Abstract: Challenges, Considerations, and Strategies for Tailoring Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention to Commuter College Campuses (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Challenges, Considerations, and Strategies for Tailoring Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention to Commuter College Campuses

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Erin Casey, PhD, Professor, University of Washington, Tacoma, Tacoma, WA
Sarah Hampson, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Washington, Tacoma, Tacoma
Background and purpose:

While comprehensive blueprints are increasingly available for sexual and relationship violence (SRV) prevention initiatives at post-secondary institutions, most are geared toward residential, “traditional” campuses. These models are often tailored for emerging adult-age students and incorporate prevention initiatives in captive audience spaces such as residential settings. Less available are prevention frameworks and concrete, tested interventions relevant to students on non-residential, largely “commuter” campuses. Commuter students are, on average, older, more racially diverse, more financially vulnerable, more beholden to work and family obligations, and less engaged in campus activities than residential students, and may have prevention-related needs that are not well-addressed by existing prevention models. The purpose of this exploratory study was therefore to elicit perceptions of commuter campus stakeholders to identify core considerations for and components of tailored prevention initiatives in these spaces.


Eleven focus group with a total of 71 undergraduate students and interviews with 14 staff and administrators were conducted across three commuter campuses. All campuses were 4-year institutions with limited to no on-campus housing. Students were recruited through presentations in classes across a range of departments. Focus groups happened on campus, and interviews were conducted over the phone or in person. All data collection was digitally recorded and professionally transcribed. Data were managed in Dedoose and analyzed using thematic analysis. Students’ ages ranged from 18-36 (mean = 22), with 73% identifying as female, 24% as male, and 3% as non-binary. Approximately 4% identified as African American or Black, 18% as Asian/Asian American, 11% as Latino/a, 8% as multi-racial, 3% as South Asian, and 54% as White.


We identified eight core considerations and challenges related to tailoring prevention, and nine core components of primary prevention efforts desired by commuter campus stakeholders. Challenges/considerations included, but were not limited to the difficulty of capturing commuter student time and presence, the irrelevance of available, tested prevention interventions, and a perceived prioritization of situational safety/prevention approaches on campuses. Desired prevention components mapped onto layers on the Socioecological model and included but were not limited to policy clarification regarding the campus mission with respect to prevention, centralized and institutionalized prevention resources, redundant and brief prevention messaging in multiple student spaces (with a cessation of reliance on event-based programming), an intersectional approach, and a focus on student professional development. Study participants also identified numerous creative, concrete strategies for prevention content delivery perceived as appropriate for commuter student needs.

Conclusions and Implications:

The considerations and concrete strategies identified by study participants add to the emerging frameworks available for tailoring prevention efforts to commuter campus spaces. We will share these strategies and describe the ways in which they account for commuter students’ complex lives and needs. At the same time, results suggest that, to be successful, comprehensive prevention planning efforts on commuter campuses must clarify campuses’ role and mission with respect to prevention, delineate resources and lines of staff responsibility, and consider student needs holistically.