Campaign calls attention to early-semester sexual assault

By Lauren Lavelle

Red posters have appeared across campus over the first few weeks of school, displaying phrases and information about the importance of consent as part of the Red Zone initiative.

In an effort to raise awareness of the increasing number of sexual assaults across college campuses in the U.S., Rider participated in a Red Zone Awareness campaign throughout the month of September.

According to a 2007 federally funded report on campus sexual assault, a majority of sexual assaults on campus occur within the first six weeks of the school year. This time period is referred to as the “Red Zone.”

Prevention education coordinator Susan Stahley claims the rise in numbers has to do with the combination of many factors, including students’ newly increased feelings of independence and their growing need to fit in and find friends quickly.

“Red Zone Awareness is an important campaign to start off the school year,” she said. “I want students to get the message out that targeting others is not tolerated at Rider, that consent is important and have them work with their friends to learn how to step in and help someone out in distress.”

Stahley began educating students in August during Residence Life staff training by introducing the concept of bystander intervention, an initiative that involves people not directly involved a situation intervening and changing the outcome.

“People can help in any situation,” she said. “I want students to step in, intervene and recognize signs of potential issues.”

Red signs with awareness messages such as “See something, say something, do something” were placed in front of dorms and academic buildings to make students conscious of the initiative.

“This is the third year I have put the signs out on campus,” said Stahley. “Each week I check on the placement of the signs and move different sayings to new locations. There were also a series of flyers placed in residence halls and academic buildings to raise awareness and provide confidential resources for students.”

The hope of increased student involvement was also a main target of the campaign.

“The Red Zone initiative is a great way for students to get involved on campus, as well as learn how to advocate for victims,” said senior psychology major and Real Education About College Health president Bianca Acri. “I believe there is a way to combat the statistic of sexual assault through increased prevention, education and accountability. Taking responsibility, knowing your surroundings and getting involved are great ways to make the campus a better place.”

Aside from the goal of keeping students safe and informed, the campaign works to help people understand sexual assault and the complications that come along with it. The initiative also provided safe places for students to report issues on campus.

“I dream of a world where people do not harm others and students empower each other to share no tolerance of perpetrating behavior,” said Stahley. “It is important to focus on potential victims, but we must focus on the perpetrators as well. It is always the victim’s choice to report it or not, however, I would like victims to know the resources they can go to whether or not they choose to report it.”

Acri feels the initiative will stay with students beyond the month of September because it brings a sense of togetherness to campus.

“To me, the Red Zone initiative is a campaign that enables students to empower one another to speak up about the threat against violence,” she said. “Through this campaign, students can share a common desire to spread love and peace on Rider’s campus. It’s a wonderful first step in the direction to decrease incidents of sexual assault.”

For students seeking more information on sexual assault and sexual assault prevention, please contact Susan Stahley at asap@rider.edu. 

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