Op-Ed: Recognizing the Red Zone

The responsibility of preventing campus sexual violence falls on our entire community.

More than 50% of campus sexual assaults take place during the first 10 weeks of the school year. This time period is known as the Red Zone. It is especially dangerous for first-years, who are two-and-a-half times more likely to experience sexual violence.

Although the most well-known statistic is that one in five undergraduate women experience sexual violence on campus, one in 16 men are also assaulted while in college, and the rates are even higher for queer and trans students, individuals with disabilities and people of color. Though some groups are more likely to experience sexual violence, and others more likely to perpetrate, we must recognize that anyone of any identity can be a survivor, and anyone of any identity can be a perpetrator.

These statistics are alarming, and the fear that many of us feel is real and valid. We all must do our part to curb the epidemic of campus sexual violence. Commonly circulated guidance for preventing campus sexual violence advises women to learn self-defense, but this approach is victim-blaming as well as exclusionary to survivors that are not women. Rather, we all must strive to change campus culture to create communities where sexual violence is unacceptable. The onus of preventing sexual violence is never on the survivor: It’s on the entire community to ensure mutual safety.

Here at Tufts, we have resources like Green Dot, which trains students in bystander intervention tactics so that we have the tools to prevent sexual violence. Being a Green Dot means something different to everyone on this campus. Most commonly, Green Dot advises that students learn which ways they feel comfortable intervening in potentially dangerous situations using the Three D’s: Direct, Distract, Delegate.

These interventions can be highly-confrontational and direct, such as asking someone explicitly if they feel unsafe or asking a potential perpetrator to back off.

Interventions need not be direct to be effective, however. Many people do not feel comfortable or safe addressing dangerous situations in this way. Instead, many people prefer the distract and delegate techniques. A distracting intervention could be to flicker the lights in the room you are in, or to pretend you have lost your phone and ask for help looking for it.

Another option is to delegate the confrontation or intervention to someone you feel can help. All Greek-sponsored parties should have risk managers who are there for exactly this reason. Not all parties have someone designated to this role, however, so in those instances it is helpful to turn to a friend for help diffusing dangerous situations.

Green Dot behavior includes more than just intervening in the moment. From walking friends home late at night, to calling out rape jokes, to asking for consent before physically touching someone else, we can all help create a culture where we hold perpetrators accountable and where we believe and support the survivors in our community.

If you are interested in the resources Tufts Green Dot provides, please reach out via email at greendottufts@gmail.com or @tuftsgreendot on Instagram.

If you find yourself in a position where you have been affected by sexual violence, know that there are people on and off campus that want to support you. A great on-campus, confidential resource is the Center for Awareness, Resources and Education office (CARE). The CARE office can review what options individuals have within the Tufts community, such as no-contact orders. However, many resources, not affiliated with the Tufts Administration, are also available to provide support and resources, such as Action for Sexual Assault Prevention at Tufts (ASAP), Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) and the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).

You can connect with ASAP through their Facebook page or through their email, asapattufts@gmail.com. ASAP is a student-led and survivor-centered organization working to end sexual violence on campus. ASAP focuses their work on restorative justice and supporting survivors in their healing and growth. Recognizing that many students matriculate into Tufts already as survivors, ASAP provides community and support through biweekly survivor spaces, where survivors can gather together, do homework, eat snacks or just be. ASAP also runs programming like discussions on having healthy sex after assault.

To all of you, especially survivors, we are here for you during the Red Zone and throughout your time here at Tufts. We believe you and we support you.