For a lot of guys, but mostly football fans, any reference to the “red zone” has an automatic association with the area between the 20 yard line and the goal of the defensive team (try it- just ask any guy what the red zone is and they’ll probably reference football). But to those in tune with campus safety issues, the term Red Zone may prompt them to refer to the first 6-8 weeks of school when campus sexual assault incidents are at their highest, especially for new students.
Just a few weeks ago, a local celebrity came to speak to the Resident Assistant (RA) staff about her college experience and shared a story that was not only unexpected, but ended with a room of 100 student leaders teary eyed and in a state of shock. I asked her to speak about motivation and the importance of the RA job, which she did, but I wasn’t expecting her to do it in such a way that would stop me in my tracks as I hustled to prepare for the next portion of the program. Her story was one of a horrible case of sexual assault in which a group of athletes targeted her and put a drug in her drink while she was at a campus party. From there she couldn’t remember much, except that the next day she woke up in their residence hall and realized that she had been sexually assaulted. Now before you read any further, let me say that this is not a story to demonize athletes, but in this case it happened to involve a few. This is however, a story that will hopefully prevent such instances from happening again. As the speaker continued her story, all I could think about was what if that was my sister, or my mother, or my 5 year old niece?!? Even worse…what if it were me?? My initial sympathy for the speaker turned into anger, which eventually turned into motivation to make more guys like me aware of the Red Zone.
I did some research and found that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted during their college years, and that 1 in 8 men are as well! Yep that’s right 1 in 8 MEN (just in case you thought it couldn’t happen to you). With these figures, the chances of you knowing someone that has been or could potentially be sexually assaulted are pretty high.
So what is it about the first month of school that causes these high incidents of sexual assault to occur?
Well many first year students have never lived away from the watchful eye of their parents and so they tend to engage in freedoms that they were never allotted when at home. Freedoms like staying out later at night, going to parties, and getting intoxicated. In addition to enjoying these new found freedoms, with so many opportunities to meet new people, lots of students tend to let their guard down and are more vulnerable to peer pressure to drink and do drugs.
These behaviors seem pretty normal for most college students right? So how do so many become victims?
In most cases, new students always seem to forget about personal SAFETY, especially in social settings. Awareness is one of the biggest ways to prevent sexual assault and that’s where men come in. In most of these cases a guy is the perpetrator and in most of these cases the assault could have been prevented. Ever heard of the bystander effect? If not, you’ll learn about in your Social Psychology class. It refers to cases where individuals do not offer any means of help in a situation when others are present. Here’s a scenario: you’re at a party when a female student has had too much to drink and a guy clearly states his plan to take advantage (Don’t be that guy). Some guys might encourage such behavior; those that don’t agree may just stand there and judge. What about you? What would you do? Would you intervene? Take the same scenario and replace the phrase “a female student” with, “your little sister” or “your best friend”, does that change your answer?
As men in the University community there are a few ways we can help lower the numbers of sexual assault during the Red Zone:
- Respect yourself and others
- Recommend walking to and from places in groups of 3 or more
- Take a stand against verbal sexual abuse/jokes
- Intervene (Speak UP) should you see the potential for a situation that could go awry, if you don’t feel comfortable find someone who does.
Seems pretty simple right? Outside of the obvious- that sexual assault is just plain wrong- as someone’s brother, father, son, or friend, men should care about the Red Zone because with statistics like 1 in 4 floating around, chances are we can prevent this heinous act from happening to someone we know. Now that you’re aware, share the Red Zone with a friend.
Residence Life Coordinator
University of Louisville Properties