March 2019 had the highest percent of total (forced, drug facilitated and attempted) sexual assaults. courtesy the University of Tulsa Campus Climate Survey

The Red Zone: not the only time to be careful

Despite the warnings of the Red Zone, sexual assault is a problem throughout the year.

Sexual assault is a reality on this campus, just like countless others around the world. This time of year, sexual assault conversations are particularly prevalent amongst students and faculty alike due to what is commonly referred to as the Red Zone.

The Red Zone refers to the first six weeks on a college campus: the most dangerous time for sexual assault during the year. TU is currently in that time frame and will be for about another month. Here is what you need to know to help yourself and others stay safe and informed:

One theory attributes the spike in sexual assaults in the beginning of the year to the outside factors that come with the back-to-school weeks. Kelsey Hancock, TU’s violence prevention program coordinator, elaborated on these factors.

“A lot of people speculate that it is because people are coming back to school, new people are coming to school and people are trying out their new agency by getting out of their comfort zone,” said Hancock.

“Also, there are back to school parties where alcohol is flowing and people may not have experience in sexual relationships,” she added.

Indeed, the combination of inexperienced partygoers and constant parties seems to provide a dangerous environment for new students.

Hancock also pointed out that another reason can be found in the short amount of time new students have had time to form bonds with each other. Rolling up to a party with a strong squad of people to look out for you can be a safe way to have fun. Going it alone with no one to watch your back can be dangerous.

But this story is not so simple. In fact, while this is all helpful information, oversimplifying the sexual assault problem on campus to a time when freshly-minted college students are ill-prepared for a frat party is misleading.

Hancock expanded on the topic, saying, “At the same time, there is this idea that if we just address the Red Zone one it will help. Not exactly. It has to be proactive.”

Sexual assault is bigger and much more complicated than a freshman getting too drunk at a party where they do not know anyone. Most sexual assaults are cases where the involved parties knew each other beforehand.

Hancock also brought up some theorists’ conjecture that overemphasizing the Red Zone can lead to victim-blaming. That is to say, it makes it seem as though new students should be especially alert during a certain time of year. This in turn leads to the expectation that students should follow certain guidelines if they do not want to be assaulted. That is why some activists do not like to use the word Red Zone, since sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault.

Another critique of the overemphasis on the Red Zone is that the first six weeks are not always the time period with the most sexual assaults. In fact, TU’s data depicts March as the most dangerous month by number of assaults reported.

Hancock theorized this to be a product of Spring Break. She also wanted to make it clear where to find this data.

“We have students often ask where [they] can find all this data. We advertise it on the website,” she said, adding, “We have our newest executive summary out, and we will be surveying people again for the campus climate survey.”

The fact of the matter is caution is always important no matter what time of year it is. And while it can be helpful to take steps to ensure your safety, no one is to blame for a crime committed against them. The Red Zone is something to be aware of, but sexual assault on campus as a whole is an issue that lasts year-round.

Students can go to violence-prevention-education for all the resources they need, including a section for frequently asked questions, access to data and more.

For more information on this topic, TU is hosting Zerlina Maxwell on Sept. 10 in the Lorton Performance center. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the talk begins at 7 p.m.

For resources provided to survivors, students can contact any of the following people or organizations. Those listed with an asterisk are confidential and have no mandatory reporting requirements.

On Campus
DVIS Victim Services Advocate* (918) 631-2965
TU Counseling Center*
(918) 631-2200
Office of Violence Prevention (918) 631-2324
Title IX Coordinator (918) 631-4602
Campus Security
(918) 631-5555 Alexander Health Center (918) 631-2241

Off Campus
(918) 7-HELP-ME Family Safety Center* (918) 743-5763
Tulsa Police
(918) 596-9222

Post Author: Brennen Gray