Abstract: Readiness to Take Action on Sexual Violence: Comparing Commuter and Non-Commuter Students (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Readiness to Take Action on Sexual Violence: Comparing Commuter and Non-Commuter Students

Sunday, January 20, 2019: 8:00 AM
Golden Gate 2, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Julia O'Connor, MSW, MPH, Phd Student and Graduate Assistant, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Jordan Steiner, MA, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, Center on Violence Against Women and Children, NJ
Simone Snyder, Research Assistant, Center on Violence Against Women and Children, New Brunswick, NJ
Background: With one in five college women experiencing sexual violence before they graduate, school administrators and social workers must work to prevent these incidents through campus programming. Often prevention efforts are geared towards the student body as a whole, without taking into consideration differing types of students who are present on campus, such as commuter students. Commuters are less likely to be present during programming and may be less engaged with on-campus prevention efforts. This study examines students’ Readiness to Help on issues of sexual violence in order to understand differences between commuter and non-commuter students. Readiness to Help has been conceptualized as predicting bystander attitudes and actions that can disrupt sexual violence thus, understanding students’ level of Readiness to Help is key in sexual violence programming such as bystander intervention programming.  

Methods: The online, anonymous campus climate survey was conducted at a Northeastern university in 2015. The sample (n=838) was a largely commuter student population (93.44% of the sample; n=783). Readiness to Help was assessed using a 12-item scale including subscales of students’ Sexual Assault Awareness (e.g. statement, “There isn't much need for me to think about sexual violence at the University”); Taking Responsibility (e.g. statement, “I think I can do something about sexual violence”); and Action to Prevent Sexual Assault (e.g. statement, “I have been or am currently involved in ongoing efforts to end sexual violence”).

Multiple regression models were run comparing commuter and non-commuter students on the three Readiness to Help subscales. Final models controlled for numerous demographics factors including gender, age, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, victimization, graduate status, and more.


The results indicate that commuter students have lower scores on the Action to Prevent Sexual Assault subscale than non-commuter students (p < .001) indicating that commuter students are less likely to be actively participating in sexual violence prevention efforts (e.g., attending a program about sexual violence) as compared to non-commuter students. However, the models for the other two Readiness to Help subscales, Sexual Assault Awareness and Taking Responsibility, were not statistically significant indicating commuter and non-commuter students have similar mean scores on these scales.

Conclusions and Implications: The results from this study demonstrate that for the Action to Prevent Sexual Assault subscale, commuter students were less likely to be actively engaged in activities related to sexual violence prevention compared to their non-commuter peers. This finding may indicate that social workers and student administrators looking to engage students in sexual assault prevention efforts that require active participation (e.g., volunteering on the issue) will need in increase efforts to engage commuter students. Interestingly, commuter students’ Sexual Assault Awareness and Taking Responsibility for the issues is largely at the same level as their non-commuter peers indicating that efforts to increase aware and help students take responsibility for the issue, do not need to be tailored by student commuter status. These findings can assist administrators and social workers in micro-targeting prevention efforts towards commuter students in order to actively engage them on the issue of sexual violence prevention.