Many times when we hear “The Red Zone,” we think of NFL football season. But in the advocacy world, the Red Zone is a more daunting use of terminology. It is the most dangerous time of the year for college campus sexual violence. In the months between August and November, around 50% of sexual violence incidents occur during this time frame.
With new classes, friends, and for some, a new home oftentimes means perpetrators target vulnerable and younger students as they adjust to college life. In campus culture, some students lack a strong support system, which can make individuals feel more susceptible to peer pressure. The first few months at school are critical for a college student’s development on campus. During the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates even called this “The Double Red Zone” period because of freshman and sophomore students’ being inhibited from starting college in a traditional way. Advocates warned that this time could lead to double the amount of sexual violence incidents reported.
But the months of August to November don’t mean it should be the only time people are concerned about sexual violence on college campuses. 1 in 4 undergraduate women say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching or penetration. Out of all college students, 13% are raped or sexually assaulted by physical force, violence, or incapacitation. The Red Zone and all educational programming must provide support, education, and awareness of behavior that is not tolerated on a college campus.
Additionally, one should not have to be a student-survivor to know how to access resources or accommodations for care. Consent education is also vital for all ages to learn and practice. Bystander intervention is effective in ending campus violence and rape culture across the board. It is a student’s right to be able to attend and achieve their education free from violence and thrive in a healthy and safe environment.
As a student, you can look to prevention organizations like End Rape on Campus’ Campus Accountability Tool, which allows students to learn about their college’s sexual assault investigation policies, prevention work, and support resources. Spreading the word about resources such as these can foster a sense of safety that otherwise would lead a survivor to possibly feel lost, hopeless, or depressed. In social settings, students can also have normal conversations about healthy romantic relationships and boundaries so that consent education is constantly being reinforced. Lastly, it is unclear when the Biden Administration’s Title IX policies will be implemented since its revisions under the Trump Administration. Under federal law, Title IX ensures everyone receives an education free from sex discrimination, including gender-based violence. Ending campus violence will take all of us — students, faculty, parents, administrators, and more. But with storytelling and advocacy, survivor’s stories become seen, and that is always the first step in creating a solution for change.