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The Red Zone

National Crime Victimization Survey

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The back-to-school season marks a new period in students’ lives, but it is also the beginning of the Red Zone – a six-week stretch where sexual assault is the most prevalent on college campuses.

Sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime to anyone. More than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur between August and November earning this period the name of Red Zone, according to the Centre County Women’s Resource Center.

Women ages 18 to 24 are the most at-risk group for sexual assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Although women are most often victimized, men are also susceptible to sexual assault.

A report by the National Institute of Justice found that 90 percent of college sexual assault victims know their assaulter. Furthermore, data from the Clery Act showed that 74 percent of all reported rapes across the country occurred in on-campus housing.

The University of South Alabama reported 15 rapes and two cases of fondling on campus and in residential facilities in 2016, according to USA’s 2017 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

Despite this, the BJS states that only 20-32 percent of college age women report sexual assault.

As long as people seek to hurt others, things like sexual assault will occur.

“The only way to prevent an assault is for the person not to commit it,” Associate Dean of Students & Title IX Coordinator Dr. Krista Harrell said. “The victim is never to blame.”

There is no to-do list for avoiding sexual assault, however it is important to always be clear about boundaries and consent.

“People understanding what consent is and feeling comfortable communicating that and receiving it,” Harrell said. “You need to make sure you have consent to move forward with any intimate act whether its a touch or kiss or intercourse. It’s important that students feel empowered communicating that clearly and in their intentions, limitations and boundaries.”

In the event of a sexual assault, the victim is ultimately in control of whether or not to report the assault as well as if they wish to reveal their assaulter’s identity.

“Bystander intervention is so important,” Harrell said. “Are you looking out for your friend? If you see or hear something that isn’t right, are you intervening if it’s safe to do so? I think that’s incredibly important… Bystander intervention, consent, and communication is what we focus on in our workshops like Girls Night Out, Bro Code and the Escalation Workshop.”

Even if a student doesn’t feel safe intervening directly, they can always anonymously report suspicious activity to the police.

“There’s no such thing as a charge for calling the police if you think something is going on,” Aull said. “I would rather students call and it not be something than for someone to not call at all. If it turns out to be nothing, that’s fine. I don’t care if it turns out to be nothing. A lot of calls turn out to be nothing and that’s fine.”

If a victim chooses to report the assault, they have around 72 hours to take a free sexual assault forensic exam at the nearest participating hospital. To avoid damaging evidence, rainn.org suggests holding off on bathing, showering, using the restroom, changing clothes, brushing hair or cleaning any areas exposed during the assault.

“It’s natural to want to go through these motions after a traumatic experience. If you have done any of these activities, you can still have an exam performed,” rainn.org stated. “In most cases, DNA evidence needs to be collected within 72 hours in order to be analyzed by a crime lab—but a sexual assault forensic exam can reveal other forms of evidence beyond this time frame that can be useful if you decide to report.”

USA Police Chief Zeke Aull spoke about the importance of going out with a group and coming back with the same group.

“Don’t get isolated. If you meet someone new, you can always connect with them the following day or whenever. It doesn’t have to be an all-in-one meet,” Aull said.

The LiveSafe app can be used on or off campus and offers resources such as sharing your location live with friends, family or even the police.

“LiveSafe comes in handy because there is a Tips feature, so you can go on there and send us a tip anonymously or not,” Aull said.

“We’re going to respond and check it out. We don’t know where or who it came from, we’re just responding to see what’s going on. If it’s nothing it’s fine. We don’t know who called, they don’t know who called. We just want the information.”

The University of South Alabama Police Department will monitor an area if a student feels unsafe, or in more serious situations, will offer an escort. Utilizing the LiveSafe app’s GPS also allows people virtually walk with each other and notify the police if anything comes up.

“If something’s going down and you press the button, we know where you’re located because of GPS,” Aull said. “If it’s not our jurisdiction, we will get the correct jurisdiction and get you the help that you need.”

USA also requires all new/incoming students to participate in a sexual assault prevention online
training course.

Southalabama.edu stated, “The University of South Alabama is committed to establishing and maintaining an environment where individuals are free from sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation (collectively ‘sexual misconduct’).”

While the Red Zone is the most prevalent time for sexual assault on campus, it can happen at any time. Staying together, being aware of one’s surroundings and reporting suspicious activity can help everyone stay safe while still having fun.

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