Survey: Most Parents with College Students Very Concerned About Sexual Assault

Posted By Terri Williams on September 29, 2016 at 9:52 am
Survey: Most Parents with College Students Very Concerned About Sexual Assault

Parents usually experience varying levels of stress. Recent findings in the Princeton Review College Hopes and Worries report reveal that parents are concerned about the cost of college and their ability to pay. Another survey reveals that helicopter parents are sabotaging the job chances of their kids. Now, a recent survey by Wearsafe says many parents of college students are very concerned about sexual assault in particular and campus safety in general.

Those results aren’t surprising, but depth of feeling on the issue seems different. Below are selected excerpts from the survey.

70% Say campus safety is critical in picking schools
69% Say campus safety is “very important” in the final school selection process
51% Are very concerned about their child’s safety while away at college


When asked how concerned they were about sexual assault on campus:

52% Very concerned
39% Somewhat concerned
9% Slightly concerned or not concerned


Based on gender:

55% Parents of female students were very concerned
50% Parents of a male students were very concerned


While parents of female students ranked sexual assault as their top concern, parents of male students ranked underage and binge drinking as their top concern.

Why are parents very concerned about campus safety?

Obviously, all parents are concerned about their children’s safety. Phill Giancarlo, co-founder of Wearsafe, which makes safety devices to alert others when the wearer is in trouble, tells GoodCall that when his son went to college, he and his wife were anxious because they knew they couldn’t get to him immediately if something happened. “Transitioning to college takes you out of your comfort zone, where you know everyone and feel safe; there is a higher risk for uncomfortable situations and parents won’t be there to protect their children when they need help,” Giancarlo explains.

As stated above, the top two concerns vary among parents, depending on the gender of their child, and April Masini, relationship expert and author of four relationship advice books and the “Ask April” advice column believes sexual assault is usually seen as an aggressor taking advantage of a victim. “Traditionally, rape and sexual assault is seen as a male on female crime, and that’s why you’re seeing parents of young women more concerned, publicly, than parents of young men.”

Parents and students are in the dark

While parents and students tend to think that sexual assault usually involves an attack by a stranger lurking around looking for a target, Wearsafe co-founder David Benoit says that the victim usually knows the attacker. “While we were developing Wearsafe, we conducted extensive testing with college students and found they often don’t want to call 911 or the campus security department when they need help.” While these may seem like obvious choices, Benoit explains that if the victims have been drinking at a party, they may get in trouble if they contact the authorities.

And for those who want to alert campus security, their efforts may not be successful. Giancarlo tells GoodCall, “Visit any college or university and you’ll see the ‘Blue Light’ system, but there’s an ongoing debate as to how effective they are, and whether blue light call boxes are past their prime in the age of mobile phones, as well as how often they are being used.” He also points out that most campus-related assaults do not take place on campus.

Benoit says students the company surveyed feel better using another method. “They wanted to be able to trust their instincts when they feel a situation is getting out of hand and notify their close group of friends to get them out of a jam before things escalate and the situation gets worse.”

What else can students do to be safe on and off campus?

There are other steps that students can take to improve campus safety. Alison Morano, a co-founder of The Affirmative Consent Project, tells GoodCall that parents should check a school’s safety practices and guidelines before sending their kids off to college. Morano says they need to know the type of questions to ask and recommends a helpful toolkit and guide to questions you should ask college administrators:

Masini adds that students need be use common sense and operate with a heightened send of awareness. “Communicate concerns with friends and roommates and look out for each other.” She warns students against walking alone at night. “Wait for the school shuttle, or take an Uber or a Lyft or a cab.” And although students want to have fun at parties, Masini warns against getting wasted or buzzed, especially if there isn’t a sober friend there to keep tabs on the inebriated person.

In addition, Morano says it’s important for students to know their surroundings, and she says they should never leave any type of drink unattended. Bystanders also play a role by stepping in when they see someone taking advantage of a person who is not in control of their faculties.

The importance of Affirmative Consent

Morano believes the concept of Affirmative Consent and “Yes means Yes” is one of the most important paradigm shifts occurring on college campuses. In addition to teaching safe sex at orientation, Morano says that sexual assault should be addressed as a real threat. “It’s about creating a culture of respect, the ending of ‘rape culture’ as a norm, and the acknowledgement by administrators, faculty and security officials at every level that sexual assault does occur. “

However, Affirmative Consent is more than just including a “consent standard” to the orientation manual. “Along with the Affirmative Consent guidelines, there are additional requirements for the school: they must re-evaluate their reporting procedure and overhaul the way they handle complaints,” Morano says.

Starting the conversation earlier

Addressing these issues before students get to college may help to change the mindset of many individuals. Jennifer O’Keeffe, Esq, director of Legal Affairs and Title IX coordinator at Lasell College, tells GoodCall that campus crime and binge drinking are concerns on any college campus. “No parent envisions his or her child being victimized by someone the child knows and trusts – at the same time, no parent envisions his or her child perpetrating such a crime.”

And because this is such a serious issue, O’Keeffe concludes, “But it’s not enough for this education to start the summer before freshman year; it needs to start much earlier – the conversation needs to center around the issue of consent and how to talk to students about it.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

You May Also Like