San Diego college students start fall semester with reminder about dangers of sexual assault on campus

Research shows more than 50% of on-campus sexual assaults occur between the first day of school through Thanksgiving break

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School is back in session at college campuses like San Diego State University. For freshmen, it’s a time of new classes and new friends, but it’s also the start of what’s known as the "red zone."

Research shows more than 50% of on-campus sexual assaults occur between the first day of school through Thanksgiving break.

On campus Wednesday, students were clearly still getting settled while carrying moving boxes on campus. Only a few days into the school year and one of the pressing lessons was sexual assault awareness and prevention.

Freshman Jack D'Antonio is from Washington state.

“Coming here, even during orientation, it was super huge,” D’Antonio said.

Freshman or incoming transfer students are particularly at risk during the red zone

Freshman Madison Havlicek moved from Wisconsin to start college at SDSU.

“I think it’s because in your first couple of weeks, you’re kind of like, really vulnerable and nervous and scared about everything,” said Havlicek.

In the last few years, the NCAA updated its sexual violence policy, requiring all incoming, current and transfer college athletes to disclose any investigation, discipline or criminal convictions for sexual assault and other acts of violence. The schools are also required to confirm that information.

Havlicek said it’s clear SDSU is taking steps to address sexual assault.

“We also got introduced to resources and safety apps that we could have on campus if something like that were to happen. Or if we were to hear or encounter something like that,” said Havlicek.

In the past, SDSU has hired sexual assault survivor Brenda Tracy to speak to athletes about her nonprofit's messaging dedicated to ending sexual and interpersonal violence.

Tracy founded the nonprofit called Set the Expectation which focuses on prevention.

In a November 2022 interview with NBC 7, Tracy said, “It’s not enough to just not commit sexual violence. What are you doing to make communities safe for everybody?”

Only a few days into the semester and freshmen like Havlicek said things look to be going in the right direction. And she already takes steps to be cautious.

“Even just like walking at night, we always, me and my friends always take like pepper spray and all this other stuff just like in case. So we are definitely conscious about it,” said Havlicek.

Over the past year, SDSU was in the spotlight after several former football players were accused of sexual assault. The district attorney declined to file charges, citing not enough evidence to prosecute.

Other local universities including the University of San Diego and UC San Diego also provide awareness resources to new students.

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