An Open Letter to the Parents of the ODU and OSU Students …

An Open Letter to the Parents of the ODU and OSU Students …

An Open Letter to the Parents of the ODU and OSU Students Who Hung Offensive Banners and the Parents of the Girls They Targeted

When I saw the photos of the “welcome” banners hung by Sigma Nu at Old Dominion University that offered a “Freshman daughter drop Off” and then the photos of banners outside an Ohio State student residence that read “Dads, we’ll take it from here,” and “Daughter daycare,” I immediately wondered how I would handle seeing them as I dropped off my freshman daughter.

I imagined myself marching right into the house, trailing the banner I’d just ripped down, and confronting the boys living there. Using my finely honed mom tone, I’d ask point blank, “What are you thinking? Do your parents know about this?” Then, as my mother was known to do when my friends and I were caught doing something we shouldn’t have, I would demand the phone numbers of their parents who, I assume, would want to know about the horrible behavior of their sons.

I realize these are not technically boys, as they’re over 18. However, I’m willing to bet that you, their parents, foot much of the bill for tuition and expenses, including fraternity membership and rent. I have a few questions for you parents of the members of Sigma Nu at Old Dominion University and the young men living in the private residence at Ohio State:

  • What were your initial thoughts when you saw the photos of the front of the house where your son lives?
  • Did you join the “boys will be boys” club?
  • Did it cause you concern for your daughters, nieces, and friends entering college?
  • Did you consider showing up at that house and hauling your kid out by his ear (and if you did this, I’d love to hear about it)?
  • Will you continue to support this behavior by funding fraternity membership?
  • Are you proud to tell your friends your boy is a member of Sigma Nu at ODU?

I also have a few questions for you parents who saw these signs when dropping off your daughters at college. And if any of you confronted the guys posting these banners, please let me know how it went.

  • Did you feel sickened to leave her there or were you able to ignore it?
  • Did she indicate reservations about being left there?
  • Did you laugh it off as “college kids having fun?”
  • Did you contact school administrators with your concern?
  • Did any of you turn around and take your daughter home?
  • What did you say to her about the banners?
  • Are you supporting her in engaging in Greek life by paying sorority dues?

Parents have a role to play in stopping this epidemic of campus sexual assault. Just because our kids are adults, it doesn’t mean we can’t be influential.

Parents of these young men who are “just having some college fun,” consider if you want to finance a kind of fun that actually threatens their female classmates, and could possibly land them in trouble down the road if accused of sexual assault. If you missed an opportunity to talk to your sons about respecting women, healthy sexual relationships and consent, it’s not too late.

Most colleges and universities now have student groups that focus on bystander intervention and affirmative consent. Encourage your student to become involved with them to be an active part of making campus safe from sexual violence, and to learn more about healthy relationships and consent. Find out specifics about the sexual assault programs offered by the school your child attends. Have conversations with them to reinforce best practices for prevention.

There is much controversy surrounding this topic, and sometimes it seems the dividing lines are drawn at gender. Parents of girls are concerned they will be assaulted, and parents of boys are concerned they will be falsely accused. Both sides are well served when good prevention and education programs help them learn about affirmative consent and healthy relationships, and help stop campus sexual assault. I hope we can all come together on that.

By

Sheri Heitker Dixon is the founder of Keep Her Safe, a non-profit organization committed to making college campuses safe from sexual assault.

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