The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
By James Carter, Staff Writer • June 20, 2024
Opinion | NHL needs to bring specialty jerseys back
By Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist • June 19, 2024
Opinion | Hold your elected officials morally responsible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 18, 2024

Students discuss navigating the ‘Red Zone’ on college campuses

The+Cathedral+of+Learning.
Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer
The Cathedral of Learning.

The Red Zone is the time between the start of the school year and Thanksgiving in which there is an increase in sexual assault cases on college campuses. For sophomore political science and psychology major Maddie Mccray, this means taking extra precautions.

“I worry because I live pretty far off campus,” Mccray said. “I bought a door bar and an alarmed door stop last week. I never walk home alone at night and go to frats with a ‘reputation’ and probably a gazillion other things I can’t think of right now.”

Students often look to organizations on campus with valuable resources to stay safe during the Red Zone and year round. One of these is a startup founded by Kate Gallo, a junior business analytics and business information systems major, called Underdog, which has informational resources and hosts various training sessions for students.

“Every single woman that I know and a lot of guys on campus as well have talked about feeling like they’re in emotional and physical danger and a lot more frequently than I think anyone in Pitt administration is aware of at the moment,” Gallo said. “I just realized that it’s a lot more prevalent in both men and women to feel in danger physically and emotionally freshman year and wanted to help.” 

On an administrative level, the University has added more jobs to assist in sexual assault prevention. Carrie Benson, director of sexual violence, education, and prevention, said Pitt added new staff members to the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention & Education, as well as three part-time prevention educators. She added that the SAFE peer education program expanded from 17 peer educators to 25. 

Kya Walsh, a sophomore biology major and board member of Take Back The Night, a student group on campus that empowers survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, said there is an increase in police presence but sexual assault “can’t be completely avoided.” Take Back The Night has informational resources and hosts advocacy events. 

“I think we need to make it easier for victims to feel safe enough to report when something happens to them,” Walsh said. “One of the biggest reasons students don’t report a sexual assault is because they feel ‘shame,’ or especially with in regards to the red zone, students think that they’ll get in trouble for drinking if they report their sexual assault.” 

Gallo believes that the additional security cameras added in the Cathedral don’t help prevent sexual assault.

“I know that after the sexual assault in the Cathedral happened last year, they were thinking about adding a lot more like police officers on campus but ended up being just security cameras instead,” Gallo said. “Security cameras only help after something happens. So it doesn’t stop anything. A lot more preventive measures are needed. And I think the only way to do that is generalized training for students.”

This year, the University is collaborating more with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. Benson said community members meet with PAAR advocates between 9:30am and 4pm every Wednesday on floor 18 of the Cathedral of Learning  

“I think there’s been a change this semester and this summer in how the Title IX office is preparing students,” Gallo said. “I don’t think the immediate response to things that happened has changed. Long-term, I would love everyone to be trained in self defense to some capacity, both emotional and physical.”

The University is also adding more training and resources for first year students. Benson said Pitt is partnering with First-Year Program classes to provide additional prevention programming in classes. He added that this year SAFE will host 36 interactive, bystander intervention workshops for about 900 first-year students. 

Gallo said being aware of your surroundings and remaining vigilant is important to staying safe, especially as a college student during times like the Red Zone. 

“It’s always a balance of having fun and being vigilant,” Gallo said “I’m a college student too. I love to go out. I love to be social. No one’s going to be perfect at always being aware of what’s going on. But again, just try to do small things like practice situational awareness, or go to a self defense class at some point.” 

Mccray said sexual assault is “inherent” and is a broader societal problem that can’t be entirely fixed or eradicated by University officials, but more should be done to support victims when they make allegations.

“[The University] can obviously do better with believing victims, like everywhere else on the planet,” Mccray said. “I appreciate how they try to spread awareness, but it’s way too easy to make allegations disappear at a place that is concerned about image and its prestigious reputation.”

 

A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the SAFE  interactive, bystander intervention workshops as a “worship.” The article has been changed to correct this error. The Pitt News regrets this error. 

About the Contributor
Adrienne Cahillane, Senior Staff Writer