Sexual assault “red zone” poses threat to college students

At many college campuses, thousands of new students are starting their freshman year. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), more than 50 percent of campus sexual assaults happen between August and November, a period known as the “red zone.”

11.2 percent of all students at both the graduate and undergraduate level experience sexual assault through violence or physical force, according to RAINN. This percentage is even higher among transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming (TGQN) college students. According to RAINN, 21 percent of TGQN students experience sexual assault, compared to 18 percent among non-TGQN females and four percent among non-TGQN males.

“People living with disabilities, LGBTQ and immigrant students, all of these people are disproportionately affected by sexual assault in schools,” said Morgan Dewey, communication director at End Rape on Campus (EROC). “… We need to recognize that the victimization rates are extremely high for people who are already facing systemic barriers.” 

EROC is a national, survivor led non-profit organization that works to end rape and sexual assaults on college campuses through providing support for survivors and their communities.

Campus Resources

Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services Office: (330) 672-8016 KSU Police Services: (330) 672-2212 Emergency: 911 University Health Services: (330) 672-2322 Psychological Services (Confidential Counseling): (330) 672-2487

“We are dedicated to ending sexual violence at school, specifically on college campuses, through survivor support, prevention through education and policy change,” Dewey said. “And for those three pillars dismantling rape culture and ending sexual violence.” 

EROC focuses more on creating a culture of change through education by creating programs that involve students by teaching them how to better communicate with each other.

“Instead of telling folks that they need to be safer by carrying a pepper spray or not drinking, that’s really not the problem, the problem is that people are choosing to hurt other people. People are choosing to assault,” Dewey said. “That culture change has not happened yet.”

Kent State’s campus police takes sexual assault cases seriously, and all cases are investigated to the extent that the victim or survivor wants, said Kent State Police Officer Tricia Knoles. If the victim does not want to prosecute, the police will get as much evidence to be on a holding status, Knoles said. 

“We don’t want to put the victim in any kind of unnecessary trauma that they don’t want to be in because they’ve already gone through a traumatic experience themselves,” she said.

The Center for Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services (SRVSS) helps students who are sexually assaulted and afraid to go to the police to report. The SRVSS office provides support and to students if they do want to prosecute or if they want to make a police report. The center also has advocates to assist survivors.

Knoles said educating incoming students about the risk of sexual assault is important and effective.

“I do a lot of safety presentations during Halloween time. I think I have close to 30 or 40 of them so far scheduled for October. And I go to FYE classes and I talk about party safety, walking in groups and those types of safety measures that you can take just to assure your safety,” she said.

One measure that has been taken to help prevent sexual assault is Green Dot, a program which launched at Kent State in 2014 and is a bystander approach for the prevention of personal violence. 

“The Green Dot program has actually been very well received,” Knoles said. “It’s called the Green Dot because if you look on a map that has an outbreak or something, they’re always red dots. And that’s a negative thing. The Green Dot means that the surrounding areas are where people have done something to help prevent someone from either being sexually assaulted or assaulted in general.”

Knoles also said it is important for students to be aware of what is going on around them.

“Any place can be a safe place,” Knoles said. “You just have to be aware of your surroundings. If it’s late in the evening and maybe you’ve had something to drink, walk with someone else. If you think you’re too intoxicated you can contact campus security from 8 p.m. till 4 a.m. and they can escort you to your residence hall.”

Contact Sara Al Harthi at [email protected]