The first six to ten weeks of the semester are referred to as the “red zone” for sexual assault, meaning that a large percentage of sexual assault on college campuses happens during this time. Understanding the inherent risks of your new environment can dramatically reduce the potential for dangerous situations to arise. It is important to be educated about what sexual assault is and the best ways to prevent harm to yourself or those around you.
Know the facts about consent and interpersonal violence. Consent is a verbal, sober, continuous, and positive yes. If they have to be convinced, it is not consent. If they are not sober, it is not consent. Consent is freely given and freely withdrawn. This means that consent one time or for one act does not mean consent for every time or for every act.
Be an advocate for others. If you are not seeking ways to be a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. Do your best to watch out for potentially dangerous situations and intervene when possible, keeping in mind that there are resources for help available at all hours of the day and night.
Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t trust everyone and never take drinks from people you don’t know well. Try to keep track of your alcohol consumption and ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in self-care. On your way home, be sure to stick to well-known routes if possible and make sure your phone is charged and you have a way to let someone know when you have reached safety. Take advantage of the Companion app, an online system that allows you to stay connected with people after you have separated with them to make sure that they arrive home safely.
If you or someone you know is seeking help after experiencing sexual assault, know that there are resources available. The Orange County Rape Crisis Center, in addition to their 24-Hour Help Line, offers a wide variety of support groups and resources for survivors.
Be safe, know the facts, and use your resources. You will be supported and you will be believed.
Rachel Allen is a new volunteer at the Center, assisting with office administration and program preparation. A sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in Women’s & Gender Studies and Political Science, Rachel is also the co-chair for CAGE (Carolina Advocating for Gender Equality).