College freshmen at higher risk for sexual assault during first months of school year

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As colleges across the state welcome students back to campus, studies have shown freshman women are more likely to be sexually assaulted in the first part of the school year, sometimes called the “red zone.”

Higher education professionals said if you haven’t had that critical talk yet with your child, it isn’t too late.

“Based off national data trends, August, September, October, November, tends to be the highest for most college campuses… when we see an influx of sexual assault cases,” said Shawnte Elbert, Director of the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion at IUPUI.

Elbert said freshman can be especially vulnerable in the first part of the year because they have new-found freedom. They also may be more willing to experiment with drugs or alcohol, often not realizing how common acquaintance rape can be in a college setting.

“It matches when you have an influx of new students to campus who don’t know the area. They’re trying to make friends. They may not know about campus resources,” she said.

Elbert said IUPUI’s freshmen are first told about resources at orientation. Though the campus isn’t largely residential, that is changing. IUPUI just opened up a new 700-bed residence hall this fall and will house close to 3,000 students campus-wide.

“They want to make friends, and sometimes, the easiest way for some students is, they want to include alcohol and drugs,” she said.

Elbert said parents should ask their children within the first few weeks of school if they know how to get and seek help on campus, if they have somebody who they can trust, and if they’ve learned more about some of their new friends.

“Put yourself around good people and right now I’m around people who if I have a problem, I can go to,” said Briana Pecina.

Freshmen we talked with said they’re taking steps to ensure their safety.

“We’re from a small town so going to Indy is a completely different change,” said Amber Remmel, “You always want to walk with a buddy.

Reporting and public awareness campaigns exist at Butler University, Purdue University, and IU’s Bloomington campus. Click on the highlighted portions to be directed to their pages.

Indiana does have a Lifeline Law, established in 2012, which offers some immunity for underage drinkers who comply with police when calling for help in an emergency.