The first six weeks of freshman year are filled with awkward first classes and getting a little lost.
The first six weeks consist of meeting new people and huge house parties. The first six weeks of college are also when freshmen will be at the highest risk for sexual assault in their entire college career. We call this the Red Zone.
Susana Pelayo-Woodward, who is the director for the Office of Cultural Diversity and also oversees the Women’s Resource and Action Center, said that this year’s incoming freshmen are the third class to take the SafeHaven module on Everfi, a drug and sexual assault education module. They also attended a large group lecture on sexual assault, alcohol intervention and safety during Welcome Week.
Some freshmen noticed the emphasis on sexual assault and alcohol consumption, but that emphasis is there for a reason. One in five women and one in thirty-three men will be sexually assaulted during these first six weeks.
“The danger is alcohol consumption,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “For many students this is their first time consuming alcohol. Many don’t know their limits and then are unable to consent. If someone is intoxicated they cannot give you consent.”
The University of Minnesota system is currently undergoing a decision to change the definition of consent to “yes means yes” from “no means no.”
Pelayo-Woodward said that it is important to make sure that when going to parties a single person should always have another body and keep track of everyone that they went with.
“If you go to a party with five people, you should leave with five people,” Pelayo-Woodward said.
These are suggested tips on ways to stay safe when going to parties, but safety tips are not always the first thought for freshmen.
Alex Bourdeau, an 18 year-old freshman from Hudson, WI, said that she didn’t think about the possibility of sexual assault when she was leaving for college -- though she was given some helpful hints.
“Before I left for college all my friends and even my mom was like, ‘Pour your own drink, don’t leave your drink alone.'” Bourdeau said.
Pelayo-Woodward said that bystander intervention is another large key in being safe at parties. UMD practices "Got Your Back! UMD", a sexual assault awareness campaign as well as a training program for bystander intervention.
According to the Dean of Students, Dr. Lisa Erwin, UMD has already trained 3,000 students on bystander intervention.
Before I left for college all my friends and even my mom was like, ‘Pour your own drink, don’t leave your drink alone.' Alex Bourdeau, freshman.
“If you see something getting violent step in and intervene,” Peyalo-Woodward said. “Ask simple questions: ‘Hey what’s going on?’ ‘Do you know her?'"
Dore Colling, an 18 year-old freshman from Jordan, MN, said that if he sees something wrong at a party he will definitely intervene.
“I am the type of person who will stand up for anything that I see,” Colling said. “I am not going to let anybody I see, whether I know them or not, go into a situation that may be bad for them.”
If someone has been sexually assault there are multiple ways to handle the situation afterward.
Health Services on campus, Women’s Resource and Action Center as well as the UMDPD are able and available to help a victim of sexual assault. All of these resources work together to offer the best care and service to sexual assault victims.
A resource they use is PAVSA, the Program Aid for Victims of Sexual Assault. They provide free and accessible victim-centered programs. The UMDPD will work with victims to press criminal charges and further investigation if that is what they wish.
“Sexual assault can happen to anyone of any gender, boy, girl and LGBTQ,” Peyalo-Woodward said.
Bourdeau also said that now hearing about the Red Zone she will try harder to control and keep track of herself, as well as help her friends to keep track of themselves.
This awareness is the goal of UMD this year during the Red Zone.