Avoiding Campus Sexual Assault: Playing It Safe in "The Red Zone"
Why freshmen women need to pay special attention during their first semester
The months between the start of freshman year and Thanksgiving can be so potentially perilous to new female students that some college administrators have nicknamed that period “the Red Zone.”
In a 2015 survey of 530,000 male and female students by EverFi Inc., an education technology company, one in 30 female students reported they were sexually assaulted in the first four to six weeks on campus.
Related: Preventing Sexual Assault at College
Many of these assaults involve alcohol and are more likely to involve fraternity members than not, according to other research. One study also showed young women in sororities had a 74 percent higher chance of being raped, compared to women not in a sorority.
The vulnerability of female students during The Red Zone was underscored in recent research by Stephen Cranney, a PhD candidate in demography and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Using data on self-reported sexual assaults from 22 U.S. institutions in the online College Social Life Survey, Cranney found nearly all the assaults were confined to the freshman year.
“There’s a real recipe for disaster early in the freshman year,” says teen and child therapist Barbara Greenberg, PhD, of Fairfield County, Connecticut. “All the kids are desperate for connection, and they’re connecting with people they don’t know well. Doing this under the influence of alcohol means they can easily find themselves in a compromised situation. And it’s dangerous because no one is monitoring them anymore.”
“Kids want so terribly to be liked, and if they think someone wants to hook up with then, it makes them feel desirable,” Greenberg says. “They don’t know that it might end as a sexual assault. There’s this whole desire to fit in and please; the boys at a frat house give a young woman some attention and she’s not thinking oh, ‘I’m going to get assaulted,’ she’s thinking, ‘Oh I’m fitting in.’”
Greenberg says parents should warn girls (and boys) to stay away from alcoholic punches at frat parties, to hold on to their drink so no one can slip something in it and to come and leave with a buddy. “They may get mad, but weeks later, when it’s important, they’ll remember what you said.”
Suggest your daughter stick to dates in public places if she is with someone new. And, “Tell them, ‘Don’t overshare,’” Greenberg says. “It takes time to figure out who you can trust.”
Many fraternities have taken a stand against this kind of violence. San Diego State University, for example, offers a course called FratMANers, in which fraternity brothers learn what constitutes consent for sex and what is assault and then teach their peers. “It’s honestly the best class I’ve taken on this campus,” Wesley Episcopo, a member of SDSU’s popular Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, told a reporter from KPBS in San Diego in 2014. “It’s cool to just bond together and see other fraternity members on the campus who are concerned about this.”