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How to stay out of the ‘Red Zone’: Don’t get wasted

Seriously: It’s not at all difficult.

The “Red Zone” is the name given to the opening weeks of a college’s fall semester, a time when, as Inside Higher Ed reports, “more sexual assaults take place than at any other time in the year.” Part of that phenomenon is attributable to younger, more vulnerable students who have just arrived on an unfamiliar campus; more significantly, “the Red Zone timeframe coincides with the countless parties celebrating students’ return to campus. Greek organizations also typically hold their ‘rush’ events for students interested in joining fraternities and sororities during the first couple of months of the semester.” These parties are generally saturated in alcohol and other substances; data show that substance use factors in the vast majority of campus sexual assaults.

Some colleges have opted for “bystander intervention training,” in which students are taught to intervene if they see a dangerous situation developing, e.g., “a visibly drunk female freshman at a party being led away by a stranger.” A better solution would be to tell students to stop getting falling-down drunk at campus parties night after night.

This is not a politically correct suggestion. One advocate claims that it “puts the onus to prevent sexual assault on the victim.” Well, yes and no. The responsibility for committing sexual assault lies wholly with the assaulter himself. Yet it is a singularly stupid idea that victims of potential assault should take absolutely no preventative measures whatsoever. Do we take such a lackadaisical, politicized approach to any other crime?

A campus administration is perfectly capable of sanctioning sexual offenders while still urging young women to protect themselves against them. It’s not at all hard or even controversial. All they have to do is release a simple statement: “Any student who commits sexual assault will be immediately expelled and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We strongly advise all students to avoid placing themselves in known danger. Don’t get drunk at campus parties and Greek houses. If you’re going to drink, do it in a safe, familiar place with a small group of friends. Do not give rapists a chance to take advantage of you.” That’s fine advice. It is a silly shame that it has become taboo to give it.

MORE: Alcohol, drugs a factor in vast majority of campus sexual assaults, university finds

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