“Red Zone” is most vulnerable time for sexual assault

By Brittney Nadler

It’s called the Red Zone — the period of time at the start of the school year when most college sexual assaults occur. 

Although the time period is debated, ranging from the first six weeks of school to any time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, more than half of all campus sexual assaults occur between August and November.

During a time when thousands of students are living on their own for the first time and are exposed to a new party culture, students are more vulnerable than ever for an attack, according to Molly McLay, assistant director of the Women’s Resources Center. 

“The issue isn’t with the behavior of the first year students — the issue is with these people in power who create the party scene, who create the bar culture,” she said. “that is created to prey on the vulnerability and lack of information that students coming in may have.”

According to The Campus Sexual Assault Study by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007, freshmen and sophomore women are more likely than upperclassmen to be assaulted. McLay expressed that this does not equate to responsibility. Just because someone does not have the knowledge of assault does not mean they should be more likely to be attacked. 

“A lot of the focus is on how do we teach women how to not be vulnerable in those situations,” McLay said. “The real change is going to occur when we shut down this party culture that’s set up to get people in the door.” 

First-year students are also still signing up for FYCARE and may not have any knowledge about sexual assault, said Alex Nelson, graduate assistant at the Women’s Resources Center and a graduate student in Social Work.

“I think that’s usually the first instance where people get to learn about sexual assault in a formal setting, in a space designed purely to talk about sexual assault,” Nelson said.

According to the report, fraternity men are more likely to be perpetrators while sorority women are more likely to be assaulted than non-Greek members. Those in Greek life tend to drink more, which puts them at a higher risk for assault.

On campus bars, alcohol plays a large role in assaults. According to McLay, when someone is buying drinks for another person, there can be an expectation that the receiver is obligated to hook up with that person. 

“You feel like you can’t say no,” she said. “I’ve certainly had people try to buy me drinks at bars, and I felt weirded out and didn’t have an out.”

At least 50 percent of assaults involve the use of alcohol or drugs by the perpetrator, survivor or both, according to the study. 

While she was at a campus bar, McLay said she was groped by a college-aged man. She informed the bouncer, who immediately knew the man she was talking about.

“The guy asked, ‘Is it this guy? He’s been a problem,’” she said.

Anthony Cortese, chief marketing officer at Fortney Companies, which is the corporate office for Brother’s, said that all sexual assault cases would immediately be turned over to authorities.

“Any normal bar or any restaurant open late at night should have their own security personnel, which we do, and they’ll try to head something off as quickly as they can,” Cortese said. “The training that we give to our security personnel is to try to cease the incident as soon as possible in a non-violent way.”

Women who experience sexual assault before entering college are almost seven times as likely to experience assault in college, according to the study. Nearly 58 percent of attacks occur at a party. 

“You can’t change the culture in a night, but every individual bit does have an impact,” Nelson said. “Even if you only intervene once or in one way, it changes the culture one day at a time.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected].