Get Involved in Prevention

Interrupting the Red Zone: How we keep each other safe

Students across the country are talking about the Red Zone. Click on the content below to learn what it is, how it occurs, and what you can do about it.

TRIGGER WARNING:  This resource contains information about sexual violence, prevalence rates, and tactics used to perpetrate harm.

What is the "red zone"?

The period of time in the first four months of college - when more than half of sexual assaults on college campuses occur, and first-year students are especially vulnerable. 1

 1Matthew Kimble PhD, Andrada D. Neacsiu BA, William F. Flack PhD & Jessica Horner BA (2008) Risk of Unwanted Sex for College Women: Evidence for a Red Zone, Journal of American College Health, 57:3, 331-338, DOI: 10.3200/JACH.57.3.331-338.  Retrieved from:

Who is impacted?

Research at Brown suggests that people who perpetrate harm are more likely to target cisgender women , trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary students.

While a person of any identity can cause or experience harm, most of the people who perpetrate sexual violence are cisgender men and is usually someone the survivor knows. This is due to gendered expectations (like hyper masculinity) that affect everyone, including men, and we are all responsible for interrupting them, as well as other systems of violence and oppression, whenever possible.2

2Executive Summary: 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct for Brown University.  Retrieved from:

The Myth of Stranger Danger

8 out of 10 incidents of sexual violence are committed by someone the person knows, not by a stranger.3

 3Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2010-2016 (2017).

Sexual Violence IS preventable.

We can prevent violence by respecting consent at all times and modeling respectful  behaviors.  We can also prevent harm by intervening, not only in moments of high risk, but in everyday moments of stereotypes that can lead to more explicit violence. Use one of the 5 D's below to intervene and keep our communities safe. 

Take an indirect approach. Draw attention to something else. Example: “Hey, isn’t that the______________?”
Confront the situation. Be firm, clear, and concise. Example: “They’ve made it clear they’re uncomfortable. Please leave them alone.”
Seek help from another person. Example: “I saw someone harassing _____. Can you help?
Document the incident. Keep a safe distance, record date and time, who is present, film or screenshot incident and/or landmarks.**
Check in with the person being harmed later. Use the support skills we will discuss in our next section on supporting survivors.
* If It’s safe to do so. 
** Always ask the person who was harmed what they want you to do with any documentation. Never share it without their consent.


How can we hold our friends accountable?

We want safer communities, but it can be hard to know when to act or what to say to our friends, roommates, group members, teammates, etc when we notice them engaging in harmful behaviors. Read on for important tips.

First, it can be helpful to know that sexual violence is not always premeditated.  People may take advantage of opportunities that arise in the environment, so it is important to interrupt situations that create vulnerability on a regular basis to create safer spaces.  There are harmful social norms-about power, gender, desirability, entitlement- that contribute to a lack of learning about consent and how to treat others. THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE for violent behavior and does not lessen the impact on the person who was harmed.  It does provide an opportunity for us, for you,  to talk to others about changing their behavior,  before harm happens. 

What are the red flags?

Read below to learn some of the red flags for concerning behavior and then keep reading for strategies on how to talk about it.

  • Targeting vulnerable people: Seeking out isolated students who haven't formed a social group yet, younger students, those who are unfamiliar with the campus and its resources, who may be experiencing party or hookup culture for the first time, students who experience oppression of all kinds.  
  • Using deception and entitlement: Lying, misrepresenting, manipulating, demanding secrecy, and/or expressing entitlement to sex.  This can occur within an ongoing relationship, not in just one interaction, such as when people are communicating on dating apps, texting, are acquaintances, friends, or in romantic relationships.  This behavior is not always present at the beginning and can escalate over time.  
  • Using inappropriate power dynamics: Seeking situations or relationships where they have more power due to age, seniority, experience, connections, wealth, access to desired spaces, etc. and using this to gain a person's trust, fill a need, isolate them from their supports, or other abuses of power.
  • Targeting the use of drugs/alcohol: Pushing a person to become incapacitated or targeting someone who is already incapacitated, because they are less likely to resist any force or coercion. Someone may also use drugs or alcohol themselves to lower their own inhibitions, making it easier for them to engage in aggressive acts of harm.
  • Using tactics to maintain control: Trying to make someone feel guilty, fearful, or ashamed to get what they want.  Ex. saying they can’t sleep until they get what they want, or threatening to share sensitive pictures.
  • Non-consensual behavior and boundary violations: Someone disregards consent or disrespects boundaries, even in non-sexual situations.  Remember, everyday moments create the “foundation” for more severe incidents.  You can help create less social acceptance of harmful norms by talking to people about any non-consensual behavior they are doing.

How can we talk to people about changing their behavior?

Since this kind of direct intervention can be really difficult, here are six strategies to share with you for talking to someone about their actions in an effective way.  
‘Bring it home’: Personalizing the issues and its effects so that it’s easier for the  other parties to understand and recognize as harmful; Prevents someone from distancing themselves from the impact of their actions or dehumanizing others.  EXAMPLES: “I hope no one ever talks about you like that.” 
“What if someone treated your best friend that way?” 
I-statements: Focusing on feelings rather than placing blame or criticizing  others; state your own feelings name the behavior, state ways the other parties can  respond; 
EXAMPLES: “ I feel _____ when you _______. Please don’t do that any more.” 
“It makes me uncomfortable when you______________.” 
Humor: Only do this if you feel comfortable with it. Humor can cut tension in a  rough situation, but it is important not to trivialize the bad behavior or mock your  own reaction to it.
Call IN vs. call out: Use your position as a community member to hold them  accountable and ask the hard questions. Show that you care and want them  to change or want the issue to change. Emphasize that you come from a good  place and that you hope they’ll listen to you; 
EXAMPLE: “Hey, as your friend, I’ve got to tell you that your actions last night were not representative of this community. How can you make things right?” 
Make a plan: Identify concerning behaviors, communicate clear expectations about what needs to change, and figure out what steps can be taken to get there; EXAMPLE: “These are examples of what I mean about being disrespectful  (give specific examples). In the future, what I need from you is ________.  Let’s plan to check in every two weeks and talk about how it’s going.” 
Collaborate when you can: Work with the person or community to plan for change. Work with someone’s values to motivate action. Collaboration takes the burden off of individuals to address harm in our communities. Groups of people tend to have more leverage. It is important to think about who in a community might have more leverage from the individual causing harm.

Since each situation is different, and every one of us is different, we may choose to use some strategies over others. Consider your safety, center the agency of the person who was harmed, and decide the strategy (or multiple strategies) that feels right for you.

Supporting a person who has been harmed

We want to prevent harm from happening AND it is important for us to know how to support those who have been hurt.  Supporting people who have experienced sexual, relationship, or gender-based violence is also a crucial part of harm prevention. Survivors are most likely to tell a peer first (before a professional) and how a support person responds can have a significant impact on someone’s healing process. Click this link to learn how to support someone who has been harmed.  If you or someone you know has been harmed and needs help click here to learn about your support options or call 401-863-6000 for immediate 24/7 confidential crisis response.

So what are green flags?

Green flags are the signs of healthy & fulfilling ways to relate to others. Treating each other well is a crucial part of how we can have fulfilling experiences, model healthy behavior, and keep each other safe.  Examples include:

  • Aligning words and behaviors
  • Willing to admit and apologize when wrong
  • Encouraging connections with others
  • Speaking with respect
  • Engages with empathy 
  • Communicating clearly and honestly
  • Setting, honoring and respecting boundaries
  • Acting in ways that help people feel safe, heard, and appreciated
  • Showing up authentically and with vulnerability
  • Intentional in their actions, especially about resolving conflict
  • Practicing self-care

Let's create communities full of green flags at Brown.

Getting involved

For more information about how you can get involved in preventing sexual, relationship, and gender-based harm at Brown, click here or click the Get Involved tab at the bottom of this page.

  • 401.863-2794
    Health Promotion
  • 401.863-3953
    Health Services
  • 401.863-6000
    Sexual Assault Response Line
  • 401.863-4111
  • 401.863-3476
    Counseling & Psychological Services
  • 401.863-4111