Sexual assault is a pervasive issue on college campuses across the country, according to Tina Zuniga, program coordinator of the University of New Mexico’s Reclaim the Red campaign.
“At the University of New Mexico, we have several resources available to support survivors like the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, LGBTQ Resource Center, the Women’s Resource Center and SHAC,” Zuniga said.
The first six to nine weeks of the fall semester, labeled “The Red Zone,” are when college campuses experience the most sexual assault, said Gracie Schneiderman, president of Peers for Advocacy, Wellness and Safety.
“This campaign aims to bring awareness to The Red Zone, Zuniga said. More than 50 percent of campus sexual assaults occur Aug. through Nov.
“Our main goal is to reclaim this time of concern on college campuses and change it into one of action and awareness at UNM,” she said.
“Reclaiming the Red,” according to Schneiderman, means not being afraid to be on a college campus.
“That should be the time that you are enjoying yourself, that you’re getting re-acclimated to being in school or that you are learning to be a freshman in college to begin with,” she said.
The first six to nine weeks can be hard, because “you are entering a new surrounding for the most part and there is a whole new atmosphere. There is a lot more drinking and a lot more sexual assault happens when there is drinking involved,” Schneiderman said.
“This campaign came about as a creative way to reach students who may not know about the issue or the resources available, as well as to provide a platform for students to share their stance against campus sexual assault,” Zuniga said. “We want folks to know that at UNM, we protect the pack and that if this impacts you or someone you know, resources and support are available.”
Anna Grainge, a current member of PAWS, said that the Reclaim the Red campaign is important to students, because it directly relates to the entire student body.
“Being informed is the first step in making a change,” Grainge said. “The hope being, once more students are informed about the campaign and the reasoning for being an advocate of it, they too will want to join and make a difference in lowering those statistical numbers.”
Zuniga says the campaign has been successful this far, because “it allows for students to actively participate in creating a culture shift on campus.”
With help from the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, which is training UNM students on sexual misconduct prevention, this campaign provides “an additional platform for everyone — staff, faculty, student or community member, to share their voice on the — issue,” Zuniga said.
Sexual assault is a topic that should be discussed, Grainge said.
“I hope that students who have been affected by any nonconsensual sexual act realizes that they have help in many places around campus, and they are not alone,” she said.
Schneiderman said the group would love to get more participation from students.
“Start using the hashtag, start looking at information about what it means and how we can work to end sexual assault,” she said.
The campaign will be hosting an event to kick off Safety Week on Monday, Sept. 18 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Cornell Mall.
“We encourage people to stop by and share their support the #ReclaimTheRed,” Zuniga said.
Kelly Urvanejo is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Kelly_Urvanejo.