sexual assault victim (copy)

Campus sexual assaults tend to increase during the Red Zone, or the period of time shortly after students return to campus. 

Content warning: sexual assault 

Campus sexual assaults may spike even more than usual this year during the Red Zone, a period of time where sexual assaults increase shortly after students return to campus.

Kristina Supler and Susan Stone work as student defense attorneys at Kohrman, Jackson and Krantz law firm in Ohio. They have years of experience working in the Title IX space and have traveled the country educating students about sexual assault and the Red Zone. 

“There is a period of time where the risk for sexual assault increases, and it doesn’t have to,” Supler said. “Susan and I are really big believers in promoting education and awareness about the Red Zone and consent so that we don’t see a rise in cases of sexual assault.” 

Stone described the Red Zone as the period of time when students just return to campus, generally the first six weeks after classes begin.

“I’d like to say September, October especially. It sort of slows down right before finals, and sometimes you see an uptick right after spring break,” Stone said. 

Stone explained that the majority of campus sexual assaults occur during this time frame. 

“We think it’s because people come back from summer break, they’re new on campus and that’s when there’s a lot of freshmen and extra drinking, extra partying,” Stone said. 

Supler said the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions may contribute to increases in partying and social gatherings this year, heightening the risk of sexual assaults. 

“I think some students are just craving the social outlet and perhaps let their guard down a bit,” Supler explained. “So there might be a unique vulnerability this year in light of what COVID did to last school year.” 

According to Stone, the Red Zone tends to taper off near Thanksgiving break because students start to focus on their academics to prepare for final exams.

Stone said education about alcohol and its effects is essential at universities because students might not recognize when an individual is incapacitated by alcohol.

“There isn’t a student on campus who would say they would ever engage in a sexual activity without consent,” Stone said. “But we find it’s the details. When someone is drunk and maybe even blackout, they may not appear blackout drunk to the other person.”

Supler added that education about consent and what consent looks like is also crucial. 

“Unfortunately, the reality is there is a lot of misunderstanding about what consent is,” Supler said, “We encourage colleges and universities across the country to put more resources toward educating students about consent.” 

At Iowa State, incoming students are asked to complete an online sexual assault training through EverFi. 

“It is not required for students, although we strongly expect folks to do that,” said Margo Foreman, interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Iowa State.  

Iowa State also offers in-person sexual assault training for some organizations on campus, including the athletics department and some Greek associations. 

Stone recommended several preventative measures to help students protect themselves from experiencing a sexual assault at a party. 

“Have a buddy with you, and have an agreement that if you or your buddy becomes incapacitated by too much alcohol, your buddy is going to make sure you get home,” Stone said.

Stone also advised students to pour their own drinks, avoid drinking from open containers and never accept a drink from a stranger.

“If you are starting to feel like you’ve had too much to drink, make sure you communicate that,” Stone said. “Know when to cut yourself off.” 

Foreman recommended students “be wise” when engaging in sexual activity to ensure that both parties give consent. 

“You don’t want any one error in judgment to impact somebody else negatively and yourself,” Foreman said. “Think about if it was your sibling or your parent… the way that you are behaving, is that what you would want that person to endure?”

According to Foreman, students have the ability to prevent sexual assaults and incidences like the Red Zone by holding one another accountable. 

“I think the Red Zone is not a phenomenon that we have to live with. I think it is one that we can prevent or at least curtail,” she said.

Supler and Stone also believe college students can help prevent sexual assaults on campus by learning about consent and looking out for others. 

“Susan and I just want to see students who are enjoying the college experience in a safe way,” Supler said. “You can have fun and still be safe and look out for yourself and your peers.” 

Resources:

ACCESS sexual assault crisis line: 515-292-5378

Iowa State University Police Department: 515-294-4428

Ames Police Department: 515-239-5133

Iowa State University Office of Equal Opportunity: 515-294-7612

Iowa State University Dean of Students Office: 515-294-1020

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