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Beware the "red zone” of campus sexual assault

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, bringing a close to the dangerous time on college campuses known as the “red zone.” The red zone is the time of the college year when sexual assaults and rapes are most common-- from the beginning of the college year to the Thanksgiving break.

If you have never heard of the red zone, you are not alone: Researchers have only recently identified this phenomenon, and awareness of its frightening statistics is still spreading. Read on to understand more about the red zone and learn what you can do to stop it.

What is the red zone?

The Department of Justice refers to the six or so weeks from the beginning of the college semester to the Thanksgiving holiday break as “the red zone.” This is because of the disproportionately high number of sexual assaults that occur to college students during this window. In this six-week period, college students are more likely to be sexually assaulted than at any other time in their college careers. In fact, many of these assaults occur in the first few days before the school year even begins. Of these, most assaults occur between midnight and 6 a.m. Freshman women are at particularly high risk.

What contributes to the red zone?

Researchers have suggested several potential theories to explain the red zone. Some of these include:

  • Back-to-school parties are very popular in this period and are often loaded with alcohol
  • Freshmen have less experience with alcohol than their upperclassmen and become intoxicated quicker
  • New arrivals have fewer friends to watch out for them at parties
  • Upperclassmen frequently encourage their freshmen peers to drink to excess
  • Sexual predators often prey on young women who are naive, intoxicated and vulnerable
  • The sexual violence prevention education provided by universities may be inadequate for many students

What can I do to help?

To help prevent sexual assault during the red zone, be considerate of freshman students at parties. Do not pressure anyone to consume alcohol, and do not pressure anyone into performing sexual acts. If you see someone who is intoxicated being taken advantage of, step in to intervene on their behalf. Report any illegal activity to the authorities.

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