Not on Our Grounds

A University of Virginia Initiative to End Sexual Violence

Red Zone

According to the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study funded by the National Institute of Justice, more than 50 percent of campus sexual assaults occur in August, September, or October(*), and the most frequently targeted students are female first- and second-years. Additional studies have confirmed evidence of a high-risk period in the first six weeks of the semester(*).

The increased vulnerability during the Red Zone is the fault of predatory perpetrators alone(*). But the fact that students are more at risk to be targeted means we have a responsibility to each other to try to keep our community safe.

Several factors contribute to why predators are more likely to assault during the first six weeks:

  • Students are meeting new people and trying to fit in, and they likely are participating in certain activities for the first time;
  • Students have less parental supervision and increased independence, which may lead to certain behaviors, such as experimenting with alcohol or other drugs;
  • Students may be new to the city and may be adjusting to a new environment and getting oriented(*).

Given these risk factors, it's important to be mindful when going out:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings;
  • Keep track of everyone – Leave a party or bar with the same people you came with or check in with them to ensure a safe way home.
  • Be safe about alcohol consumption. One study shows someone is 19 times more likely to be assaulted after having four drinks or more(*). It's important to check in on friends while drinking;
  • Don't be afraid to step in on a situation where you feel uncomfortable—grab a friend to go with you, ask someone if they need help getting home. Any little action to interrupt a situation can help prevent a potential assault.

While the Red Zone is a time for increased risk for sexual assault, it is important to remember that predatory behaviors among perpetrators do not have an expiration date. While predators are more likely to target younger female students during this time, it is important for the all of us as members of the University community to look out for each other as the year continues, be ready to step up, step in, and have one another's back.