Do you have a child in college? These stressful times require parents to fully grasp the serious mental health challenges their students may face, and be equipped to provide support. Did you know that 95 percent of college students in a 2021 survey reported negative mental health symptoms because of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Even before Covid, rates of depression and anxiety were high among college students. In fact, many students carry suicidal thoughts. Sexual assault is prevalent among college students. Hazing violence as an initiation rite at fraternities and some student organizations is a serious problem.
All of these factors pose even greater risks for students who arrive on campus with a mental health or substance use disorder. College psychological counseling centers are typically overwhelmed by demands for appointments, and navigating community mental health services and insurance coverage can exacerbate stress. Failure to understand these realities of college student life today, and to help with issues that may arise, can lead to serious consequences.
The Sophie Fund provides this updated guide to help parents—especially those whose children are attending college in Ithaca—better understand the challenges and how to deal with them. Please email us with feedback or suggestions at email@example.com.
Tompkins Cortland Community College students report being victims of sexual assault and harassment, according to the school’s Campus Climate Survey 2021.
In an initial report on results published on the college’s website, 4 percent of female students, 7 percent of gender non-binary students, and no male or transgender students said that they were subjected to sexual assault in the prior year.
Tompkins Cortland Community College campus (Photo credit: TC3web)
The college reported that 18 percent of female students, 6 percent of male students, 40 percent of gender non-binary students, and no transgender students reported that they were subjected to sexual harassment in the prior year.
Another in an occasional series of articles about campus sexual violence. For more information, go to The Sophie Fund’s Sexual Assault Page.
The sparse initial report provided no breakdowns by types of sexual assault and harassment, by sexual orientation, by race and ethnicity, or by victims’ class years. The report did not provide information about the locations of assaults, characteristics of perpetrators, percentages of assaults reported to authorities, or physical, psychological, and academic impacts on victims.
According to the initial report, 66 percent of students indicated that they knew how to report sexual assault and harassment, and 45 percent could identify the school’s Title IX coordinator who is responsible for receiving and responding to assault and harassment complaints.
LEARN MORE: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
The college said that 397 students completed the survey and that the response rate was 27 percent. The college says that 4,698 students are enrolled at Tompkins Cortland, meaning that 8.4 percent of all students took part in the survey.
“Tompkins Cortland Community college, working with SUNY and community colleagues (including students, faculty, and staff), will use this data to improve response to violence, develop prevention programs, and will continue to study the issue,” said a statement on the Tompkins Cortland website.
The Tompkins Cortland survey is part of a system-wide assessment conducted every other year by the State University of New York. SUNY has not yet published full reports for Tompkins Cortland or other schools in its system. When the full Tompkins Cortland report is released, it will be available on SUNY website.
The surveys are done in compliance with New York State’s “Enough is Enough” Education Law Article 129-B to combat collegiate sexual violence. Adopted in 2015, it requires colleges to submit and publish data reports no less than every other year on incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
Separately, in compliance with the “Enough is Enough” law, Tompkins Cortland’s Title IX office reported 4 incidents of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking in 2020.
Also, Tompkins Cortland’s 2022 Annual Security & Fire Safety Report said no instances of rape occurred in its jurisdiction in 2021, down from one instance in 2020 and one in 2019 both of which were reported in residential housing.
In the 2019 Campus Climate Survey for Tompkins Cortland, 2 percent of survey respondents reported being raped through sexual penetration and 2 percent sexually assaulted through forced oral sex. Two percent reported attempted rape and 2 percent sexually assaulted through forced oral sex. Nine percent of those surveyed said they had experienced forced sexual touching, and another 9 percent reported attempted sexual touching. The full 2019 report is on the SUNY website.
Among Cornell female seniors participating in Cornell’s 2021 survey, 30.3 percent—nearly one in three—reported being victims of sexual assault during their years in college.
Without breaking down data by sex or type, a report on Ithaca College’s 2022 survey indicated 29 percent of all respondents said they experienced “unwanted sexual behavior” defined as unwanted sexual contact, unwanted sexual interactions, relationship violence, or stalking. Forty-seven percent of those reporting unwanted sexual behavior said it involved contact, defined as rape, assault, or nonconsensual sexual touching.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a good opportunity to spread education about the prevalence of sexual violence on campus and what we can all do about it.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, says that college women aged 18-24 are at three times greater risk for assault than all women.
Among undergraduates nationwide, 26.4 percent of females, 6.8 percent of males, and 23.1 percent of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, according to RAINN. (College women aged 18-24 are 20 percent less likely than their non-student peers to be assaulted.)
“College campuses can give you a sense of security, a feeling that everyone knows each other and watches out for one another,” says RAINN. “There are perpetrators who take advantage of this feeling of safety and security to commit acts of sexual violence.”
It’s the start of a new academic year, and colleges are brimming with exciting academic challenges and social opportunities. A dark and often hidden side of student life, however, is the prevalence of sexual assault.
According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and college women aged 18-24 are at three times greater risk of sexual violence.
Among undergraduate students, 26.4 percent of females and 6.8 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation, RAINN statistics show.
“College campuses can give you a sense of security, a feeling that everyone knows each other and watches out for one another,” RAINN says. “There are perpetrators who take advantage of this feeling of safety and security to commit acts of sexual violence.”
Check out RAINN’s Staying Safe on Campus webpage for important advice that may make a world of difference in your college experience.
“As bystanders, students can learn ways of stepping in to prevent crimes like sexual assault from occurring. When it comes to personal safety, there are steps you can take as well. No tips can absolutely guarantee safety—sexual violence can happen to anyone, and it’s not the only crime that can occur on a college campus. It’s important to remember that if you are sexually assaulted on campus it is not your fault—help and support are available.”
RAINN’s college webpage includes sections on increasing on-campus safety; protecting yourself in social settings; feeling safe after an assault; and additional resources for specifically for students.
Here is contact information concerning sexual assault for students studying in Tompkins County:
Dear Parents: Sending kids off to college is an exciting experience. Naturally, our focus is on the wonderful opportunities they will have, as we look with pride upon their promising passage into adulthood. But these stressful times require parents to also fully grasp the serious mental health challenges their students may face, and be equipped to provide support.
What do parents need to know?
Though some may hide or downplay it, rates of depression and anxiety are high among college students. Many students carry suicidal thoughts. Sexual assault is prevalent among college students. Hazing violence as an initiation rite at fraternities and some student organizations is a serious problem. All of these conditions pose greater risks for students who arrive on campus already with a mental health disorder.
College psychological counseling centers are typically overwhelmed by demands for appointments, and navigating community mental health services and insurance coverage can exacerbate the stress.
In short, student mental health can be a complicated matter, and failing to deal with it adequately can lead to serious consequences.
The Sophie Fund has updated a guide to help parents—especially those whose children are attending college in Ithaca—better understand the challenges: