Pulling Back the Curtain on the Red Zone

I’ve heard the phrase “The Red Zone” used to refer to the period of time between the beginning of the fall semester and Thanksgiving since I first began speaking on campuses and at conferences—but why is it called the Red Zone? Because there are more sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses during this time than at any other time during the school year. The 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study discovered that more than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November. As school starts students are meeting new people, trying to fit in, and exploring new boundaries. Students may be new to the city, adjusting to a new environment and getting acclimated… with less parental supervision and increased independence, students may begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

I’ve been speaking on college campuses and at National College Conferences since 2008. Every person I’ve met and worked with loves college students. Many of them start their days at 9 in the morning and stay on campus for activities until 9 or 10 at night, simply because it’s really rewarding work to help make a difference with young people. Of course people working at colleges care about students’ safety. I believe that 100%. But the majority of staff who work
on college campuses did NOT go into criminal justice, which makes the issue of sexual assault on campuses incredibly challenging. It’s not their area of expertise.

I firmly believe in the power of prevention and awareness. That’s why I am pulling back the curtain on “The Red Zone”. And the good news is, I see colleges doing more and more to raise awareness and address the issue.


Predators and Boundaries

There is a lot to navigate the first semester, and predators absolutely pick out new and nervous students. They are adept at testing boundaries and finding out information about who is easily manipulated. And just because a teen was popular and social in high school does not mean it will be easy for them in this new environment.

Just listen to these exact words from a predator’s transcript:

“I had her picked out. I worked on her. I picker her out in class. I invited her to this party, told her it was invite only, which they like. It makes them feel special. The minute she walked into the door, I was on her. I gave her this punch. See we make this home brew stuff, really powerful. We put all kinds of super sweet fruit juice so they can’t taste the alcohol. Then we pour tons of strong stuff in. They won’t know what hit them.”

Predators think differently than we do.

Often, predators do not think that what they are doing is wrong because they are using alcohol instead of guns or knives… and alcohol is socially acceptable.

But the Red Zone isn’t just about predators.

The Red Zone is also about 18-year-old kids with unprecedented freedom, many of whom are inexperienced with alcohol and drugs. Freshmen and transfer students are excited, nervous, and easily distracted.

Freshmen women are especially vulnerable to—and at increased risk for—sexual assault during this time. Even if you believe that your child is smart, awake and aware, YOU DON’T KNOW ALL THE OTHER STUDENTS!

What are you most concerned about as you prepare your child to head off to college? I’d love to be able to talk about those things with you. Please fill out this short, anonymous survey, and let’s work together to make a difference:

Safety Concerns for College-Bound Kids