The "Red Zone": What do I need to know?

Red Zone Photo Illustration

From rigorous college classes, to learning time management and joining extracurriculars, the first few weeks of college can be the most stressful, even without the startling idea that sexual assault could happen on Central Michigan University’s campus.  

According to President Bob Davies’ guest column at Central Michigan Life, "more than 50% of college sexual assaults occur during the first few weeks of the fall semester.” 

Davies wrote that even though this can affect every student of any age or gender, first-year female students are the most vulnerable and at risk. 

What do students know? 

When asking students around campus what they know about the "Red Zone," the majority of them were unaware what this was, but were aware of the idea of sexual assault on a college campus.

Alyssa Bur, a freshman studying communication sciences and disorders, said she found it alarming that she didn’t know what it was. 

"I definitely have talked about sexual assault, but not the Red Zone," an anonymous student said. "It makes me feel shocked and angry because if it's not talked about and that truly happens then it should be talked about, in my opinion." 

Despite not knowing what the “Red Zone” is, many students recalled the "No Zebras, No Excuses" production that is shown to incoming freshman and transfer students before classes start. 

The program serves to educate students by using examples of real-world situations like sexual assault, partner violence and harassment and stalking in short vignettes, according to its website.  

"I did ‘No Zebras, No Excuses' when I was a transfer student, and the marching band had us take time out of camp to go see it and then also took the time to talk about it after,” said Gabby Collick, a senior studying elementary education. “It's honestly really cool to see the effort CMU has towards (sexual assault education) because, as a transfer student, I have never seen that on the other college campus I was on.”

Students who have gone through training for resident assistant positions have been instructed to let residents know that sexual assault is more prevalent on a college campus and tell them to stay together, travel in groups and use the buddy system these first couple of weeks, said Arthur Pennington, a resident assistant at CMU. 

What can students do? 

Megan Varner, director of sexual aggression services, said there is a lot of power behind the “Red Zone." The most important thing to know is that anything students can do, no matter how small, can make a difference, she said. 

"If students can understand and operate as a one CMU moment and have this idea that I'm not going have this happen to anyone whether its my roommate, or someone I know personally, or if it's someone down the hall or at a party, or at a friends house or even if I don't know them, this isn't something we tolerate here,” Varner said. “Understanding the impact it can have on a person and kind of taking a stand in any way they can to make it clear that it's not an acceptable thing; I think that’s the point of the Red Zone.” 

Mary Martinez, executive director of the office of civil rights and institutional equity (OCRIE), agreed that it is crucially important to be a “good bystander” by speaking up if you see something. That is because the “Red Zone” is a really compact period, she said.

What resources are available?

Students are highly encouraged to reach out to get the help or support they need, whether they are a survivor or a supporter.

“We listen, we believe you and we will support you,” Davies said in his guest column. 

Martinez highlighted two programs that CMU supports: the “No Zebra’s, No Excuses” program and OCRIE’s online training that is distributed to all students and graduate students to remind them about bystander intervention and also how to report concerns. 

Varner’s office also houses the Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA), a program, she said, that is essential for students to have this confidential source or a listening ear to help weigh their options or get support. 

“We really try to meet folks where they are at and have a well-rounded circle of support,” Varner said. “Everything is confidential, which can be empowering for people (and) give them a sense of control with the decisions that they want to make, and we stand behind the decisions that they want to make.” 

To get support, please contact the following resources down below or a resource that will best support you. 

  • SAPA, 989-774-2255
  • CMU Counseling Center, 989-774-3381
  • OCRIE,  989-774-3253