This college tradition comes around the same time every year.
No, it’s not Homecoming or even Reunion Weekend. It’s the Red Zone, the first six weeks of college term when students are most susceptible to rape and sexual assault.
Of all the college class years, freshman women are the most vulnerable to such attacks because they are trying to fit in with new people, are experiencing first-time freedom from their families, and may be still getting adjusted to their new surroundings.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, in 2006, of the 6 million women attending American colleges, 11.5 percent reported being the victims of rape; only 12 percent of women that were raped reported these incidents to law enforcement authorities.
However, men are also threatened: One in six men is a victim of sexual assault at some point in his life.
Some experts even believe that the Red Zone lasts longer than six weeks, going into Thanksgiving Break. But however long the Red Zone may be, students, both men and women, need to be aware of how to protect themselves from possible threats.
Avoid situations that might make you uncomfortable. Don’t walk alone at night, or if you must walk alone, walk with purpose. Also, avoid isolated areas and wearing headphones while you walk.
Always have your cell phone on you.
Think before you post. If you are leaving a message on FB or Foursquare letting everyone know where you’re going, then that gives someone a way to track you, and most victims of rape know their assailants.
If you’re at a party, be wary of punch bowls, and make sure you see how your drink is being made. Also, don’t leave your drink unattended; if you do, get another one.
Try to go places in groups.
Always look the doors of your apartment/dorm room. Many students feel secure enough on campus to always leave their doors open, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Plus, leaving your doors unlocked leaves you susceptible to theft, too.
Trust your gut. If you feel unsafe in a place, call security to escort you back to your dorm, or have a friend come pick you up. Chances are, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, you have reason to feel that way.
Probably the best rule of thumb when it comes to staying safe during the Red Zone (and beyond!) is the last suggestion. Using common sense is your best mode of defense. While you don’t want to be so protective of yourself that you never go out and try new things, you don’t want to leave yourself too open and vulnerable to predators.