Turning the ‘red zone’ green

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November 3, 2014

9:18 PM

The “red zone” on college campuses, which spans the period from orientation to Thanksgiving break, is marked by a higher risk of sexual assaults and sexual violence. Many colleges, in particular the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, promote a violence-free environment with programs about consent, bystander intervention and support for survivors of sexual assault.

As the various emails from the College of William and Mary’s administration have detailed, there has been a recent revamping of the College’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures. Proposed changes include clearly defining consent and incapacity, developing a specific investigation process and creating a board made up of students, faculty and staff.

Senior Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Care-Support Services Dr. Donna Haygood-Jackson is closely involved in editing the policy and procedures. A therapist by trade, Haygood-Jackson has experience working with sexual violence, trauma and recovery. Aware of the “red zone” and the dangers associated with this time period, she emphasized how sexual assault awareness needs to be a campus-wide objective.

“It is a community issue — one person can’t do the work. It takes all of us to be willing to do our part,” Haygood-Jackson said. “And all of those little parts add up to a huge amount.”

This concept of creating a board of students, faculty and staff was channeled into creating the Task Force on Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment. The Task Force is made up of 21 members and four subcommittees: campus climate, prevention and education, training for faculty and staff, and investigation and adjudication. Each subcommittee works to develop programs and administrative actions relative to its topic. To move forward in pursuing these efforts, the task force began climate assessment with the campus-wide survey. They will continue to compile data throughout the year in order to create programs and influence policy in a way that is specific to our campus.

The Task Force includes faculty from a wide range of departments. Associate professor of geology Rowan Lockwood joined the task force this past August and is a member of the campus climate subcommittee.

Lockwood pinpointed the controversial Sigma Chi email that surfaced last spring as her inspiration for joining the task force. After this incident and the Office of Civil Rights’ investigation, the Women’s Network — a coalition of female employees at the College — wrote a letter to College President Taylor Reveley detailing suggestions on how to address sexual assault and harassment issues evident in our community.

“The Sigma Chi email for me was a real wake-up call,” Lockwood said. “I hadn’t realized there were these attitudes at William and Mary and that they were being openly shared.”

Incidences of sexual assault and harassment are not limited to the student body, and Lockwood highlighted how education outreach to faculty, staff and students is crucial to de-stigmatizing these issues. The training for faculty and staff subcommittee is faced with generating a creative and effective way of reaching out to faculty and staff, and will be gathering data from peer institutions about ways to tackle this endeavor.

Although the task force has only had a few meetings so far, Lockwood is ready and eager for all of the preventative, educational and investigative measures to take root and impact change.

“I would love it, we would all love it, if we could be one of the first colleges to get a handle on this, to really bring some of that creativity, some of that originality that we brought when we let in women 100 years [ago] to bear to solve these problems,” Lockwood said. “I would really love to say William and Mary is at the forefront of this.”

From programs during freshman orientation to tabling about sexual education in the Sadler Center, to tackling issues associated with relationship violence, the last few months have been marked with many student efforts to combat the nature of the “red zone.”

“I would love it, we would all love it, if we could be one of the first colleges to get a handle on this, to really bring some of that creativity, some of that originality that we brought when we let in women 100 years [ago] to bear to solve these problems.”

HOPE runs the Red Flag Campaign, an annual event that tackles issues about dating violence, relationships and hook-up culture. This year, the campaign lasted one week and included a movie night, panel discussion and the opening of the Haven, a safe space for those impacted by sexual violence and harassment.

Jordan Taffet ’16, Vice President of HOPE’s Healthy Relationships branch, emphasized the necessity of increasing student awareness of relationship violence.

“College is where we discover who we are and who we’re going to be for the next 30, 40, 50 years, so teaching people how to have healthy relationships now will make sure they know how to continue to foster those relationships in the future,” Taffet said.

The Red Flag Campaign helps students identify indicators of unhealthy relationships and encourages them to be active bystanders. Being an active bystander involves not only being able to identify the red flags of an unhealthy relationship or dangerous situation, but also intervening in these types of situations or bringing in help from an official.

The topic of bystander intervention was also highly stressed during the Domestic Violence Awareness Panel held by the Alpha Chi Omega sorority this week.

After a brief presentation on types of relationship abuse, the floor opened up to a discussion between the audience and the panel. The panel was composed of health promotion specialist Eric Garrison, officer Erica Silva-Carl from the Williamsburg Police Department, Dr. Charles Anderson from the counseling center and Juanita Graham from the Avalon Center for Women and Children.

The audience’s questions addressed a range of topics relating to relationship violence, the definition of consent, the legal process associated with sexual assault cases, abuse through technology and ways in which to heal from emotional and physical distress.

In past years, Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy has focused solely on raising money for the Avalon Center for Women and Children. This year, however, after the creation of the philanthropy committee within the sorority, the focus has expanded to include raising awareness on campus.

Colleen Reynolds ’17, domestic violence awareness chair of the philanthropy committee, hoped that the event would be informative in both directions — that those who attended would learn from the specialists on the panel, and that those on the panel would learn about the questions circulating within the student body.

“A lot of people don’t understand what constitutes an unhealthy and/or [abusive] relationship, and it’s important to have open and honest conversations about these issues on campus,” she said.

The Office of Student Affairs will be accepting comments on the proposed changes to the sexual misconduct policy and procedures until Nov. 7, and the National Sexual Misconduct Campus Climate Survey will be open until Nov. 17.

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