The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Trigger warning: This article contains language about sexual assault and may not be suitable for all readers.
First day of school jitters are something that never seems to go away. Going shopping for school supplies or new clothes or joining new clubs are often the first things that come to mind when we hear “back to school”. But for many of us, especially first year students, the period of excitement is also a time of vulnerability.
Let me introduce to you: The Red Zone. I know, it sounds pretty scary, but there’s a reason I put ‘harsh’ at the top of this article. The Red Zone is the first 6-8 weeks of semester when more sexual assaults take place than any other time of the year. Due to an influx of social gatherings, meeting new people, and entering unfamiliar situations, many of us are more vulnerable to interpersonal violence. First-
- Even if they’re new friends, it’s important to call them out.
Being at college unfortunately means being in a demographic that is at higher risk for sexual violence. So, being committed to preventing interpersonal violence for college students often means having difficult conversations with your friends (even new ones). Before violence occurs, we can create environments where this violence isn’t accepted. When we notice that some type of violence is happening or being diminished, we can help by interrupting the situation, addressing the behavior, and/or bringing in someone else to help, such as an RA or someone in authority. If it isn’t safe to directly intervene at the time, be sure to check in on the situation when you can and offer resources.
- A person who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol is not able to consent.
The beginning of the semester has a large increase in social gatherings, and therefore, an increase in the use of drugs and alcohol. It is imperative to remind yourself and your friends what consent is.
Consent is uncoerced permission to interact with the body (or life) of another person. Consent is the presence of a Yes rather than an absence of a No. It is informed, freely and actively given for each specific act. It can be revoked at any time. Consent is agreed upon, wanted, ethical, sexual and intimate acts.
This is probably something you’ve heard many times but sometimes it can be difficult to truly grasp, especially in situations with drugs and alcohol involved. Perpetrators of interpersonal violence may encourage someone to become incapacitated or target people who are incapacitated already, as they are more susceptible to coercion or force. Perpetrators also may engage in drugs or alcohol themselves, to lower their inhibitions to make it easier to engage in aggressive or disinhibited activities. This does not excuse their behavior, nor does the role of alcohol or drugs put blame on the survivor in any way.
- It is never the survivor’s fault.
Read this line as many times as you need. It is never the survivor’s fault. Because of cultural and social conditioning, many of us blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. However, understanding that the blame does not lie with the survivor is crucial in helping a victim. If your friend comes forward to you about something, the most important thing is to listen and believe. The best thing you can do is be there.
- There are so many resources available.
Sometimes when traumatizing events happen, we can feel isolated, but it’s important to know, for your friends and yourself, we have an amazing support system for survivors at The University of Alabama.
Both the WGRC and the SAFE Center provide compassionate care to survivors and are a helping hand in healing. We also have the Title IX office. This can be triggering because of invasive questioning, but is a legal resource that can help survivors get restraining orders, switch up their class schedules, and is the path to go through if a survivor wants to potentially open an investigation on sexual misconduct. The WGRC advocates can help survivors use this resource, so it can be helpful to
go call the WGRC first. Understanding these resources is important because you never know when you or your friends may need to utilize them. Be sure to let your friend know about what their options are so they don’t have to go through this alone.
As we enter the ominous Red Zone, the best thing we can do is be prepared. If you or a friend need help, resources are listed below:
WGRC phone number: call (205) 348-5040 from 8am-5pm whenever the University is open.
You can also call UAPD at (205) 348-5454 and ask to speak to a WGRC victim advocate who is on call 24/7, even on weekends and holidays.
SAFE Center phone number: (205) 860-7233
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Chat live: www.thehotline.org