This week we have a poll reconfirming the statistic that 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault while in college, and some tips for parents and prospective students to help ensure a safe and positive college experience.
1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault while in college. That number has stirred considerable controversy in the past few years. Now a new poll, conducted by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, has provided another piece of evidence confirming that number. Overall, the poll found 1 in 4 women and roughly 1 in 14 men said they had experienced unwanted sexual incidents while in college. The Post-Kaiser Poll was modeled after the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, which found similar numbers. The poll also found that sexual assaults were “vastly underreported.” While three-fourths of the individuals who reported experiencing a sexual assault told someone about the incident, only 11% told the authorities. Many myths about sexual violence continue to hang around on college campus, according to the poll, like the belief that women who wear revealing clothes are “asking for trouble.” Despite these findings, however, only 37% of the surveyed students said sexual assault was a problem on campus. The Washington Post has run a series of articles discussing the results of the poll, including powerful interviews with survivors.
As campus sexual violence gains greater media attention, it may begin affecting how parents and prospective students evaluate schools. This article, from the Christian Science Monitor, offers some valuable tips to prospective students for determining whether a school has set up adequate responses and prevention efforts to halt campus sexual violence. Though most schools make safety data available through their Clery reports, as the article points out, “the numbers of sexual assaults in Clery reports don’t mean much in isolation.” Counter intuitively, higher numbers may indicate that students feel more comfortable reporting, while lower numbers may indicate a climate more hostile to reporting. The advice comes from S. Daniel Carter, the director of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative — established through the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, which honors the 32 Virginia Tech shooting victims. The questions Carter provides help probe a school’s prevention and response efforts as well as its disciplinary process. The article also points to other information to consider, such as whether or not the school has a binge drinking culture and whether or not the schools in under investigation by the Department of Education for possible Title IX violations.
Parents can do more than just help their children choose a college wisely. A study conducted by the University of Michigan Sociologist Elizabeth Armstrong found that women who had “extended conversations” with their parents about partying and sex were safer in college, according to The Washington Post. The Post’s article lists some of the advice young women heard from their parents, including having a “buddy” when going out or determining one’s boundaries before getting into a sexual situation. Armstrong said that many of the young women “felt uncomfortable” talking to their parents about these issues, “[b]ut they actually were listening.”