RED ZONE: Annual march returns to battle rape culture, sexual violence

As a club at UAA that strives to raise awareness about reproductive justice, LGBTQ inclusion and other social matters, Generation Action hopes to spread the word regarding sexual violence and education with their second annual Take Back the Night march on Friday, Sept. 29.

“Take Back the Night is an initiative that Generation Action started at UAA last year and it’s kind of grown into something bigger,” said Moira Pyhala, president of Generation Action. “We’re partnering with the DVSA Coalition [for Change], which is Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, along with the Student Health and Counseling Center. But initially, it was a call to action to raise awareness for the high rates of sexual assault here in the State of Alaska and in turn, also a call to action for sexual education to be implemented into high schools.”

Take Back the Night is also part of UAA’s Safety Awareness Month and brings to light the concerns surrounding the “Red Zone.” Lasting for about four months from August to November, the Red Zone is a time period during which the most sexual assaults occur on college campuses.

Pyhala attributes a number of factors to this high rate of sexual violence, including the frequency of partying and lack of proper training.

“People come to the university, [there’s] an excessive amount of partying, and really a lack of education, especially if you come from a place that doesn’t offer comprehensive sexual education and you don’t know what the meaning of consent is prior to going into college,” Pyhala said.

Hannah Guzzi is a health promotion specialist with UAA’s Student Health and Counseling Center, and she says that the first-time experience of being on a college campus can contribute to the Red Zone.

“First-year students may be learning boundaries, or even experiencing a new level of independence. It takes a while for students to adjust to their new environment,” Guzzi said. “They are also meeting lots of different people with different backgrounds, experiences and cultural influences.”

Pyhala says that the discussion revolving around rape culture and sexual violence has been starting on campus, even within organizations and groups outside of Generation Action.

“We’re really happy to see this kind of dialogue open up on campus and there’s been a lot of different groups that have been wanting to get involved, including The Northern Light, the Social Work Coalition, the DVSA,” Pyhala said. “So we start to see this dialogue even among athletics, that people are really starting to open up to talk about sexual assault because that’s really the first step in preventing it.”

It is important for students to have access to resources and education in order to maintain a safe environment, Guzzi says. Organizations such as the Student Health and Counseling Center, Office of Equity and Compliance as well as the Center for Advocacy offer a variety of services.

“Our University provides a lot of wonderful programming as well as resources for not only sexual violence prevention but also for victims when an assault occurs. Our main goal continues to be striving to create a better and safer environment for students,” Guzzi said. “The University departments do a great job of collaborating with each other, and both community and student organizations to maximize our efforts for students.”

Along with the march, participants will have an opportunity to attend a public lecture given by Jackson Katz, who is known for his education and activism on gender violence prevention and other related issues. There will be a workshop with Katz and a poster-making session at the beginning of the event for the march.

Take Back the Night will run from 5 to 8 p.m., starting at the Alaska Airlines Center and ending at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium.