The ‘red zone’ is a term familiar to football fans. But one group of Texas Tech students wants incoming freshmen and transfer students to know about a different red zone. This one is about statistics that show 50 percent of sexual assaults occur during the first few months these student are on campus.
“As an incoming freshman or incoming transfer student, you’re a lot more vulnerable," Catharine Ragsdale, vice president of the group that organized Navigating the Red Zone, said. "You are put in more high-risk situations. You don’t really know how people can take advantage of you because you’re in an unfamiliar area.”
Students gathered information about where to turn should sexual violence happen to them or someone they know. With the support of the University’s Risk Intervention and Safety Education (RISE) office and other on-and off-campus groups, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance put on the second annual event earlier this week.
The alliance draws from a 2007 report by a research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. The report’s study found that more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults happen in August, September, October or November. Multiple studies have found that female students are at an increased risk for sexual assault during the first few weeks of their first semester on campus. So, the timing of the event was by design.
“We were kind of tailoring it to the fact that sexual violence happens so much more during the first part of fall semester,” Ragsdale said.
She explained that the information available to students at the event allows them to gather tools that can prove useful throughout their time on campus.
“We were trying to be students talking to students," she said. "We don’t have all the answers, but I know that having these resources personally has helped me and a lot of my friends. I just want other people to have those resources.”
The university requires that all freshman and all transfer student take an online course called, “Think About It,” which is new for the fall semester. It’s a research-based interactive course designed to educate about alcohol, drugs, healthy relationships, sex, and violence prevention. It too provides information about resources available to students.
However, Ragsdale’s hope is that the resources aren’t ever needed. “Our goal is to have them know that they exist,” she said.
Ragsdale and Taryn Rayburn, the alliance’s event planner, say the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University woke up other universities. Ragsdale says the two women feel confident Texas Tech is doing its part to protect students.
“There’s a big hope that it isn’t happening. Sometimes it’s hard to come out there and say, this is a problem, but Texas Tech does a really good job with student wellness,” Rayburn said.
According to Ragsdale, “We need to wake up and realize that this is happening. this isn’t just certain campuses that it happens. It’s everywhere.” She points out that the "red zone" does in large measure coincide with the football season and it’s culture, which, according to her, is relevant due to the university’s large football culture.
Elena Sánchez-Freeman, RISE’s safety and wellness coordinator, is impressed with the alliance’s dedication to helping fellow students and how it is following the university’s lead. “It’s wonderful to see students that have a desire to engage their fellow students,” she said.