So, for Support Within Reach, this time of year means we are heading into what we call the “red zone.”
The “red zone” is known as the most dangerous months for college campus sexual violence, which are August, September, October and November.
Because these months are the most dangerous for students entering and returning to college, let’s talk about the scope of the problem.
Roughly 11.2 percent of college student experience some form of sexual violence through force or incapacitation, according to RAINN.org. Those two tactics, separate or together, can be highly dangerous for any college-aged person.
In the sexual violence world, “force” is defined as physically taking what is not theirs to take or have. The person hurting another by force is taking away the person’s ability to freely choose to participate in the act.
Incapacitation is defined as “a person who lacks the ability to voluntarily agree to sexual activity because the person is asleep, unconscious, under the influence of an anesthetizing or intoxicating substance such that the person does not have control over his/her body, and is otherwise unaware that sexual activity is occurring.”
By knowing these definitions, you can see just how dangerous these forms of sexual violence are.
Among incoming and undergraduate students, RAINN reports “23 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males, and 21 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals experience sexual assault or rape with the use of force and incapacitation.”
Sexual violence does not discriminate against sex, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation or any form of personal identification. The scary part about these numbers is that many victims do not report their assaults and perpetrators of sexual violence are still roaming campus. Can you imagine having a class with perpetrator? Walking down the hall and seeing your perpetrator every day? How about living in the same housing unit as your perpetrator? These are all very scary realizations that students may face if they are assaulted on campus.
Sadly, only 20 percent of female students reported their assault to law enforcement. When asked why they don’t report students stated that many believed the assault was a personal matter, fear, the assault wasn’t important enough to matter, didn’t want to get perpetrator in trouble, believed police wouldn’t help, and reported elsewhere. The reasoning behind not reporting is something we hear at Support Within Reach all too often.
So what can be done about this? Well, training for everyone, including college staff and law enforcement should be enforced. Additionally, there should be an emphasis on awareness and prevention to reduce the stigma surrounding sexual violence within the community.
However, the community stigma reduction needs to be continuously happening, along with law enforcement training, to better aid our college-aged victims/survivors. Start by believing, educating yourself, reaching out to Support Within Reach for trainings (online trainings available), and becoming an up-stander. An up-stander is a person who sees any type of discrimination, harassment, or assault happening and stands up to say “stop” or “enough is enough.”
In recent years, we have been hearing stories of sexual violence perpetrated by student athletes and coaches all over the U.S. In March 2018, a study was done on college powerhouse campuses looking into Title IX investigations against athletes. The study has found that “on average, about 6.3 percent of Title IX complaints against students, whether the complaint resulted in a formal investigation or not, included an athlete as the person accused of wrongdoing, officially called a "respondent" in the reports” (Lavigne, 2018).
Why such a high number for student athletes? Well, whether it be high school, college or professional sports there is a sense of entitlement, group peer pressure and value placed on aggression, both on and off the field).
So, as we head into the red zone at Support Within Reach and organizations across the U.S., we are prepared for what is to come. Bemidji State University, when able to return in-person, will have an advocate on campus. Until then, if you’re a victim or survivor of sexual violence while on campus, please reach out to us. The Bemidji office number is 218-444-9524. We can also be reached via email at contact@ supportwithinreach.org.
Also, if you are a professor, community member, or are in some way affiliated with the college and want training, please reach out to the same phone number and email above.
Support Within Reach is a private, non-profit, community service organization serving residents and those impacted by incidents of sexual violence in Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard and Itasca counties. They offer victim support and advocacy through its 24-hour crisis line (1-800-708-2727) or Park Rapids office (237-0300).