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Red Zone

Summer has come to an end and autumn is here. Fall semester has begun. The excitement and anticipation of starting college or returning to campus fills the air. Many students are looking over their schedule and visiting the campus bookstore. While this is a busy and exciting time, it is also a time where we see an increase of sexual violence on campus. Many scholars and experts call this time the Red Zone. It is during the first 3 months of college where we see 50% of sexual assaults on campuses, according to RAINN. While this information is not specific to Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), it is important for TCUs to be especially prepared to prevent and respond to sexual assault during this time.


Red Zone Specifics

There are many explanations for why campuses see an increase in sexual assault during the first several months of college. According to Me Too, many students are celebrating the return to campus by having parties and many Greek organizations are celebrating by holding rush events to welcome new members (2023). They also explain that freshmen are particularly vulnerable during this time because they do not know who and where to report a sexual assault. According to USA Today, perpetrators specifically go after freshmen and incoming students. Some reasons being that new students are unfamiliar with campus life, are experiencing the first time being away from home, and have not developed strong relationships.


Red Zone and Tribal Colleges and Universities

The information we have on the Red Zone is from data that does not specifically talk about Tribal Colleges and Universities. The demographics can vary, not only between TCUs and Non-TCU campuses, but even between TCUs. Some TCUs have more non-traditional students than traditional students. This might mean that there is not a large influx of younger students starting at the same time. This could impact what we see in the beginning months of college. Some TCUs have more students who are local to the community and already know about the resources and who to report to. A lot of information we know about campus sexual violence is data that is collected from other types of colleges and might not reflect what we see happening on our TCU campuses. This is why it is critical for TCUs to think about how they can determine what sexual violence looks like on their campus so that your response to sexual violence is impactful. Some ways to find out are:


Campus Climate Surveys: A campus climate survey can help provide important information or data on many things such as the frequency of sexual violence on your campus and the dynamics of sexual violence on campus (for example does your campus see sexual violence more in intimate partner relationships or is sexual violence more prevalent during certain activities/times, etc.). While there are many resources available to TCUs on developing a campus climate survey, they are not culturally specific and can be unhelpful for TCUs. If you have any questions about how to conduct a survey, please reach out to Red Wind so that we can assist you and find the best resources available.

Needs Assessments: A campus climate survey might not be the best way to determine how sexual violence shows up on your campus and this can be for many reasons, such as the cost to conduct a survey, the lack of culturally specific resources, the lack of student participation, and the historical distrust of scientific studies in Indigenous communities. A needs assessment can help determine trends that your campus has observed and the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps of your sexual violence response. You will need a lot of campus programs involved such as the Title IX department, student health and wellness, campus security/law enforcement, counseling services- basically anyone who might respond to students who have been sexually assaulted.


Focus Groups: What better way to know what is going on at campus than to ask those directly who are impacted and see firsthand what is going on? The perspective of your students is critical to understanding what is happening on campus. Unlike Campus Climate Surveys, that rely on students filling out surveys, focus groups allow for you to dig deep and understand the context of the students’ experiences.


What Your Campus Can Do


While the Red Zone is a particularly vulnerable time for students, your campus can help to reduce this vulnerability. There are many steps you can take to ensure that all students are informed, empowered, and confident their campus does not tolerate sexual assault.


Student Orientations

Student orientation is a great time to inform students about:

·      How your campus defines sexual assault

·      The process of reporting a sexual assault

·      On and off campus resources for victims of sexual assault

·      What to expect once a report has been made

·      Confidentiality and confidential staff on campus


This information is not only important for new students but for all students.


On-Campus Advocates

Advocates on campus are critical to have for students. We know that students are more likely to use resources if they are located on campus. We also know that it is not always feasible for TCUs to hire advocates. A partnership with your community-based advocate program can be essential for mitigating this barrier. Asking that an advocate be onsite through a partnership, even if for day a week can be helpful. Advocates can provide confidential and biased support for victims and survivors of sexual assault. This support can look like: Accompaniment to sexual assault forensic exams, safety planning, assistance with navigating community resources, and support for students who have reported a sexual assault, to name a few.


Clear and Concise Policies and Protocols

Oftentimes, campuses will put their information regarding sexual assault in the student handbook. And while this is the appropriate place to have this information, it can be hard to decipher, especially for new students. Including an infographic that outlines the process of reporting can help along with the rights of a victim/survivor. Making information on who to report sexual assault to easily available for students is helpful- make sure students can easily find this information on your campus website or on their portal. You can create Infographics outlining resources on and off campus, provide faculty this information to put in their syllabus, record a presentation for students on sexual assault and the reporting process, to name a few.


Prevention Efforts

During the red zone period and throughout the year, prevention efforts can be powerful. Prevention efforts can include:

·      Information booths at campus events.

·      Events such as Take Back the Night, keynote speakers, and panels.

·      Inviting community-based advocates to speak to students.

·      Creating a student advisory board

·      Inviting elders to talk about traditional values and beliefs.


These are just some ideas that might enhance your sexual assault response on campus. Some may work, while others might be unrealistic. Here at Red Wind, we are here to problem solve and create ways in which you can be better prepared during the red zone. If you would like any technical assistance on creating or enhancing your sexual assault response on campus, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Works Cited


Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics (2023 ). Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network


Me Too Info Sheet- The Red Zone: Sexual Violence on College Campuses (2023 ) Me Too Movement


This project is supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02258-TRIB awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.


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