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  • Writer's pictureVariant Magazine

Let’s Talk About the Red Zone 

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

By Joey Earley, Executive Editor

As the fall semester starts, there’s much to look forward to: parties, seeing friends on campus, moving into dorms or new apartments, classes, new organizations, and for freshmen, starting a new journey in their lives. Even so, as we move into the semester, we should all be on alert for something very important. During the first semester, typically from August through November, there is a 50% increase in sexual assaults on college campuses. This is known as the Red Zone. The Red Zone occurs for many different reasons, as it coincides with parties celebrating back to school and many Greek organizations hold their “Rush” during that time. There’s an increase in alcohol usage during this time, and first-year students are particularly vulnerable as they don’t know campus as well—including offices and resources where they can report instances of sexual assault.

Every student, regardless of race, age, gender, etc. is at risk; however, first-year females are the most vulnerable. Most college students are sexually assaulted by a person they know. These incidents do happen with strangers, but it’s more likely that the survivor will know their assaulter. As this time approaches there are ways to be proactive about your sexual safety, ways to help when you see someone in an uncomfortable situation, and ways to support survivors of sexual violence.

First, let’s talk about how you can be proactive about your sexual safety. Try and give some thought to what your sexual boundaries may be ahead of time. This allows you to be able to say “no” more easily in the moment. Never be afraid to change your mind. It’s more than okay to think you’re interested in something or someone and then decide in the moments it’s not right, or you’re uninterested. Never feel guilty for changing your mind. There’s nothing to feel bad about and you have to make the decision that is best for you. Another thing to note: consent is SEXY! Verbal communication in regard to consent is always good. There’s absolutely no shame in checking in with your partner, asking things like “Is this okay?” “Does this feel good for you?” or even “Do you like when I do that?”

Communicating is a good way to keep things in the mood and still make sure that your partner and you are both okay with whatever is happening. Speaking of being okay with what’s happening… a good rule of thumb? No one knows you better than you. Trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling about something, oftentimes your intuition is right. If you feel unsure or unsafe, lean into those feelings instead of repressing them.

If you’re not the person actively in need of assistance, there are 3 ways you can help someone in an uncomfortable situation by being an active bystander. First, it’s important to establish there are some behaviors you may not recognize as “uncomfortable” or unsafe due to their normalization through rape culture. Rape culture is an environment in which rape or sexual assault is prevalent and normalized because of societal attitudes toward gender and sexuality. Behaviors to keep an eye out for are groping, coercion, harassment, etc.

The first way you can intervene is by being a distraction. Try interrupting the action/event with something that’s unrelated. An easy tactic is pretending you’re the person’s friend who’s been looking for them at the party/event. You can just walk up to them and say something along the lines of, “Omg, hey, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you everywhere, we wanna get out of here”, or even be more straightforward if you’re comfortable and add something like, “Who’s this? He/She/They can’t come with us back to the dorm/to get food/to the next party.” Another easy distraction is asking for directions, or asking for help finding something or someone. The second tactic is the direct approach. You can address the behavior in the moment. Name it, say it, and acknowledge why you’re not okay with it. You can directly ask the person in the situation, experiencing those behaviors, if they’re okay or if they need help. Some examples of this can be: Are you okay? Would you like me to stay with you? Is there someone I can call for you? The final way to intervene would be to delegate.

Ask someone to help you, someone who may be better suited to deal with these behaviors. This could be someone you know, someone who knows the person in the situation, or someone with more authority in the situation.

If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, here are some ways you can be supportive of them, along with e resources for Ohio University and some national resources. There is no “right” way for a person to heal from trauma. Be patient with your loved one and allow them to take the lead in the situation. Make sure to be supportive of the decisions they make (as long as they are not harming themselves or others). Remind them it’s not their fault, and listen to what they have to say. Before all else, make sure you set and maintain boundaries in order to take care of yourself and be able to offer your loved one support. Share resources with them, if and when you think someone else may be better suited to help them than you are. Resources that can be found on Ohio University’s campus can be found here. Some additional resources are the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-4673, The Nation Sexual Violence Resource Center, and RAINN’s national sexual assault hotline and online chat hotline.

So, while the beginning of the school year is always a fun and exciting time, take a moment to prepare yourself and think of those around you who may need support or help in times of need. We are always stronger together.

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