Issues Advisory: Redzone and Prevention Education on College Campuses

What is the Redzone?

The Redzone refers to a time at the beginning of the first 6 weeks of the fall semester during which campus sexual violence is particularly high. This typically ranges from August-October but some statistics report it can range until the end of the fall semester (which typically begins in the 3rd or 4th week of August for the majority of campuses). Notably, “red zone” poses a particular danger to incoming freshmen. One study concluded that freshmen were two and a half times as likely as students in other years to be the victims of assault, a number which increased for rapes occurring at parties. 

The Department of Justice has identified the period between students’ arrival on campus in late August and Thanksgiving break as the stretch of time when a student is more likely to be assaulted than at any other point in her college career. During that time, the majority of assaults occur between midnight and 6 am, on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Other research suggests the red zone is even more concentrated, and that assaults spike in the days before the school year officially begins. At colleges which undertake sexual assault prevention as part of freshman orientation, this means their efforts may be coming too late.

Prevalence of Campus Sexual Violence

According to RAINN, 23.1 percent of female undergrads, 21 percent of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming) students, and 5.4 percent of male students experience sexual assault. A report by the National Institute of Justice found that 90 percent of college sexual assault victims know their assaulter, and data compiled from the Clery Act indicated that 74 percent of all reported rapes occurred in on-campus residential housing. Please note that the statistics are probably higher as many college-aged survivors do not report their assaults.

Prevention Education

Just about every campus has some form of prevention education—usually put into orientation programming. These are typically mandatory sub-hour courses which focus on drinking or parties and its correlation with sexual violence and bystanders. This typically doesn’t encompass other scenarios where sexual violence could occur and includes stalking and harassment in the same fragment of time. Often the conversation only encompasses this section of an orientation course.

Cultures of respect provide an extensive list of programs used by universities and what their focuses are.

https://cultureofrespect.org/colleges-universities/programs/

  • A growing number of activists, researchers, and sexual assault prevention experts insist the usual methods are also least likely to work.
  • In a Guardian Article on the issue, Darcie Folsom, the Director of sexual violence prevention and advocacy at Connecticut College said, “For so, so long we have tried to cram every little piece of violence prevention in a 45-minutes-or-less presentation to incoming freshmen, and it has not been the most successful.”
  • Lea Hegge, a trainer at the Green Dot said in the same article: “We don’t even use the term ‘red zone’, the reason is that campuses aware that they have a red zone problem have tended, historically, to respond primarily with tips for avoiding assault. It encourages this idea that there is a most dangerous time on campus, and if you only follow a list of what not to do in order to not get assaulted, you won’t […] It’s putting the onus on the victim for preventing their own assault.”

Organizations that work on college sexual violence

  • Green Dot
  • End Rape on Campus
  • Know Your IX
  • Calisto Project
  • State Sexual Assault Coalitions (ex. IowaCASA) & on campus Women’s Centers
  • It’s on US

Recommendations:

  1. As a college-aged female who has worked with my women’s center, my coalition and End Rape on Campus; my biggest suggestion for NOW would be to work with and be an ally for campaigns such as End Rape on Campus’s “seven weeks of action to reclaim red zones.” This would allow leadership and members to join sign-on letters to university presidents, write op-eds help set up teach-ins for campuses, join social media tweetstorms, emailing presidents and administrators, and submitting public comments to the Dept. of Ed this September.
  2. Provide and help to college-aged survivors who may look for guidance in taking action from those knowledgeable in doing so.
  3. Lobby Schools to change and better their prevention dialogues by:
    1. extending prevention education in orientation
    2. offering it sooner or to prospective students
    3. extending to the K-12 sphere (many Title IX coordinators on college campuses feel this would be a strong help)
  4. Encourage members to lobby for great protections and pieces of legislation that help survivors and aim to encourage prevention on campuses.
  5. Ask members and leadership to touch base with area college students and find out what they feel are shortcomings in prevention education—use NOW’s voice to help elevate and bring to light these issues.
  6. Join forces with programs that aim to prevent and target rape culture on college campuses or work with students to establish such actions. Other forms of sexual violence including stalking and street harassment are also exceptionally high.
  7. Join forces with college sexual violence prevention organizations and find out their needs and what NOW can do to aide them.

Emmalyn B., is a Governmental Relations Intern at the National Organization for Women (NOW) in Washington, DC.

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