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Perceptions of College Campus Alcohol and Sexual Violence Prevention among Students with Disabilities: “it Was a Joke”

While alcohol misuse and sexual violence are well researched among college students, there is not as much focus on the impact on college students with disabilities. The current study aims to ask students with disabilities (defined as having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities) about their experiences with campus sexual violence and alcohol prevention programs.

This study used data from a larger study involving 28 college campuses across Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The final sample size for this study included 60 students from 13 campuses. They had to endorse at least one experience of sexual violence and a health condition qualifying as a disability. The students were interviewed and asked about disability history, relationship and sexual violence history, context of alcohol use patterns, and reflections on campus prevention programs. Results showed that all participants had been exposed to a campus-based prevention programming.

Overall, students from this study had negative experiences with programming saying they focused on abstinence and did not account for realities of college life.  Another point participants made was there was no place for students with disabilities to discusses personal experiences and needs. Programming felt to these students not relevant and focused on stereotypes instead of real-life experiences of sexual violence or disability. Students also talked about programming to increase awareness of disabilities and how it related to substance use, sexual violence, and partner violence. One major point was that use of humor and gimmicks in programing they felt was inappropriate. A recommendation from students was to acknowledge the realities and use personal stories of substance use or sexual violence. These findings are important to consider when campuses are developing prevention programs for college students, especially those with disabilities.

Take Away:   The current study aims to ask students with disabilities about their experiences with campus sexual violence and alcohol prevention programs. The final study included 60 students from 13 college campuses that endorsed at least one experience of sexual violence and had a disability. Researchers asked students questions surrounding campus sexual violence and alcohol related prevention programs. Overall, students had negative experiences with programming saying the focus was solely on abstinence and did not account for realities of college. A recommendation was to acknowledge the realities and use personal stories of substance use or sexual violence. These findings are important to consider when campuses are developing prevention programs for college students, especially those with disabilities.

Chugani, C. D., Anderson, J. C., Richter, R. K., Bonomi, A. E., Degenna, N. M., Feinstein, Z., … Miller, E. (2020). Perceptions of College Campus Alcohol and Sexual Violence Prevention among Students with Disabilities: “it Was a Joke.” Journal of Family Violence. doi: 10.1007/s10896-020-00150-8

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