you be able to prepare your young adult for every situation they may encounter? Probably not.

But by talking about consent with your teen and making sure they understand how and why they need to apply it in real-life relationships, you can prepare your college-age child for safer experiences.

Helpful online resource: Love is Respect - their goal is to empower youth to prevent and end dating abuse.

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