The Red Zone: Staying safe, aware
The first few weeks of school come with the highest risk of being sexually assaulted on campus. This time has been dubbed “The Red Zone” by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
“The Red Zone is generally identified as the period from the start of the fall semester until Thanksgiving break, when rates of college sexual assault rise, especially in September and October,” said Women and Gender Resource Center director Laura Zavala-Membreno.
More than 50% of sexual assault cases on college campuses occur in August through September, according to RAINN.
The phrase, “The Red Zone” originated from the 1989 book, “I Never Called It Rape” by Robin Warshaw. In the book, Warshaw wrote that freshmen women are in the “red zone of danger” during this time of the year, Zavala-Membreno said.
This time period is delicate because of the changes a new school year brings. Students are more vulnerable during this time as they adapt to navigating an unfamiliar environment, meeting new people and experiencing new social situations, Zavala-Membreno said.
The timing of these incidents are not coincidental as there are many back-to-school parties and Greek Life events in the first couple of months after the start of a semester, according to Me Too.
“I’m really not surprised that this exists in the first place. Campuses are big, they’re scary, they’re dark at night,” said political science junior, Lila Hiett. “I don’t know the statistics, but I know that a lot of women have their own stories and we can share and relate in that.”
Among undergraduate students 26.4% of females, 6.8% of males, and 23.1% of transgender, genderqueer, gender nonconforming experience sexual assault, statistics from RAINN report.
“Students may not have an established social support system, leaving them more isolated. New undergraduate students may also be unfamiliar with how or where to report sexual assault,” Zavala-Membreno said.
For students who have been impacted by sexual assault, UH has various resources available to them. The University offers immediate psychological support Through Counseling and Psychological Services and can help connect students to the best ongoing therapy options either on or off campus.
Students can also report their assault through Equal Opportunity Services or the Women and Gender Resource Center, which provides confidential Sexual Misconduct Support Services.
“SMSS staff can meet with anyone impacted by sexual misconduct to provide support, discuss options, and offer campus and community resources,” Zavala-Membreno said.
Students can help shatter ‘The Red Zone’ by raising awareness surrounding the issue, intervening when they see someone in distress, getting help from a person in authority and understanding what consent is, according to RAINN.
“If you suspect or even think or hear a rumor or anything of anyone you know, or anyone you don’t know, participating in any type of sexual assault, you need to report it immediately,” said Student Government Association President Benjamin Rizk. “You need to be willing, even if it’s someone you know, to throw them under the bus, that’s especially a big part that prevents sexual assault from being addressed because a lot of the assault that happens is from people that you do know.”
According to the 2022 Annual Security Report by the UH police department, there were 21 cases of rape reported in 2019, five cases reported in 2020 and 12 reported in 2021. While the data for the 2022-23 school year is not available yet, the daily crime log for the past 60 days reports one case of sexual assault open for investigation.
“If you or anyone you know has been sexually assaulted you are not alone and help is available,” Zavala-Membreno said. “Get to a safe place and reach out to someone you trust. Get medical attention if you need it and reach out to any number of resources on or off campus to assist you with the next steps and moving forward.”
A strong support network often has a positive impact on a survivor’s path to recovery. If you know someone who has experienced sexual assault, it’s important to support them in however they choose to handle it, Zavala-Membreno said.
“Remind them that they are not alone, and you are here to listen and offer support. For more resources on supporting a survivor, reach out to SMSS or another campus resource like CAPS or UH Wellness for guidance,” Zavala-Membreno said.