The Red Zone

What Your Soon-To-Be College Girl Must Know From Day One

It’s that time of year again — college will soon be back in session. University admins, campus counselors, and campus security officers are eager to welcome new arrivals … and, at the same time, feeling a bit uneasy.

Why? Because they know something that most don’t: the period between late August and Thanksgiving is when freshmen girls are at the highest risk for experiencing sexual assault.

Research conducted at colleges around the country is staggering: more than seventy percent of sexual assaults happen during the first few weeks of the first semester, with the majority of those assaults happening to first-year students. Not surprisingly, university professionals are painfully aware of this and unofficially refer to this dangerous period as the “Red Zone.”

Why are new students so much more prone to sexual assault during these first few weeks? Though a bit more complex than this, the simplest and most obvious answer is that girls who are on their own for the first time, in an unfamiliar environment, just haven’t had the opportunity to learn the ropes, yet.

Additionally, their trusted network of friends and family are no longer nearby, and many freshmen are unaware of the safety issues they may face (or even what an unsafe situation looks like). What’s more, the pressure to meet new people, find new friends, and fit in, often leads to unwise decisions.

Of course, at the heart of the issue is the campus predators themselves. They are fully aware of the vulnerabilities of freshmen and have learned to exploit these first few weeks on campus. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, but until a freshman begins to develop strong, trusted social circles and a feel for what might signal an unsafe situation, she will remain especially susceptible.

Luckily, your daughter doesn’t have to arrive at college unaware and unprepared. Simply being informed, in advance, of the risks of the “Red Zone” and taking a few basic precautions can reduce the chances of sexual assault.

Consider these suggestions for getting your daughter up to speed before she even steps foot on campus:

4 Suggestions To Keep Her Safe From The Start

1. Have a talk or two. Few steps are more essential than establishing an open dialogue with your daughter about the realities of sexual assault. The goal shouldn’t be to scare her; in fact, just the opposite. By making her aware of the “Red Zone,” acquaintance rape, and the additional risks associated with excessive drinking and date rape drugs, she’ll have the confidence to handle these situations when she’s out on her own. 

2. Encourage her to learn about safety services on campus. College campuses are better prepared than ever with services to help improve the safety of students. From Blue Light Phones to security escorts across campus, knowing what services her college offers and how to access them is always helpful. 

3. Remind her to have emergency numbers in her phone. In an emergency situation, speed can make all the difference. Having critical numbers pre-programmed into a cell phone’s speed dial — 911, campus police, and your number— makes it easy to get help fast if it’s ever needed. 

4. Have her attend a personal safety workshop before leaving for college. Helping your daughter prepare for this new phase of life is daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. Even a short course can go a long way toward educating your daughter on exactly what she’ll need to know during her first weeks of school.

Going off to college is an incredibly exciting time, and it doesn’t have to be scary or dangerous. Helping your daughter educate herself on these safety habits will allow her to build confidence, make smart decisions, and keep herself safe.