GUEST BLOG: Ending the “Red Zone” in PA Starts with Us

By: Delilah Rumburg, Chief Executive Officer, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape

May 24, 2016

The PA Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) is proud that our state is the first in the nation to launch a statewide It’s On Us Campaign. The campaign calls on every community member to take a personal and public pledge to help promote awareness and prevention of sexual violence on college campuses.

Specifically, the campaign that Governor Wolf launched in January seeks to:

    • Improve awareness, prevention, reporting, and response systems in schools, colleges and universities to better serve all students.
    • Remove/reduce barriers that prevent survivors from reporting and/or accessing vital resources by creating a more consistent, empowering reporting process for student survivors of gender based violence.
    • Demonstrate significant, proactive, and sustainable leadership to change campus culture by challenging Pennsylvania’s education leaders – including college and university presidents, superintendents – as well as students, teachers, faculty, staff, families, and communities to pledge to improve their institutions’ climate.
      The truth is there is no time to waste when it comes to this issue.

College can be a dangerous time for risk of sexual assault. Research suggests that approximately 25% of college women, 3% of college men and up to 35% of students who identify as LGBTQ will experience sexual assault during their undergraduate years (Krebs et al., 2016). Many campus activists even refer to the first few weeks of college as the “Red Zone”—a time when risk of violence skyrockets. Factors like substance use, fear of retaliation, and social pressures on campus have contributed to low reporting rates, and have allowed campus sexual assault crimes to be largely ignored by schools and communities (Sable et al., 2006).

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 700,000 undergraduate college students (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014). Our state ranks fourth in the country for having the highest number of colleges and universities (Pennsylvania State Data Center, 2016). The impact of campus sexual violence is of particular concern in the Commonwealth.

The Campus Climate Survey Validation Study (CCSVS) found that just the climate around sexual assault makes a difference. When students perceive that their school won’t tolerate sexual assault, those schools are shown to actually have fewer incidences of SA. What’s more, schools that make this issue a priority send the message that they are supportive of survivors. Students may feel more comfortable reporting or getting help after an assault.

Taking the It’s On Us Pledge is a first, valuable step that any person can take in ending this widespread issue. With only a minute of your time and an email address, you can be a part of the solution. If you are a part of a campus community, consider instituting your own campus-specific It’s On Us Campaign. Doing so can peak interest in learning more about prevention & getting students and administration involved. Your voice helps to make campus sexual assault a community-wide issue—as it should be. Sexual violence impacts every member of the community and has no place in an educational institution.

We love that Governor Wolf is leading the charge with the first statewide It’s On Us campaign. It sets great example for the Commonwealth and the nation. Join us in taking the pledge and eradicating campus sexual assault once and for all.

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