'Red zone' a dangerous six weeks for incoming freshmen

Angie, Jordan, and Sandra admitted to freshman jitters as they walked toward Georgetown University's campus.

"The Trio," as they referred to their newly-formed peer group, arrived five weeks early as part of the school's summer scholar program.

Even though the 18-year-old students are bound by a curfew, they've already witnessed risky behavior on the part of their peers.

"College brings a whole new wave of freedom and people are taking advantage of that," said Jordan Smith.
Her new friend, Angie Williams, confessed to concern about alcohol abuse and sexual assaults.

"I have street smarts, but I'm more worried about my friends. I wish there were more self defense classes on campus," said Williams.

These freshmen are a handful of a half million students who will be required to finish an on-line program called AlcoholEdu, created by EverFi, a company headquartered in Georgetown on M Street.

Four-hundred universities use AlcoholEdu to educate incoming freshmen about the risks of abusing alcohol and how to create healthier campus communities. Some schools make the training mandatory before students step foot on campus so they are armed from the outset. Education experts typically refer to the first six weeks of college as "The Red Zone," the window of time when alcohol and sex abuse are most likely to happen.

"Student and parents now expect to be educated about alcohol abuse and sexual assault prevention," said Ryan Tritch, a development director at EverFi.

Upperclassmen at Georgetown say the prevention programs have come a long way in just a few years.

"If you don't know how to party, whom to trust, it's easier for someone to take advantage of that, especially during 'The Red Zone'," said Kat Kelley, a senior at Georgetown, a Take Back the Night organizer, and a sexual assault educator.

When Kat was a freshman, "All the sexual assault education we got was, 'Here's the Department of Public Safety'."

But with the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act, the SAFE Campus Act, and Title 9 lawsuits, universities are being forced to take pro-active steps to educate students about the root causes of abuse, the warning signs, and appropriate follow-up actions.

"There are a lot of ways you can be discriminated against by gender, and one is sexual assault," said Kelley.

According to EverFi, 25% of all female students will experience an assault in their four years of college.

More than 180 universities have signed up for EverFi's sexual assault prevention platform, Haven, which combines alarming statistics with empowerment messages.

"It has a strong emphasis on bystander intervention. You hold the power. Yes, 95% of you are not out there committing assults. But those same 95% have a role in preventing them," said EverFi's Tritch.

James Li, a recent graduate of Georgetown, was skeptical of the on-line training when he was a freshman.

"A lot of us were like, why are you wasting our time? But it was helpful. You do see the early signs, when to ask for help, when to tell someone to stop, to be a good friend, essentially," said Li.

Lindsay Fountain, a junior now, would like to re-visit the virtual training she had three years ago.

"A lot of guys here say it never happens but I know a lot of girls it's happened to," said Fountain.

In DC, American University, Gallaudet University, Georgetown University are participants in EverFi's on-line abuse prevention programs.

Fourteen Maryland schools are on-board, including University of Maryland (College Park, Baltimore County, Eastern Shore), Goucher College, Hood College, Loyola University, McDaniel College, Mount Saint Mary's University, Towson University, Washington College, Bowie State University, Frostburg State University, Salisbury University, and Montgomery College.

In Virginia, NOVA, Virginia Tech, College of William and Mary, Radford, Washington and Lee, Danville Community College, Virginia State University, and Norfolk State University use EverFi programs.

Click here to learn more about EverFi.