The Fall 2021 semester welcomes students back on campus after a year of virtual academics. While some students are excited, and basking in their new freedom, it is also the same time of year that marks the start of the Red Zone, the most dangerous time for sexual assault for college students.
According to the Me Too Movement, the Red Zone is the 10- week period following the return of students in the fall. Over 50% of sexual assaults occur during this time up to Thanksgiving Break.
“The Red Zone is a time period when students are most at risk of sexual misconduct. This is based on national statistics. And as a Title IX Coordinator, I have also observed a higher number of reported sexual misconduct cases during the time period from “move-in week to November.” This is why the Title IX Office is being intentional in its proactive efforts of bringing awareness and educating our campus community in collaboration with the other university divisions,” said Title IX Coordinator, Margaret Pierre.
According to “Know Your IX”, an advocacy group, 19% of women & 5-6% of men experience assault during their time at college, with 84% of female survivors report being assaulted during their first 4 semesters on campus.
Many factors come into play this year that pose a greater threat for sexual assault cases. Some of these elements include former President Trump’s Title IX changes, two academic classes unfamiliar with campus life, and COVID-19 precedence.
The changes made limited the types of sexual misconduct universities are required to investigate. The change is also difficult to navigate for students and redefined sexual harassment to a narrow range of actions that are “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.”
“My biggest concerns are the lack of education surrounding sexual violence and the current Title IX process. Ignorance is the reason why the Red Zone exists. As college students, we come back to campus with a false sense of security. We believe that the friends we’ve made or the people we know can prevent bad things from occurring,” said Anissa Cartagena, President of Delaware State University’s G.I.V.E.
“The truth is you have to be diligent in protecting yourself. People tend to believe sexual violence is always rough, fighting back, and yelling. The truth of the matter is most assaults occur when victims are inebriated. Due to the Title IX rules enacted by the Trump administration, fighting for justice is now even harder,” added Cartagena
This year doubles the vulnerability with two academic classes, including transfer students, who have never stepped foot on campus and have a lack of proper sexual assault education.
Being unacquainted with the campus may put students at greater risk when attending social events with first-time drug and alcohol consumption and little to no friends to watch out.
“Everyone should be able to have fun without having to worry about these situations…If you know someone who has suspicious behavior then keep an eye on them in case they do something weird. If something is happening, stop them before it goes any further, even if they are a friend,” said Kent Milligan, Junior.
While campus officials may provide a warning list of what not to do, the number of sexual assault cases will not diminish until we shift responsibility onto the perpetrators.
“We as an organization will work night and day to minimize the amount of cases that might occur. As a survivor and activist, the hardest part of all of this is knowing that G.I.V.E cannot save everyone. I hope that the University holds perpetrators accountable on all levels,” said Cartagena.
Even if one follows the warnings, one can still be assaulted. It is not the duty of the victim to prevent their own assault, assaulters should be held responsible.
“A warning isn’t enough to scare people or let people take this seriously. However, if the people are prosecuted and punished it will paint a picture that justice is served, and you can be helped,” said Kammari Teeter, Sophomore.
The COVID-19 pandemic took precedence during the 2020-2021 academic school year. With transitioning to virtual learning, and virus preventatives, students received less thorough sexual assault education.
This year, The Office of Title IX is partnering with the Office of Student Success to provide Title IX training to 1st-year students, Peer Academic Coaches who serve as mentors, and coaches to all academic class students.
“This month, in addition to the trainings provided for the Office of Student Success, the Office of Title IX will also provide training for members and advisors of the Greek Organizations and as a part of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Fall 2021 Faculty Workshops,” said Pierre.
“Under the leadership of Ms. Tamara Stoner, Director of Enterprise Risk Management and Office of Title IX, Title IX training was initiated in August. Our commitment and obligation to educate and eradicate sexual discrimination and sexual harassment are to the entire university community: students, faculty, and staff. At the request of Human Resources, the office provided several virtual Title IX training sessions for new employees, in addition to socially-distance, in-person training for the Department of Housing, Resident Assistants,” added Pierre.
G.I.V.E., a campus organization dedicated to educating the community on sexual assault, domestic violence, and mental health, will be working diligently this year to help spread awareness.
“We will be working closely with the Title IX office and the school’s administration to create educational events on Sexual Violence. We also will be participating in collaborations with most organizations to spread the message. G.I.V.E will be working to make this a year of accountability not just with the administration but the student body as well,” said Cartagena.
Cartagena also wishes that in hopes to receive support from the university they will do the following:
- Ensure all victims are fully aware of their rights.
- Investigate classes in a timely manner. (No longer than 60 days)
- Provide training to SARA advocates.
- Create a Survivor(s) fund.
- Allow SARA to be on the ERP panel.
2022 National Sexual Assault Awareness Month is underway with the Dean of Students, Ms. Jasmine Buxton. If anyone would like to participate in the programming, planning, or volunteering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“You are not alone. You are never alone. There is now a community that you have at your disposal that will help you through all of it. Even in the darkest moments, there is some light. To all my survivor activists, take time for yourself. Burnout is real. Self-care is a must,” emphasized Cartagena.
For complete information on the Title IX process, including the ways to report an alleged violation of Title IX, please visit: Sexual Misconduct, Harassment & Sex Discrimination (desu.edu) and Sexual Assault Resource Options (desu.edu)