LUBBOCK, TX — Texas Tech students and others across the country are in the midst of what is known as the “Red Zone,” a time period between the start of the fall semester leading up to Thanksgiving break when there is a statistical jump in cases of sexual violence.
More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur during the Red Zone, according to the Journal of American College Health.
Callisto, a national, nonprofit organization committed to providing resources and tools for sexual violence prevention, said this year experts are using the term “Double Red Zone” because first and second-year students on most campuses are brand new to the in-person learning environment.
The assistant director for campus engagement at Callisto, Sarayfah Bolling, said there are several reasons why universities see an increase in sexual assaults between the months of August and November.
“Some folks come to [college] a lot of times without having had previous conversations, either in school or with parents, around sexual safety,” said Bolling. She acknowledged that there is nothing wrong with exploring sexuality, but there are people who will take advantage of first and second-year students’ desire to find community and have new experiences.
Another reason might be that perpetrators take advantage of new students’ lack of awareness when it comes to their alcohol and drug limits, Bolling said.
Amanda Stewart, the Executive Director and Director of Development at Callisto, is a survivor herself. She wanted to stress the importance of Callisto’s tools in preventing and protecting against acts of violence.
“I was sexually assaulted during the Red Zone in 2008 and went through the reporting process. [I] was told that because it was this individual’s first time, it was an isolated incident,” Stewart said, referring to when she was a college student.
She later learned through a whisper network that she was not the only person harmed by her perpetrator, which is partly why she works with Callisto today.
Repeat offenders commit 90% of campus assaults, offending on average six times during their college careers, which is why Callisto offers a third-party reporting system. The system connects survivors of the same perpetrators when institutions might otherwise fail to do so.
While the reporting system is only available to affiliate schools, Callisto offers an array of other resources for students seeking support from schools that have not yet onboarded, including a document for filling out the details of one’s assault with timestamps that one can later use if the student chooses to report the incident to their university or police.
Callisto has not yet been brought to any Texas university. Bolling said, “Obviously, we would love to onboard Texas Tech as an affiliate campus.”
Stewart added that Callisto could onboard a school in as little as three weeks, and noted the process is simple.
Bringing Callisto to your campus, Bolling said, is a matter of having just one campus liaison who is willing to spread the word to different groups at their university.
However, the organization found the cluster strategy — launching Callisto at several schools in one area — to be more affective than launching at a single school. Students in the TTU community interested in bringing Callisto to campus would benefit from also recruiting students from other institutions in Lubbock, like Lubbock Christian University.
“We try to be specific in onboarding campuses that are local to each other in order to catch those perpetrators who may be offending on one campus, and then their second offense is on another campus, and their third offense may be on another campus,” Stewart said, adding, “They’re all nearby.”
Stewart said perpetrators may slip through the cracks because they commit acts of sexual violence when visiting other schools for sporting events, Greek life, parties, or to spend time with friends. Callisto’s system was created so that perpetrators cannot slip through the cracks as easily.
Callisto said it has clusters in California, Indiana, Florida and New York. It has “one-off” campuses like the University of Oregon, University of Denver, and a few campuses in Idaho.
Callisto’s Positive Impacts (Facts from executive director of Callisto, Amanda Stewart)
- Of survivors who have entered into the Matching System, 15% matched with another victim of the same assailant.
- Survivors who visited Callisto’s website were six times more likely to report their assault, and three times more likely to seek out physical and mental health services (ex: therapy, STI testing, etc.).
- Callisto has a yearly average of 10-13% of the student body visiting the Callisto site, with the highest traffic in October, which coincides with the peak of the Red Zone.
- Between the beginning of the semester and Monday, Callisto has seen more than 8,500 individual, new visitors to its website. It is available to about 250,000 students — that is almost 3.5% of the student population that Callisto serves visiting in just the last eight weeks.
Texas Tech’s numbers versus national reports
According to Texas Tech’s 2021 Annual Public Safety Report, Texas Tech lists its enrollment as 44,036 total students. In 2019, 27 instances of rape and 14 instances of fondling were reported.
Stewart said that sexual assault is believed to be the most underreported crime in the country, meaning these numbers could be much higher if all instances were reported.
Of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only 310 will be reported, according to Rainn.
In 2019, students from Texas A&M University, as well as 32 other non-Texas schools, participated in the most comprehensive study on sexual assault and rape of college students in the U.S., with 108,221 undergraduate responses, and 73,531 graduate and professional responses.
- The breakdown by gender of undergraduate students who have been sexually assaulted is 1-in-4 female students, 1-in-15 male students, and 1-in-5 students of another gender.
Given those numbers, Callisto identified TTU’s reported incidents, and wondered why those numbers seem so low.
The graphic below includes reasons survivors on college campuses cited for not reporting, with fear of reprisal topping several other reasons.
How the coronavirus may affect Texas Tech’s rates of sexual violence
Rates of sexual violence increase during states of emergencies, according to a study by the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LaFASA) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).
The Coronavirus pandemic is regarded as a state of emergency in which we might see rates increase, Callisto said. So, not only are campuses in the midst of a Red Zone, but they are also coming out of a state of emergency, which means they are even more likely to see occurrences of sexual violence.
Callisto said whether you are a survivor or someone who wants to help a survivor, you can visit their website to find resources and more information on campus sexual violence.