By Erica Edney MCASA Program Intern
Sexual assault prevention efforts are needed year-round on college campuses, but planning these ongoing programs can be daunting. It can be helpful to break up year-round prevention planning into smaller pieces. As the beginning of the fall semester approaches, parents and administrators may be increasingly concerned with planning for the so-called “Red Zone,” particularly for incoming first-year students. A “Red Zone” is a period of time when there is a spike in the incidence of sexual assault on a college campus. Every college has different red zones, and variables such as times when work load is low and times when binge drinking is high provide opportunities for perpetrators to target vulnerable or incapacitated victims. The start of the fall semester often encompasses this type of environment, providing for an increase in sexual assault, or a “Red Zone.”
MCASA’s College Consortium provides a forum for colleges and universities to discuss prevention and response strategies to fight college sexual assault. The College Consortium allows professionals from universities across Maryland to collaborate and share ideas on what worked, what didn’t, and new ideas to put in motion. At the most recent College Consortium Roundtable event, on June 22nd, 2016, MCASA brought together representatives from ten different colleges, as well as four of Maryland’s Rape Crisis and Recovery Centers, to engage in a strategic action planning process for prevention programs during the fall semester “Red Zone.” The five-step action planning process (presented in this Action Planning Workbook) is adapted from a process introduced by representatives of the American Public Health Association at an Action Planning Meeting that was held at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015. This meeting was convened as part of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and brought together teams representing 15 states selected through a nationally-competitive application process. MCASA attended this meeting as a member of the Maryland team, and we are pleased to be able to engage in similar strategic planning with Maryland’s colleges and universities through our College Consortium program.
The action planning process begins with a SWOT analysis, where participants critically evaluate their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats with regards to prevention programming at their institutions. Strategies can be formed by matching the schools strengths to optimize its opportunities or minimize threats, and by taking advantage of its opportunities to avoid threats and minimize weaknesses. Through the planning process, these strategies can be developed into goals, which can then be developed further into concrete strategies. While year-round prevention planning can seem like a large task, breaking planning down into smaller pieces and focusing on concrete, strategic goals can go a long way towards ensuring that colleges continue to fight sexual violence on campus all year—not just during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Universities looking to take the next step in sexual assault prevention can benefit from becoming a member of MCASA’s College Consortium. Members receive free training, access to MCASA materials, invitations to roundtable events, and more! Want to become a member? Click here for more information!