LTTE: How the Red Whistle Brigade educates and why

Guest Author

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. Letters to the Editor reflect the view of a member of the campus community and are submitted to the publication for approval.

To the Editor,

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Recently, Collegian columnist Shay Rego wrote an article asking the Red Whistle Brigade to expand our programming beyond consent-based education to include, what we term, risk reduction strategies. Risk reduction strategies are actions people can take to make themselves feel safer and potentially deter an assailant in dangerous situations.

As peer educators who value feedback in all forms, we as the Red Whistle Brigade want to first thank the author for expressing her concerns and helping us grow in our advocacy. Additionally, we want to raise awareness of how our programming is designed to address the specific needs of supporting survivors on a college campus, and we’d like to take this opportunity to share a bit of what we do and why. 

While national averages for acquaintance rape are around 85%, according to the National Institute of Justice, we see these numbers rise to about 97% on college campuses. This means that a majority of survivors on college campuses are assaulted by someone they know and trust.

This absolutely does not discount the very real experience of survivors of stranger rape. Because of these statistics, our office mainly focuses on what we call primary prevention. Primary prevention puts the responsibility on the potential perpetrator to stop an assault before it happens, rather than expecting the victim or survivor to constantly have to react and defend themselves during an assault.

Risk reduction may feel empowering for some folks, which is great! However, what we see in our roles as peer educators is that risk reduction strategies, such as learning self-defense, carrying weapons or watching drinks, can leave survivors with guilt or self-blame if these strategies fail them.

We understand that — while some people will still choose to commit terrible acts — providing people with education of how they can avoid causing inadvertent harm is an important step in combating sexual assault.”

We also witness far too many people placing blame on survivors when these strategies fail, rather than on the only people at fault, which are perpetrators.

Instead, we focus on consent education because we believe telling potential perpetrators not to assault someone has more of a broader systemic impact than telling survivors how they can protect themselves individually because it puts the responsibility to end interpersonal violence on the potential perpetrator instead of the victim.

There are many misconceptions as to what consent is and is not, and as a result, many Colorado State University students might be unclear as to what consent actually represents. However, there is no difference between someone who knowingly assaults someone and someone who does so unknowingly. Survivors are still impacted, and our office concentrates on supporting survivors above all else.

We understand that — while some people will still choose to commit terrible acts — providing people with education of how they can avoid causing inadvertent harm is an important step in combating sexual assault.

A magazine by the Red Whistle Brigade, published by Rose Bork. (Collegian file photo)

We want to close by again thanking Rego for her words and critique. While we strive to support all survivors on CSU’s campus, it is clear by Rego’s column that we have left some survivor’s voices out of the conversation.

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The Red Whistle Brigade is working to expand our education around the subject of stranger assault, as well as continuing to put on workshops, community events and presentations around the importance of primary prevention and consent. We invite and encourage Rego and all other CSU students to stop by our office and learn more about what we do (we are located in LSC 234 or Student Services 112), take our training class on gender-based violence in the U.S. (WS 397) or get involved with our center by attending our events.

We welcome all feedback that helps us put on quality educational programming and are grateful for the trust the CSU community puts in us to grow from our mistakes and do better.

Sincerely,

The Red Whistle Brigade

The Collegian’s opinion desk can be reached at letters@collegian.com. To submit a letter to the editor, please follow the guidelines at collegian.com