Preparing your student for college can be both exciting and worrisome for parents, guardians, families, or caregivers. There is so much in transition during this time, and it might feel difficult to figure out the best ways to prepare both yourself and your student for all that's to come. It's important to remember that you're not alone in this journey, and that UNH's extensive campus resources are available to help. Here at SHARPP, we hope to provide families with the tools and resources necessary to help establish a safe and healthy community for UNH students. When it comes to the issue of interpersonal violence (sexual violence, relationship abuse, stalking, and/or harassment), we aim to provide some clarity around the reality of IPV at UNH and answer some of the most frequently asked questions that parents, guardians, families, and caregivers tend to have!
If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.
FAQ's About Interpersonal Violence at UNH
Interpersonal Violence (IPV) is an umbrella term that refers to: sexual assault, stalking, sexual harassment, and relationship abuse. You might hear people use terms such as rape, domestic violence, intimate partner violence – these are all synonyms for, or specific versions of, the terms listed above. Research shows that IPV happens at particularly high rates on college campuses in the United States, with both sexual violence and stalking being some of the more prevalent forms of IPV for young adults under the age of 25.[1,2]
Sexual assault is any sexual act directed against another person, that is forcible and/or against that person’s will; or, where the victim is incapable of giving consent. Sexual assault as defined by NH RSA 632-A:1 is illegal in the state of New Hampshire. Additionally, UNH has clear policies detailed in their Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities (SRRR) Handbook regarding harassment, sexual misconduct, and violence.
Talk to your student about consent. To ensure that sexual encounters are consensual, communication before and during ANY sexual activity is a must! Consent is a verbal agreement that people share where they seek (ask) and receive expressed permission (get an affirmative answer) to engage in sexual activity. Although it may be possible to seek and express permission without words (example: a head nod), body language can be easy to misinterpret. It's important to look for clear, enthusiastic consent.
Consent: it’s simple as tea! View this video to better understand the ongoing process of seeking and receiving consent.
No. SHARPP grew out of a grassroots movement in the 1980s in response to a sexual assault on campus that received local and national attention. SHARPP was created to help provide adequate support services to survivors and as a means through which the University community could be educated on the issues of interpersonal violence, healthy relationships, and rape culture.
Interpersonal violence is not more prevalent at UNH than on other college campuses. National statistics show that people ages 18-25 experience sexual violence at higher rates than any other age demographic.
On college campuses, as in other contexts, interpersonal violence is most often perpetrated by someone known to the survivor rather than by a stranger; for instance, romantic partners, friends, or acquaintances. The trauma caused by this kind of experience is no less severe than that of stranger-perpetrated violence.
Within the Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities Handbook, UNH specifies that sexual misconduct, unwanted sexual contact, harassment, stalking, and relationship abuse are violations of institutional policy.
The Code of Conduct also states that consent should be mutual, voluntary, informed, and ongoing. The presence of threats, force, manipulation, intimidation, and coercion (including using drugs or alcohol to incapacitate someone) is a violation of consent. Any sexual contact or penetration without consent is against the UNH Code of Conduct. NH state laws and federal legislation such as Title IX also prohibit interpersonal violence.
SHARPP collaborates with Residential Life and other Student Life offices to provide educational programs about interpersonal violence, survivor support, and campus resources. Many of these programs are offered specifically for first-year students.
We also offer a wide variety of educational programming in academic classrooms, Fraternity and Sorority Life chapters, residential halls, and the MUB (UNH's student center). Our educational programming is designed specifically for UNH students to help them learn more about sexual violence, healthy & unhealthy relationships, stalking, rape culture, and the pivotal role of active bystanders. In addition, information about SHARPP is readily available visually around campus, online, and by word-of-mouth referrals from students, staff, and faculty.
During the academic year, we run several awareness campaigns that educate the community about relationship abuse (October), stalking (January) and sexual assault (April).
SHARPP can be reached in several ways, including:
- Our 24/7/365 support hotline - (603) 862-7233 - that is staffed even on holidays and during school breaks. You don't need to be experiencing a crisis to call! We also work with those who are supporting someone else who has experienced violence.
- By texting us at (603) 606-9393 or chatting with an advocate online (available M-F 9am-4pm).
- Visiting our office located in Wolff House, directly in front of UNH Health and Wellness. In-person support is available Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm and can be accessed through drop-ins or by making an appointment.
- During business hours, SHARPP can be reached by calling our office at (603) 862-3494. (Note: our office is closed the week between Christmas and New Years, and also shuts down during curtailed operations. During those times, our helpline remains staffed.)
Yes. We offer support services to family members during our office hours as well as through our 24/7 support line. We can help explain resources and options, discuss ways to best support your student, and give you a place to express your concerns. Because our services are confidential, we cannot verify that we are working with your student or share information about them without their prior written consent.
Alcohol does not cause sexual assault. Many people choose to drink and never perpetrate violence. Importantly, the majority of students who experience sexual violence in college say that alcohol or other drugs were involved.
It's vital for students (and anyone!) to understand that being under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs can increase the risk that they perpetrate harm or violence, cross a boundary, or violate consent. If the ability to clearly communicate specific needs, desires, and expectations with a lucid mind is not present, consent cannot be sought or received. Alcohol can be used as a weapon (to incapacitate and take advantage of someone) and/or as a camouflage (to conceal, excuse, or cover up harmful or violent behavior).
Talk to your students about the signs that someone is too intoxicated to consent to sexual activity:
- They are unaware of their surroundings
- They are unsteady on their feet, swaying or falling down, or need assistance to move from point A to point B
- Their speech is slurred
- They have trouble focusing or holding a conversation
- They lose control over their bodily functions (throwing up, urinating, etc.)
Emphasize that any one of these signals is enough to know - and if you find yourself wondering, they're probably too drunk to consent. Sex and hook-ups can always wait until another night, and even the smallest of decisions - good and bad - have consequences.
Learn more about alcohol at UNH
In addition to alcohol, students should be aware that "date rape drugs" are present on college campuses and in society in general. They can be colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Signs that one may have been drugged include:
- Feeling more intoxicated than usual when drinking the same amount
- Waking up feeling especially hung over and being unable to account for periods of time
- Being able to remember taking a drink, but being unable to recall events after that
- Feeling physically as though you have had sex, but not being able to recall part or all of the encounter
If a person is concerned that they may have been drugged, it is important to know that these substances are most likely to be detected by a blood or urine test within 24 hours of ingestion. After 24 hours, even if ingested, these substances may not yield results on a test. SHARPP can provide additional information and assistance on how to access this testing.
Although your student may not have been into drinking or partying as a high school student, that could change in college. This is the first time many students are living on their own and are experiencing a new level of autonomy as well as broadened options for their social lives. Although not all college students drink, it is important to still talk to your student about alcohol and other drugs, safer use strategies, and how to look out for friends who may choose to drink.
The Rape Aggression Defense system is a national program of realistic self-defense tactics and techniques taught for women only. SHARPP does not provide RAD classes, however they can be taken through the UNH Police Department. Although RAD classes offer great skills for women, remember that anyone can be impacted by violence, that interpersonal violence is never the fault of the victim/survivor, and that it is less often perpetrated by strangers than by people one already knows.
Yes. At SHARPP, we offer free and confidential (under NH RSA 173:C) support services for individuals who have experienced past or current relationship abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and/or stalking. Even if this experience occurred prior to enrollment at UNH, we can provide support in the following ways:
- Emotional support & processing
- Accompaniment to local hospitals, courts, and police departments
- Assistance with protective orders and referrals to legal and medical services
- Crisis intervention and safety planning
- Support groups
- Information & referrals to other campus resources
Though we certainly hope that your student will not experience sexual violence, relationship abuse, harassment, or stalking while at UNH, it’s impossible to predict who may need our services. While your student may or may not be the target of violence, they may need support or information about something that has happened to a friend, roommate, loved one, or partner who has experienced violence or trauma. It’s important that you and your student are informed about SHARPP's services and educational offerings in order to support others and be sources of vital knowledge in your families and communities.
Anyone can be a survivor of violence, regardless of the identities they hold - including gender. SHARPP offers support services to all survivors, whether or not their experience occurred after being enrolled at UNH. Even if someone doesn't or wouldn't personally label an experience as assault or violence, SHARPP can offer support around unwanted sexual experiences, harmful interactions, and unhealthy relationship dynamics.
Just as identity does not determine survivorship, anyone can also be a perpetrator of violence. Men have an important role to play in ending violence at UNH; these are not just women's issues, they are community issues. SHARPP offers educational programming on consent, healthy relationships, rape culture, bystander intervention, harassment, and more. Your son can also get involved with anti-violence work by volunteering with SHARPP or attending SHARPP's events throughout the year.
Student volunteers play a vital role at SHARPP. They staff our 24-hour helpline, respond to after-hours calls from police and emergency rooms, and provide important information to their peers through education and outreach programming. SHARPP volunteers are leaders and changemakers in the UNH community.
SHARPP offers 2 volunteer tracks: Peer Advocates and Community Educators.
If volunteering doesn't sound like a good fit for your student, they can consider attending some of the many events SHARPP hosts throughout the year, such as film screenings, rallies, direct action workshops, speakers, and book clubs. Another great way to engage with SHARPP is by following us on social media @unhsharpp.
Blue Light Safety Phones
There are Blue Light Safety phones located around campus. Each light is specifically placed to be in sight of another light. The phones automatically dial the UNH dispatch center. The Blue Lights are available and active 365 days/year. The typical response time when a light is activated is less than two minutes.
UNH Police Department Escort Service
If you are on campus late and don't feel safe walking alone, you can call the UNH Police Department’s escort service at (603) 862-1427 and have a police escort meet you where you are and accompany you to an on-campus destination. We suggest that students program the escort service into their cell phones.
uSafeUS is a free and confidential app with easy-to-use tools to help students and their friends make a smooth exit from uncomfortable situations, get home safely, and find support in the aftermath of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking. Students and parents can download the app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
UNH "United to End" Website
UNH's "United to End" webpage outlines the university's commitment to violence prevention, reporting, training, and safety. You can find information about ongoing safety, support, and prevention initiatives and read the UNH Comprehensive Prevention Plan.