The Red Zone heightens risk of sexual assault


“Will I make new friends?” “How will I adjust to campus life?” “Will I get homesick?”

These are the type of questions new students ask during their first weeks on college campuses.

There’s another question which isn’t readily asked: “Will I be sexually assaulted?”

Sexual assault is any behavior that pressures or forces someone into sexual acts they do not want to do, according to the Eskenazi Health Center for Hope.

A term coined the “Red Zone” is the period of vulnerability for sexual assaults, beginning when freshmen first walk onto campus until Thanksgiving break.

More than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur during the Red Zone, according to the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study by The Department of Justice.

Unwanted sexual experiences during the fall semester were reported more frequently by first-year students rather than older students, a difference that diminished as students got older, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of American College Health.

Sarah Barnes Diaz, health education, outreach programs coordinator and victim advocate, said these statistics do not necessarily apply to Butler.

“I do think in general it’s an important time for us to be thinking about the role that we can all play to prevent sexual assault,” Diaz said.

Diaz said many risk factors come into play when considering why this time is especially vulnerable.

“I think we want to talk with every student about being mindful of alcohol consumption, if the student is choosing to drink,” Diaz said. “Being mindful of the neighborhoods around campus and being mindful about socializing with people for the first time who you don’t know. Those are all-important messages for first year students to hear.”

Andrew Ryan, assistant police chief of administration, agreed that understanding risk factors is extremely important.

“What we try to tell students is give yourself some time to know the community, get to know who you are hanging out with; don’t be in such a hurry to experience all these fun, wonderful events,” Ryan said.

“Its okay to go out and have new experiences and meet new people, but until you get to know the dynamic of the people you’ve been hanging out with, especially if you’re going to off campus parties,” he said. “Don’t be so willing to isolate yourself, don’t leave someone behind. You’ve got time to build that.”

Senior Natalie Pike said there have been instances when she felt very uneasy on campus.

“Unfortunately, that is the kind of world we live in,” she said. “And there really isn’t any excuse for it. So, yeah, I have been left in situations where I have felt uncomfortable, and I always try to look for a way out or a close friend to stick with.”

In discussing risk factors, Diaz said it is important for the University to balance stressing risk reduction strategies in a way that isn’t victim blaming.

“We never want to place blame on someone who has been a victim of sexual assault,” Diaz said. “We want to talk about how the onus is always on the perpetrator. The fault always falls on the person who is choosing to violate someone in that way.”

She said it is also important to stress that every student can do something to prevent sexual assault.

Through that idea, the C.A.R.E. model was developed.

The C.A.R.E. model, which stands for concern, assume responsibility, react, and evaluate and follow-up, is a bystander intervention model that encourages students to notice concerning behavior, to assume responsibility and to be the one to react to it.

Reacting can be volunteering to walk someone back or asking if someone is all right.

“Those simple actions are interrupting a potential situation that could be really devastating for a student,” Diaz said. “It is basically just a way to let perpetrators know ‘I see you. I am going to assume responsibility and do something.”

Pike said Butler should stress the “buddy system.”

“(Butler officials) need to stop telling people to stop partying and focus more on safe partying,” she said.

Diaz said one of the biggest efforts in place to help put emphasis on risk reduction is peer education.

This fall, all students in the Greek community will attend a speaker or program about relational and sexual misconduct followed by peer-led conversation in their individual chapters.

Diaz said she hopes students will be empowered to think about the role that they can play in their own living environments to help prevent sexual assault on Butler’s campus and to support victims.

Another event, hosted this upcoming fall, will be targeted at the rest of the student body to encourage safe environments for students.

Across campus there will be different pockets of conversation to inform students and help prevent sexual assault.

Diaz said the message targets women.

“To prevent the perpetration of the assault,” she said, “the message that students need to hear is don’t rape, don’t take advantage, make sure that you have enthusiastic consent, make sure at every point of desired intimacy with another student that you’re both on the same page and that you both want the same things.”

Pike agrees.

“I think they need to focus more on ‘not raping’ than to ‘not be raped,” she said. “It can happen to anyone no matter how safe they feel. All it takes is one person with hidden intentions.”

Ryan said there needs to be an additional conversation with men, which the university tried to do. He said the conversation needs to be about respect and being your own person.

“We together as men understand that we are being put in a box as predators,” he said. “Just because you know this guy and maybe he’s being a jerk and being aggressive with this other woman, you don’t have to idly stand by and say, ‘That’s OK, she can take care of herself.’ We owe it to other men to not allow that to happen, because if one man does something wrong, it makes us all look bad.”

Sexual assault survivors are encouraged to contact the victim advocate hotline, the counseling and consultation services at the Health and Recreation Complex, or health services.

Diaz said if a student comes to her, she has to notify Butler University Police Department of the date, location and type of crime. The name and specifics would not be shared if the student does not wish to share that information.

She can then help them make decisions about medical care or reporting the incident.

If a survivor wants to report an incident, he or she can contact the office of student affairs, BUPD, or La Veda Howell, the Title IX coordinator.

BUPD detective Bruce Allee said upon receiving a report of an alleged sexual assault from a campus security authority, the first priority is determining if the student wants BUPD involved or wishes to remain anonymous.

“The main goal is to have the survivor in as much of a position of control as they can be, in all their decisions,” Allee said. “We don’t want to be dragging a student into all the processes that they don’t want to happen.”

When an assaulted student does make direct contact with the university police, it is assumed they want the police involved. An investigation begins with assistance from a sexual assault detective from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Allee said.

Student affairs is notified if it is not already aware of the investigation.

The investigation stops and information is forwarded to Student Affairs and the Title IX coordinator if the student wants it to be handled as a conduct issue.

“One of the nice things is that the survivor has options,” Ryan said. “They can go through the university processes or they can go through the legal processes here through criminal charger, or they can do both.”

The student is then immediately put in touch with the Butler University victim advocate for advice and counseling.

Allee said he highly encourages the survivor to seek medical care at the Center of Hope at St. Vincent Hospital or Indiana University Health Methodist.

Transportation for the student is offered to and from the hospital.

“We want them to go there, if nothing else, for personal piece of mind—for medical care,” Allee said. “And if there is going to be a police investigation, (St. Vincent Hospital and Indiana University Health Methodist) are the best two places we know of for evidence collection and the forensic side of things.”

After the preliminary data is gathered, a detective conducts an interview with the survivor to identify the facts and determine if there is a crime scene that would need to be secured.

In the case there is a crime scene, it is secured and evidence is collected by the Marion County Forensics Agency. Suspects and witnesses are identified and interviewed as quickly as possible.

“If there is a probable cause for an outright arrest,” Allee said, “it will be made.”

If an outright arrest is not made, a prosecutor that specializes in sex offense investigations reviews the case. He or she then determines if criminal charges will be filed.

The survivor is in control throughout the entire process.

“It is our position to give them the options in how they want to pursue it,” Allee said. “If they want to pursue a police investigation, then it is our job to be as professional as possible and as thorough as possible.”

But the job isn’t always easy.

“It can be frustrating when a student doesn’t want to pursue a police investigation,” Allee said. “But we always want to make sure they get the counseling they need and the care they need. That is always our priority.”


Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the names of the following hospitals: Eskenaki Health Center for Hope, St. Vincent Hospital and Indiana University Health Methodist. Pike was further identified as senior Natalie Pike.