Imagine a map of Seattle University and its surrounding neighborhoods. A red dot appears on the map. Another. And Another. Each dot represents an instance of sexual assault aimed at a member of our community.
Results from the Campus Climate Assessment recently revealed that 3 percent of respondents—75 people—experienced unwanted sexual contact at Seattle U. 25 percent of those cases occurred within the first term of school. It is well known that the first six weeks of college, commonly referred to as the red zone, is when there are more sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses than any other time during the school year.
“There are perhaps many risk factors for these assaults,” said associate director of Public Safety, Craig Birklid.
Research reveals that alcohol consumption, increased celebration at the beginning of the year and unfamiliar social environments all contribute to the high number of sexual assaults in the red zone.
The statistics regarding first term assaults were not surprising to Director of Wellness and Health Promotion, Ryan Hamachek.
However, he was surprised by the statstic that the fifth term is the second most common time for sexual assaults to occur—at 20.6 percent—when many students turn 21-years-old. Luckily, Wellness and Health Promotion adopted a national initiative last year called Green Dot to focus on educating sophomores, juniors and seniors.
“Green Dot is a program to help reduce the rates of gender and sexual violence on college campuses,” Hamachek said.
Now imagine that map again, but with green dots appearing. The green dot represents an act of intervention that prevents potential assaults from ever occurring, which is the concept behind the initiative.
Hamchek and Dr. Aimee Coonerty-Femiano are the two Green Dot faciliators on our campus. The program consists of a variety of elements, the most notable of which is an all-day bystander intervention training. The first training this academic year occurred last Saturday.
“We start the day talking broadly about what Green Dot is, how to communicate it to other people…how to recognize red dot behaviors, what are some precursors to violent behavior,” Hamachek said. “And then what we do, is offer a variety of solutions to those.”
Senior strategic communications major Bella Pham attended a training last spring quarter.
“I learned a lot about how to have those conversations with people because sometimes it’s awkward to approach,” Pham said. “It really equipped me with those kinds of skills.”
There are many events on campus that revolve around having a healthy discourse about sex topics, such as Health and Wellness Crew’s Sex LIFE, an annual life-sized Game of Life that deals with sex, relationships and consent. This year’s Sex Life will be on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Campion Ballroom.
While Sex LIFE focuses more on values around sex and topics such as STDs and STIs, it is another example of how students can discuss potentially sensitive subjects that are shrouded in misconception.
People’s knowledge about sex is “Really all over the place,” said junior HAWC member and nursing major Helena Laubach. “It depends on what sex ed people got in high school…what people are exposed to, what they’re aware of.”
When it comes to sex and related topics, Hamachek said that many students learn that trusting gut feelings is key. For instance, Green Dot would not encourage bystanders to put their safety at risk. If there is a potentially violent scenario, Green Dot encourages people to distance themselves from the situation before calling Public Safety for help.
Beyond trainings, the Green Dot message is shared through posters and pins meant to start conversations among people. Seattle U alum, Ellyn Rivers, designed posters for the program that very subtly conveys the message of Green Dot.
“These speak to the SU student and they speak to the mission of Green Dot; it’s not about these giant heroic acts,” Hamachek said. “It’s about the little things that we do on a regular basis that collectively work to shift culture, specifically here around sexual violence.”
Still, while Hamachek and Pham both know Seattle U is doing a lot to combat sexual violence, we are not doing enough.
The assessment revealed that 33 percent of sexual assault victims did nothing in response to unwanted sexual contact, citing feelings of embarrassment, fear and responsibility hindering them from seeking help. Moreover, the majority of the victims had a lack of awareness of how to seek help.
Pham spoke to this point, and mentioned that she has known many victims of sexual violence and that there is not much awareness about resources or next steps after incidents.
“Knowing who to talk to, to feel better—that’s definitely needed more on campus,” Pham said.
Hamachek said that while there are many resources on campus—such as Counseling and Psychological Services, details online and fliers in various offices—change begins with conversation.
“It is on everybody to be looking out for our community,” Hamachek said.
Melissa may be reached at [email protected]