This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of To Dragma.
by Courtney West, Gamma Delta (U of South Alabama), Director of Public Relations
Imagine this: Your freshman move in day has finally arrived! You’ve been experiencing nervousness and excitement all day as you set up your dorm room and give tearful goodbyes to friends and family. It’s a big day, but you are more than ready to take on this new chapter in life. Your new roommate invites you to a party she heard about and you are excited to make friends and find your “place” within your campus community.
Know this: Freshman collegiate women have an elevated risk of being a victim of gender-based violence during the first eight weeks of each semester on a college campus. This period is called the Red Zone. According to The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 20-25% of college women are raped during their time in college and 50% of sexual assault cases take place during the Red Zone.
AOII Panhellenic Committee Member Kerry Soller, Phi Sigma (U of Nebraska at Kearney), who works on campus prevention and response to sexual violence, said, “We need to understand that this is real and exists on our campuses and in our greater society. This is an issue that one in four women deal with in some way throughout their lifetimes.”
Could it really be one in four women? Soller explained, when she speaks at conferences and shares this startling statistic, she witnesses some people roll their eyes in disbelief but also notices others nodding their heads. These are the people that have been affected directly or know someone who has been impacted by gender-based violence. Even one victim is too many.
How can we create a culture of consent on our college campuses? Ohio and New York have state-wide initiatives to address gender-based violence on private and public campuses. Ohio has a comprehensive plan for prevention and response to change campus culture. New York law requires all campuses to have specific policies and procedures in place around these issues. These are the only two states in the U.S. that have laws and policies in place to protect citizens against gender-based bias violence.
Do this: What can you, your chapter, your campus and even your community do to protect, prevent and fight against gender-based violence on college campuses across North America? The following four steps will help create change.
1. Do not be afraid to have conversations with friends before you go out for the night.
Ask each other some of these questions:
- What is our plan today or tonight?
- Do we have someone who is staying sober?
- Where are we going?
- Who do we plan to see?
- How long do we plan to be there and where are we going next?
- Are we all planning to stay together or is someone looking to meet up with another group or person?
- Do you plan to get drunk tonight? Is it someone’s goal to get drunk?
- Do you plan to hook-up with someone tonight?
- Do you know this person well?
Soller discussed, “This is not foolproof, but it is a step in the right direction so that our members are not depending on phones to find people.” Too many times collegiate chapter members are not having these conversations with their friends and relying on texts and phone calls to find everyone at the end of the night.
These conversations build protective networks to fight gender-based violence. It is more important to have your friends safe than have them upset with you for intervening in a potentially harmful situation. When it comes to preventing a sister from driving drunk, you intervene, so why aren’t you doing this in other situations that could be harmful to them?
2. Have open and honest conversations as a collegiate chapter.
Each chapter should be having conversations, education and trainings around bystander and upstander behavior, along with how to safely step into a potentially harmful situation and prevent or reduce the risk of sexual assault. Now is the time to plan chapter wide trainings where members act out potential situations and actually practice what to do and not just listen to statistics. A great way to do this is to invite professionals from your campus or community to lead trainings and spark healthy conversations with each other.
3. Know your resources.
Each student, adviser and parent should know the campus and community policies and resources available to students. Every campus is different when it comes to policies, resources and support. Reach out to your campus Title IX Coordinator or similar campus administrator to learn of the resources available to your chapter and all students.
Other Available Resources:
- One Student: onestudent.org
- RAINN 24/7 hotline: (800)-656-4673
- Know your IX: knowyourix.org
- NPC toolkit for campus Panhellenics
4. Respect and listen to victims while also taking care of yourself.
There is no perfect survivor, every survivor handles their situation in their own way. You don’t always know someone’s past experiences and how those experiences can trigger different responses. If a survivor does not want to come forward that is her choice and it should be respected. Survivors can feel self-doubt, blame and fear of coming forward for many reasons. In Greek life there can be an added level of not wanting to get another organization in trouble or feelings that people will not believe them. Soller shared, “The power and control has been taken away and telling them what to do with their own situation continues to take the power away from them.” The best thing you can do for a survivor is to listen and support their feelings.
It is also important to take care of yourself when supporting sisters, friends or family members who have been affected by sexual assault or rape. Secondary survivorship is also real and can lead to depression and many other negative side effects.
Now is the time to take action against gender-based violence on our campuses, in our communities and in the world.
The Red Zone
The first eight weeks of each semester on a college campus.
An umbrella term that encompasses all forms of violence and harassment committed against an individual because of and/or based on their biological sex, gender identity and/or sexual orientation. The term includes sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, all forms of intimate partner violence and stalking.
Did you know?
20-25% of college women are raped during their time in college and 50% of sexual assault cases take place during the Red Zone.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault seeking assistance, please contact your Campus or Community Rape Crisis Center, Campus Advocate or Counseling Center or contact one of these national resources:
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC): 1-877-739-3895