You are in the red zone

Madelyn Schorr

Warning: You are in the Red Zone. The Red Zone covers the time from when you walk on campus in August to when you leave campus for Thanksgiving break. It is called the Red Zone because this is when the majority of sexual assaults happen on college campuses. A 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study assembled by the U.S. Department of Justice reported more than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in the first four months of the school year. The findings from the study indicate, “that women who are victimized during college are most likely to be victimized early on in their college tenure.”

The University of West Virginia cites a few reasons for the increase of sexual assaults on campus during the Red Zone. Students are meeting new people and trying to fit in, and they may participate in certain activities for the first time. Students have less parental supervision and increased independence, which may lead to certain behaviors such as experimenting with alcohol or other drugs. Students may be new to the city and may be adjusting to a new environment and getting oriented. While sexual assaults unfortunately happen year-round, students are at a higher risk during their first few months on campus. We need to make large strides to ensure fewer (ideally zero) sexual assaults happen at The University of Alabama.

Raising awareness of the issue will only do so much. We need to go beyond the flash and pop of an awareness campaign or a press release supporting efforts to decrease the amounts of sexual assaults on campus. With 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted on campus and 1 in 16 men, it is statistically likely that more than 3,600 UA students every year are being sexually assaulted.

Expanding UA’s bystander intervention training to reach more students would help combat sexual assault on campus. It has been shown repeatedly that bystander intervention training can be a successful way of preventing sexual assault on campus. 

There are five things that we can do to be an active bystander and become more confortable speaking up in uncomfortable situations: trust, acknowledge, evaluate, assume and respond.

First and foremost you want to trust yourself when your brain is telling you “something is wrong” or “this might not be right.” It is natural to question the voice you hear inside your head and not want to intervene in something you don’t want to get involved in, but listening to that voice and instead of your fear is a key part of preventing an act of violence of according. 

The next step is to acknowledge your situation. Are you at a party? Are you walking back home with a group of friends? Once you’ve evaluated your situation you can go to the next step which is to evaluate the options you have. Is someone physically hurt? Do you and a friend need to intervene or create a distraction? Whatever it is make sure you stay calm and take time to evaluate the situation at hand. Then, one of the hardest steps is to assume responsibility and respond to what is going on. It may be hard to do because the more people you are with the less likely you will do something, as you hope someone else steps up and takes responsibility.

While bystander intervention training won’t end the Red Zone, it is a start. The more comfortable a person feels stepping in the more likely they will take action and diffuse the situation at hand. 

Madelyn Schorr is a senior majoring in anthropology and art. Her column runs biweekly on Tuesdays.