First-year student risk and prevention

Female first-year students are at the highest risk for sexual assault between the first day of school and Thanksgiving break. This period is sometimes called the "Red Zone" in sexual assault prevention work. Many are away from home for the first time and unaccustomed to making personal decisions without the support of family or trusted friends, and some may be experimenting with alcohol and sexual activity for the first time. For many, new friends and support systems may not yet be established, leaving them more alone than usual. Some may be targeted as vulnerable by upperclassmen, and maybe especially flattered by this attention.

Help female first-year students to understand these risks and to know how to protect themselves.

  • Travel in pairs or groups. When going to parties, develop a plan to make sure that all members of the group are watching out for each other's safety.
  • Make sure at least one member of the pair or group maintains sobriety; consider this person the "designated driver" for the evening.
  • Call on each other to intervene as a group in dangerous situations, either before or while they are occurring. For example, if a friend is invited to a party by people s/he doesn't know well, make sure s/he brings a friend. And if you observe a friend in a situation that feels risky, grab another friend and intervene. Remember, there is strength in numbers.
  • Be willing to take the risk of having your friend, and possibly others,  be angry at you for intervening in a situation you feel is dangerous. Ultimately, you may be choosing between coping with angry or embarrassed feelings or failing to prevent a friend from being assaulted.