The Red Zone

The Red Zone is the period of time from the beginning of fall semester to Thanksgiving break when sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses spike. Although every student, regardless of age or gender, is at risk, freshman females are the most vulnerable.

  • More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November.*

Most college students who are sexually assaulted are victimized by someone they know. Although stranger rapes occur, it is more likely that a person will be assaulted by an acquaintance. Freshman females are targeted further as they are new to the area, have less parental supervision, and may participate in new activities such as alcohol and drug use as they try to meet new people.

  • College women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than robbed.**

Fortunately, there has been a big push to combat sexual assaults on college campuses. This push largely comes from Title IX, a federal law that guarantees every student access to the benefits of education free from sexual harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking. The law required schools to address complaints of sexual violence or risk losing federal funding. To read more about your rights entitled by this law, check out our blog post here.

In addition, campuses across the nation also hold many sexual assault awareness seminars during orientation and during new student’s first weeks. During such seminars, students are taught the importance of consent. Consent is a mutual agreement for something to happen, and this is especially important during sexual relations. Consent cannot be given while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Also in such seminars, students are taught things they can do to help victims of sexual assault and how to be a better friend and bystander.

What You Can Do To Be
An Active Bystander ***

The key to keeping your friends safe is learning how to intervene in a way that fits the situation and your comfort level. Having this knowledge on hand can give you the confidence to step in when something isn’t right. Stepping in can make all the difference, but it should never put your own safety at risk.

Create a distraction

Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.

  • Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving,” or “This party is lame. Let’s try somewhere else.”
  • Bring out fresh food or drinks and offer them to everyone at the party, including the people you are concerned about.
  • Start an activity that draws other people in, like a game, a debate, or a dance party.

Ask directly

Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble.

  • Ask questions like “Who did you come here with?” or “Would you like me to stay with you?

Refer to an authority

Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation, like an RA or security guard.

  • Talk to a security guard, bartender, or another employee about your concerns. It’s in their best interest to ensure that their patrons are safe, and they will usually be willing to step in.
  • Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you are concerned for someone else’s safety.

Enlist others

It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you.

  • Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers.
  • Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom.
  • Enlist the friend of the person you’re concerned about. “Your friend looks like they’ve had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?”

*Campus Sexual Assault Study, 2007; Matthew Kimble, Andrada Neacsiu, et. Al, Risk of Unwanted Sex for College Women: Evidence for a Red Zone, Journal of American College Health (2008).

** David Cantor, Bonnie Fisher, Susan Chibnall, Reanna Townsend, et. al. Association of American Universities (AAU), Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (September 21, 2015).

*** Taken from RAINN website