Penn State Student Affairs collaborated with a student club Wednesday to host “Turning the Red Zone Green,” a sexual violence awareness event, at the HUB-Robeson Center on Penn State’s campus.
Representatives from the Gender Equality Center, Health Promotion and Wellness, Stand for State and the Student Health Active Recruitment and Empowerment Club greeted visitors from informational tables set up just inside the main entrance of the HUB.
Erin Farley, program coordinator at the Gender Equity Center and co-organizer of the event, said the first six weeks of the fall semester, or “the red zone,” is when sexual violence issues are the highest, and within that time period first-year students are the most vulnerable.
“We’re trying to spread awareness about this time period so we can start conversations about ways in which we as a community can look out for each other and prevent sexual assault,” Farley said.
To help achieve their goal, each organization distributed information packets that explained not only where those affected by sexual violence can get help, but how students and community members can volunteer to be a part of educational groups that are working to end sexual violence.
Claire Kelling, a doctoral candidate in statistics and a member of It’s On Us, which works nationwide to combat sexual violence, said universities are equipped with coping strategies to deal with issues, but she hopes events like the one held on Wednesday can put an emphasis on prevention.
“We’re trying to actually change the culture and not just focus on coping with the fact that sexual violence happens because I believe strongly that this doesn’t have to happen,” Kelling said.
Participants at the event were given a checklist and at each table a representative would add a mark denoting that the information was passed on. When the card was full of check marks, the participant proceeded to the final stop just outside of the rear entrance to the building.
That’s where Betsy VanNoy, Stand for State program director, traded darts for a full checklist. Participants used the darts to pop red balloons that was filled with green paint. Each balloon represented a potential sexual abuse crime, but now armed with knowledge, and a sharp object, participants were ready to stop the violence.
When Johannes Schleufer, a senior sociology major, traded his card for darts, there were 24 red balloons pinned to a carnival-like board. Three accurate throws later, there were splatters of green paint.
“I think one of the biggest problems in the U.S. culture is that people don’t speak out when they need to and that perpetuates deviant behavior,” Schleufer said. “If people are more attentive and get involved in something like this, then we can legitimately promote cultural change.”