Drugs, Sex, and … College?
About the Guest
College brings new challenges. Will you be ready? Hanna Seymour, who worked with students on the college campus for 10 years, talks about the eye-opening reality of the party culture on campus. Seymour encourages students to know what they are going to do if and when drugs and alcohol are offered. Hook-ups are also rampant, as well as sexual assault, especially as they relate to the party scene. Hanna encourages young women to stand firm in their faith, as she did, and to seek help if necessary.
Hanna SeymourHanna Seymour has mentored thousands of college women over the years. Her book, “The College Girl’s Survival Guide” contains the answers to the top 52 concerns of college girls today and is packed with down to earth, Biblically-based advice. Hanna received her B.A. from James Madison University, and her M.Ed. from the University of South Carolina. Hanna lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Tyler. You can learn more about Hanna at...more
Hanna Seymour talks about the eye-opening reality of the party culture on campus. Hanna encourages young women to stand firm in their faith, as she did, and to seek help if necessary.
Drugs, Sex, and … College?
Bob: Children who, in high school, were active in their youth group and excited about church often get to the college campus and lose interest in spiritual matters / lose interest in Jesus. Hanna Seymour says there are a lot of reasons why.
Hanna: I have seen so many students / so many friends really struggle with their faith, because for most of them it’s the first time that they are introduced to a community of people that they love—professors/all these folks—who, not only disagree, but like strongly disagree. A lot of students can’t handle that, and it throws them a curve ball.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 25th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Your children are going to face a lot of challenges as they head to college—among them whether they’re going to maintain a faith.
We’ll talk about that and more with Hanna Seymour today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Aren’t you about to have a grandchild go off to college pretty quickly?
Dennis: Eighteen-year-old—I think he’s getting ready to go to Biola.
Bob: So it’s a guy headed off to college—
Bob: —not a girl.
Dennis: Very smart—
Dennis: —a leader.
Bob: Are you concerned about—
Dennis: He’ll take over Biola. [Laughter] I mean, that’s just all there is to it. There’s more than one way to take over the world—we’re going to do it through our grandkids.
Bob: Through your grandkids. [Laughter]
Dennis: We’ve got a great guest with us on FamilyLife Today. She’s been with us here all this week. Hanna Seymour joins us again. Hanna, welcome back.
Hanna: Always good to be here.
Dennis: I’m just surprised you came back—the way Bob and I’ve insulted you. [Laughter]
Bob: Oh! We’ve been kind to her all—
Hanna: You’ve been very kind—
Hanna: —and I was prepped by my father; so—
Dennis: Well, her father and mother are Michael and Cindy Easley and former president of Moody Bible Institute.
Bob: And your dad is a part of our Art of Parenting™ video series, so our listeners may know him from that.
Dennis: Hanna’s written a book called The College Girl’s Survival Guide.
Before we get to that, I just thought this would be a fun question to ask—
Dennis: —the daughter of Michael and Cindy Easley.
Dennis: It’s my favorite question—do you know what it is?
Dennis: You don’t listen to FamilyLife Today much.
Hanna: Wait—I know what it is if it’s your favorite.
Dennis: Okay; what is it?
Hanna: “…when you exhibited courage?”
Dennis: “What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in all your life?”
Bob: See; she does know.
Dennis: She does.
Hanna: I know—I know you.
Dennis: That’s because she knows my daughter, not because she listens to the broadcast.
Hanna: You know, the sad thing is—I kind of thought, “I should probably prepare my answer for that,” and I still didn’t. [Laughter]
Dennis: So you’re, now, thinking it through.
Dennis: Courage is doing your duty in the face of fear. When have you faced down fear and done your duty, as a young lady?
Hanna: Two circumstances come to mind, and I’ll share the first one. Maybe, if we have time, I’ll share the second one; but the first one was—I was working at a private secular institution. My job at that school was a lot of crisis-behavioral response; so I would respond if a student exhibited any thoughts of suicide, or if they had been sexually assaulted—any of these high-risk issues I would respond and assess the student.
Specifically, with suicide ideation, I would have to show up on scene and talk to them long enough to decide if they needed to be hospitalized or if they were safe enough to be left in their dorm room. Part of that job—of course, it was a secular university, so I’m not allowed to talk about Jesus / I’m not allowed to share the gospel—that would be a fire-able offense.
I remember it was my very first solo crisis. I show up. A roommate lets me in and splits. I’m looking at this young woman, sitting in the corner of her dorm room. Her head is buried into her body. She’s essentially in the fetal position, rocking back and forth. I spent, I bet, an hour trying to get her to even just come out of her shell. Truly, for her to lift up her face and just make eye contact with me, I spent an hour.
Of course, this whole time, I’m walking into that room, praying. I’m praying as I’m talking to her. Over, and over, and over I just kept feeling so compelled: “The only answer for this young woman is Jesus right now. That’s it. There’s nothing you can say to her that’s going to get her to make eye contact with you, unless we go into the spiritual realm.”
I hate to say it, but I was terrified.
I was terrified that—it was my first time to do it by myself. If it was going to get back to my boss, I would be fired. After enough prodding, truly by the Holy Spirit, I knew: “You know what? This is a risk worth taking. It doesn’t matter if I’m fired. This young lady is truly on the verge of killing herself; and since the only answer for her is knowing that there is a God who loves her, and who created her, and who has a unique plan for her life, and that’s she’s worthy and valuable,”—and all these things that can only be known from the truth of the gospel—I knew I had to share that with her.
I did—just slowly started—said her name and said, “Okay; I have to tell you something that I’m probably not allowed to tell you,” and slowly shared some biblical truth and walked her through the gospel. Did she place her faith in Christ that day?—no; I actually don’t know what happened to her. I know that we connected, and we talked and sat there for about an hour.
Then I walked her to be hospitalized, because she wasn’t safe. But that—I think that is one of my more courageous moments.
Dennis: You’ve had a lot of experience with college students / high school-graduating girls in preparing them for the college experience. You wrote your book; in fact, in response to questions that some of these incoming freshmen girls had written you, asking about situations they were facing. You’ve written your book down as 52 questions or issues that you’re addressing.
One of the big issues is sex, alcohol, and parties.
Dennis: What is going to be the reality of what your daughter will face on the university campus?
Hanna: Yes; so it is everywhere, whether it’s sex—a hook-up culture is rampant—lots of drinking / lots of drugs—and it’s not just weed. There’s—I mean, one of the universities I worked at—there was heroin everywhere, so it’s out there.
Parents—one: just to be communicating with their students, saying: “Hey, I know that this stuff is out there, and I know you’re going to see it. Let’s talk about what you’re going to do.” I remember walking into one of my first really big college parties and seeing cocaine for the first time. Right then, your student has a decision to make: “I can stay here and fend for myself, and we’ll see how that goes,” or “I can choose to turn around and walk out.”
Even talking through those scenarios, I knew—I had processed that / already thought through: “What am I going to do when I see cocaine? I’m going to walk out,” and that’s what I did. Maybe, I would have been fine had I stayed.
I worked really hard in college—I talk about this in my book: “If you are strong in your principles, and strong in your faith, and you’re rooted in a strong Christian community that stick around you and keep you accountable, I think you can exist in that party culture without losing your mind. You take your own—I talk about I took a six-pack of Fresca® and I drank.
Today, I would take La Croix®; but you take your own non-alcoholic beverages.
I was part of an A Cappella group. I wanted to be part of that community and be there for my friends without engaging in risky behavior. I think it’s possible, but you’ve got to be real certain that you can continue to be a light in the darkness and not let the darkness snuff you out.
Bob: So when that group says: “Okay; we’re done. We’re going partying!” did Hanna go?—
Bob: —and drank Fresca?
Hanna: I did.
Bob: And they were like—was anybody trying to save you?
Hanna: Oh sure. I mean, I tease in my book—there’s a thing called a koozie. If you’re from the south, you know what a koozie is. If you’re not, it’s a thing that wraps around your can or bottle and insulates it.
Bob: —and can protect the identity of the beverage.
Hanna: Yes! I used that, not because I was afraid of—it’s not that I wanted people to think I was drinking—just took some of the peer pressure down.
Obviously, if they looked closely, they knew it was a Fresca. It wasn’t a Budweiser® or whatever everyone else was drinking around me, but it took some of the pressure off. For the most part, if you’re going around—and you’re with good friends that know what you stand for—they usually kind of let go, after a while, and: “Oh, that’s just Hanna. You know, she…” They know you’re going to be the one taking care of them.
How many girls did I walk home and make sure that they were safe?—did I care for when they got sick? I mean—and that’s another thing you’ve got to decide: “Do you want to be the mom?” Maybe you don’t; and so maybe you don’t even engage in that area of the social world, but I wanted to.
Bob: Did you ever have a night, where you said: “You know what? Forget all of this. I’m just going to party like everybody else parties”?
Hanna: So, once I was 21, I would drink occasionally—I talk about this in my book. I had a rule—I would set my number: “Okay; you can have a beer—one beer at this party.”
Bob: As long as you don’t set your number at eight.
Hanna: Right, right, right. I set my number, but I talk about it in the book, too; there were nights I didn’t set a number. Did I ever make some crazy, horrible, life-altering mistake or consequence? No; I’m grateful—I think, by God’s grace, He protected me and took care of me. I truly never made any kind of dumb decision based on drinking too much, but I still always regretted it the next morning: (A) I woke up feeling bad/just sick and (B) I knew I wasn’t pleasing to the Lord. I really did care about that, as a college student—I wanted to honor God / I wanted to please Him. But, yes, sometimes the whims of your friends, and not having a plan and sticking to it, gets the best of you.
Bob: Curiosity, where somebody says, “Just try a hit off of this,”—was that tempting to you?
Hanna: Drugs—it was not. I don’t know if that is part of my upbringing. My dad’s story—he would say he tried every drug except needles; he did everything.
I knew that was a huge part of his story. He came to Christ during the middle of a bad trip—he was suicidal, on drugs. I mean, nothing but the Holy Spirit came over him to say, “You need to not kill yourself, and you need to turn your life around.” When he came out from that drug experience—that was it for him. He decided to run after the Lord with everything he had. I think knowing that part of my dad’s story—drugs weren’t appealing to me. I had heard how it unfolded in his life and that seemed good enough to me.
Dennis: You worked with a lot of college students and, undoubtedly, encountered sexual assault. How prevalent is it on the college campus? I’ve got a couple of follow-up questions after you answer that.
Hanna: It is very prevalent. One in four women in college will experience sexual assault. That’s not one in four will have in their lifetime, by the time they get to college—
—that is, during their time in college, one in four will experience sexual assault. One out of every four sexual assaults actually happens to a male student, so it’s also common for guys to be experiencing sexual assault in college. Most of the time, it’s wrapped in the party scene; because you’re drinking too much / they’re drinking too much—
Bob: Alcohol is involved; yes.
Hanna: —there’s drugs, whatever; and you are unable to fend for yourself. You’re unable to say, “No.” You’re unable just to walk away from a bad situation. I have counseled and hugged so many college women, and some men—whether it was the morning after, a week after, two years later—it’s very prevalent.
Dennis: Let’s talk about after it happens. Two questions around this: “What would you say to a young lady who had experienced this in her life?” and then:
“What would you say to your daughter, if she’s going away to college and she encounters a roommate, who’s been sexually assaulted, what should she do?” Answer both of those.
Hanna: Yes; so what I say—and what I tell folks to say when they’re responding to a sexual assault survivor is always, number one: “I’m so sorry that this happened to you! I’m so sorry.” Number two—asking the question: “Are you okay?” I know that might sound stupid—like, “Of course, I’m not okay!” But it’s a non-judgmental—just: “Hey, I’m here to listen—whatever you want to say / however you want to respond to that question: ‘Are you okay?’”
Dennis: Offer grace and compassion.
Hanna: Yes! Yes! Three: “It’s not your fault. It is not your fault, no matter what happened. No matter what choices, decisions, mistakes you may or may not have made along the way, it’s not your fault.”
And then four, “I’m here to help you however I can.” Some women are ready to get help the next day—
—they want to go get a medical examination; they want to go to counseling center; they want to report it. Some women never want to do any of those things; some women want to report it after two years, whatever. Knowing it is a process—it is a marathon, not a sprint, of healing and recovering from sexual assault.
Dennis: And so equipping your daughter to be—not a professional counselor—but she will, undoubtedly, if one in four are being assaulted, that means—
Hanna: —she’ll hear about it.
Dennis: Yes; if she’s a part of a group of four women.
Hanna: Yes; and to know most college campuses have a counseling center. Most of them are free to students; if not, it is a very good deal—but for students to know that’s on your campus / that’s a resource for you. If you have no idea where to turn; or if you’ve got a roommate, who was sexually assaulted; or who mentioned she’s thinking about hurting herself—any of those things—know the easiest place to go is always that college counseling center.
Bob: Hanna, it sounds like your moral principles stayed intact throughout your four years of college. Did your faith stay grounded throughout those four years, as well, or did it waver?
Hanna: It did. I had two of my bigger seasons of doubt and just confusion in the faith in middle school and high school. Truly, by the time I went off to college, I had decided I was all in. I believed that Jesus was who He says He is and that the Bible is true, and that I was going to go in 100 percent and try to live a life that was worthy of that calling.
I have seen so many students / so many friends really struggle with their faith, because for most of them it’s the first time that they are introduced to a community of people that they love—professors/all these folks—who, not only disagree, but like strongly disagree. I was the token conservative Christian in the classroom.
Of course, I let that be known—I was sharing, in class, things I believed; but I would be called upon. I was a sociology and psychology double major—
Bob: Wow; wow.
Hanna: —so from a very liberal discipline. They would call me and go: “Well, Hanna, what do you think about that?” or “What would your parents have said about that?”
Bob: “…people like you think about this?”—right.
Hanna: Right; but a lot of students can’t handle that, and it throws them a curve ball.
Dennis: —and they wilt under pressure.
Dennis: —and they withdraw from their Christian faith, thinking they should be ashamed of it; when, in reality, the Christian faith can stand up in any college classroom.
Hanna: Absolutely, but the adversary is louder and seems more intelligent than the knowledge they’re able to defend themselves with.
Bob: I heard a pastor say one time—I thought this was kind of—I thought it was shrewd. I just wondered how accurate it was.
He said, “When I’m talking to a college student, who says to me, ‘I’m starting to have questions and doubts about God,’”—he would say—“When did you start sleeping with your girlfriend?” [Laughter] It’s one of those interesting observations. There is this tension: “If I really believe this and hold on to this, it’s going to be limiting.” It was limiting for you; it kept your guidelines in place.
Hanna: Yes; yes.
Bob: But if I’m drawn toward college life—and what looks like fun on the other side—that’s in conflict with what I was taught, growing up. Now, I need some cover; so I have doubts, which gives me cover to be able to head off.
Bob: So how much of the faith doubting—that students are doing—do you think is because they want to party?—and how much of it is because, in the classroom, they heard a science professor say, “There is no way that all this happened this way”?
Hanna: Yes; it’s funny, because I think that pastor is spot-on; but I’ve never thought about it in that way. In my book, I answer the question: “Do I really want to save sex for marriage?”
I talk about how, when a girl approaches me with that question, I take five steps back and go: “Okay; let’s talk about: ‘Do you believe that God’s story is the best way to live? Do you think that it’s better to serve God and what He wants or to serve yourself and what you want?’”—so similar—but a little bit different angle.
Yes; you’re right. A lot of it probably has to do with: “Life seems less fun, as a Christian, in college.”
Hanna: I really believe that the bottom-line is: “We have to trust that God’s way is for our good and to trust in that,”—and it is—we know that, sitting at this table. The fact that I didn’t have sex before marriage has been just a giant blessing on my life; but sure, it could have felt like I missed out on a whole lot of fun while I was in college.
Dennis: And anybody who says that: “Much of what happens at college isn’t fun,” and also “…isn’t wrong,”—they’re lying to you.
Bob: Well, there is pleasure in sin for a season.
Hanna: That’s right
Dennis: There really is.
Bob: It’s the problem—it grows up into a bitter harvest, and that’s what we don’t calculate.
I’m sitting here, thinking about the Book of Proverbs. I asked my daughter, Laura, what she remembered most about Barbara and me as we parented her and prepared her as she went away to college; to work; and ultimately, to marriage. One of the things she mentioned was a Proverbs Bible study that she and I did once a week—we didn’t do it every week—but on a Thursday morning, I’d take her to a local restaurant that was cheap—[Laughter]—because I had to take all of them, ultimately. It was a pretty costly discipleship experience—now that I think about it. [Laughter] But it had donuts, and it had good food—eggs and bacon and all that—but she mentioned that as being, really, an important anchoring time for her as she went away to college.
I think your book does a great job of preparing a young person to protect their faith; secondly, to protect their morals; and third, to know how to handle the temptations that are going to come their way. Your book spells out the issues girls are going to face on the college and university campus. A parent would do well to take a senior year—there’s 52 in here; you could take one a week—now, you won’t want to do that; but you could take a couple of these questions a week, over a 36-week period. You could go through Hanna’s book and talk about these issues, because they are the real stuff of what’s happening out there.
Hanna, you did a great job. Now, you’ve got to twist Tyler / your husband’s arm and tell him to write—
Bob: —the boys’ book.
Dennis: —The College Boys—
Bob: —the guys’ guide.
Hanna: —The Guys’ Survival Guide.
Dennis: Yes; The Guys’ Survival Guide—hope you’ll both come back next time and join us on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: We can be honest; can’t we? It was the café at Kroger that you took Laura to; right?
Dennis: It was Kroger.
Bob: It was the Kroger. I’m just—[Laughter]
Dennis: It was—you’re laughing about me.
Bob: He called it a restaurant. I just wanted our listeners to understand it’s the café at Kroger that he took her to, and it was affordable. [Laughter]
Dennis: It was the only one near the school. Let’s just say we didn’t have the McDonald’s, or Wendy’s, or any of that. [Laughter]
Bob: We do have copies of Hanna’s book in our Family—you can go to Kroger with your child and go through—
Dennis: That’s right. It’s dignified—well, you earn points/fuel points. [Laughter]
Bob: Fuel points—there you go. It’s all about the fuel points. [Laughter]
We do have copies of Hanna’s book, The College Girl’s Survival Guide, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. No fuel points with your order; but again, call 1-800-FL-TODAY; or order, online, at FamilyLIfeToday.com.
The book is The College Girl’s Survival Guide.
By the way, we want to encourage you—as moms and dads or as grandparents—as your children or grandkids are headed back to school this fall—whether it’s college, or high school, or middle school, or elementary school—start praying for them now. We have put together a “30-Day Prayer Challenge” for parents. You can sign up for this, online—it’s free. Every day, we will send you a prayer prompt, via email, and give you thoughts, ideas, Scripture to be praying for your children as they are headed back to school.
I know for some, this doesn’t happen until after Labor Day; but others are going back to school next week; right? So now is the time to be praying for your kids. We want to help make that happen. You can sign up for the “30-Day Parents’ Prayer Challenge”, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com—we’ve got a link there. We’ll be reminding you about this all through the month of August.
Our commitment at FamilyLife® is to do all that we can to help effectively develop godly marriages and families. Praying for your children is a part of how that works. We’ve got the Art of Parenting video series that’s available for small groups to use; we’ve got the Art of Parenting online course that’s available, for free, for parents to go through together. Again, our commitment here is to help strengthen your marriage and your family.
We appreciate those of you who join us in that commitment and help make it possible as you partner with us financially. FamilyLife Today is a listener-supported ministry. Your donations make all that we do possible. So “Thanks,” to those of you, who are regular monthly Legacy Partners, and those of you who, contribute from time to time.
If you can donate today, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, Dennis Rainey’s newest book, Choosing a Life That Matters. It’s our thank-you gift when you donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.
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Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about a survival guide for all of us. We’re going to talk about how we can choose a life that matters and the principles that are outlined in Scripture that help us do that. Dennis will be here to talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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