Safety for Collegiate Women, What’s the Risk?
There is a lot of talk about safety on college campuses right now, and rightfully so. The risk seems right around the corner. With more reports of sexual assault, recreational drug use, and hazing deaths, it’s no wonder parents have concerns about sending their kids off into these environments without curfews and social supervision.
According to College Moxie’s focus-group feedback from thousands of collegiate women nationwide, female students (perhaps now more than ever) need parents and mentors who will listen to and support them without judgment. They crave a safe space to talk about their “stuff” and recognize a need for face-to-face connection with their peers and mentors that allows for that. Shame and perceived judgment are severe impactors of women, and this often results in women trying to work through things alone. To further complicate matters, these women also made it clear that “adult” involvement changes the level of trust in conversations. In other words, female students are far less likely to be completely truthful and authentic in a conversation when the other participant is an adult, for fear of judgment. So how can we best help these women if they are afraid to let us know what is truly happening in their lives?
One of the effective ways College Moxie has tackled this problem is through our student-led ELEVATE groups that allow women to work through their thoughts and fears about identity, love, pressures of social media, respect and boundaries, hook-up culture, use of alcohol and drugs in a safe, non-judgmental space. By prompting our group members to weigh the pros and cons of their choices, some of them are consciously thinking about their motives and the root of their insecurities for the very first time. They are creating their own connections between their actions and their goals, without being told what they “should” be choosing.
For many of them, this process gives them a perspective they did not previously have and a voice they now feel empowered to use. In a time of texting vs. talking, our students are learning that assumptions cannot be made by either party as to what is acceptable or welcomed and what is not. By helping women find their voice, and determine their boundaries before situations arise where such boundaries are necessary, they become more comfortable saying no, walking away, and helping others do the same.
To date, the women who have participated in our ELEVATE program report that they are 98% are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior than they were before, and 100% say their personal self-confidence increased. We have learned that by listening without judgment, and simply asking questions that help them make their own discoveries, their thought-processes shift and their choices become more in line with what will help them be happier, achieve their goals and ultimately keep them safer.
Our advice to parents is to approach each conversation with an open mind, avoid the pitfalls of telling them what to do instead of listening without judgment and help them come to solutions on their own.
For more information on ELEVATE and College Moxie, please visit CollegeMoxie.org and follow us on Instagram @CollegeMoxie
Lizz Carter Clark, Executive Director, College Moxie, Guest Blogger