The Red Zone is the period of time between move-in and Thanksgiving break when more than half of sexual assaults on college campuses occur, and first-year students are especially vulnerable. By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications September 2, 2021
As the fall semester kicks off at Texas A&M University, officials are urging everyone in the Aggie community to use personal safety strategies and treat one another with respect as the period of time known as the “Red Zone” has commenced.
The Red Zone is the time period between move-in and Thanksgiving break when college students across the country are statistically most susceptible to sexual assault. More than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur during this period.
Texas A&M’s Assistant Vice President for the Office of Risk, Ethics and Compliance and Title IX officer Jennifer Smith said every student, regardless of age or gender, is at risk, and first-year female students are statistically the most vulnerable.
“As the fall semester begins each year, the campus is flooded with freshmen students who are eager to experience the college social scene for the first time,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, predators can exploit new students who may be unfamiliar with our community and may not have established friendships yet. Since this year’s sophomores may not have been on campus last fall due to COVID-19, we may have a larger-than-normal vulnerable population this year.”
Sexual violence is never the fault of the victim. Consent is vital to ensure your partner is willing to participate in sexual activities. Consent for any kind of sexual or intimate encounter should be clear, voluntary and ongoing. In some situations, it can be confusing to know whether or not you really have consent, Smith said.
“The most reliable way to know is to get a verbal ‘yes’ before interacting with someone else’s body in a sexual way,” she said, adding that a nonverbal ‘yes’ is also okay as long as it is clear.
When your partner mirrors or escalates your behavior, that is a “yes,” she said. “But if you get a lukewarm response or a confusing response, you need to immediately stop and get a verbal ‘yes’ before continuing. Check in with your partner at every step along the way and make sure that they want to engage in the same behaviors that you do.”
A person who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol is incapable of giving consent.
Through its Step In Stand Up (SISU) bystander intervention program, the university is providing tips to help everyone in the campus community stay safe.
Simple steps like these can help reduce the risk of being victimized:
- Use the buddy system
You and your buddy can agree that if either of you appears intoxicated, gets sick, passes out, or has trouble walking or breathing, the other buddy will make sure they get home safe. Call 911in case of emergency.
- Plan your trip
Know how you’re going to get to and from your destination. Are you going to designate a trustworthy and sober driver? Are you planning on using CARPOOL (the free, nonjudgmental, sober ride home)? Familiarizing yourself with the area you are going to and your options for getting home can be critical for staying safe.
- Avoid excessive use of drugs or alcohol
There is a strong correlation between intoxication and sexual violence. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that each year, 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. And 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
- Watch your drink
If you do choose to consume alcohol, don’t leave your drink unattended, even for an instant. A perpetrator might add an incapacitating chemical to a drink if you’re momentarily distracted. If your drink has an unusual taste or appearance (like a salty taste or an unexplained residue), throw it out. Watch the bartender make your drink and don’t let someone unknown to you bring you one. Drinks with lids or sports top are a good choice.
- Use Safety Technology
Research mobile apps that let you signal for help if you feel unsafe.
Step In Stand Up
This bystander intervention program asks every Aggie to “Step In” to prevent sexual violence and “Stand Up” to support survivors. SISU sponsors educational activities that promote awareness of sexual violence, the availability of campus resources and the options for reporting sexual misconduct to the university.
“The campaign also provides workshops and guest speakers throughout the year where faculty, staff, and students can learn to identify high-risk situations and obtain tools to intervene appropriately and safely in those situations,” Smith said, adding that she hopes as many campus members as possible become involved in SISU efforts.
“One of the best ways to get involved is to attend a presentation through the Office of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations (CREI) or Health Promotions,” she said. “These groups connect faculty, staff, and students with an extensive offering of classes – everything from healthy relationships to alcohol/drug education to self-defense classes.”
Additionally, Smith said, campus members can also learn about consent, sex education, and how to support a friend or colleague who has been impacted by sexual harassment or sexual violence.
“Unfortunately, victim blaming is common when sexual assault is discussed,” Smith said. “A victim can be blamed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, wearing provocative clothes, or drinking too much. We want to make sure that everyone understands that interacting with someone’s body in a sexual way without their consent is a choice made by the perpetrator – not the survivor.”
Aggie Core Values
Participating in prevention efforts is an excellent way to live out Texas A&M’s core values, said Smith, especially respect, loyalty, integrity and selfless service.
“We can embody the core values by treating everyone with respect, acting with integrity, showing loyalty to fellow Aggies, and selflessly serving as active bystanders and advocates for survivors,” she said. “It is up to each one of us to ensure our campus is a safe place to live, work and learn.”
Contact the Texas A&M Title IX office at 979-458-8407 or email@example.com