Category: Red Zone
Domestic violence has been a prominent issue in the state of Alaska for decades, which has lead to reports of sexual assault that have become the highest in the nation. The high number of cases has resulted in the Alaskan rape rate tallying three times the national average. Rape is a form of sexual assault…
On Nov. 18, 2016, students at UAA and members of the community will march together to take back the night. Take Back the Night is an international event that aims at allowing large numbers of people to publicly express their anger at the sexual violence that takes place and the victim shaming that is associated…
Even back when movies were in black and white, Hollywood films normalized sexual assault. The media has played a serious role in de-stigmatizing rape, which has created a colossal problem for victims of sex crime everywhere. The idea of rape culture is often overlooked or distorted by the media and the produced content that we…
As October ends, domestic violence awareness month also comes to a close. This month is all about targeting domestic violence, and there are several obvious warning signs that signal an abusive relationship. According to Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis, AWAIC, there are several key questions to ask that address warning signs. Questions like, does your…
An Alaskan craft beer that has been around since the 1990s has recently been accused of promoting rape culture and the objectification of women. After Midnight Sun Brewing Company won honors from the Can Can awards, a beer competition for canned beer products, speculation in the name “Panty Peeler” arose. This beer, being made in…
When it comes to sexual assault and rape, knowing how to defend yourself can be extremely helpful. There are many different tactics and techniques to defending yourself in a close-quarter assault situation. That isn’t to say that not knowing how to defend yourself places the blame onto a victim in the event of a sexual…
Brock Turner is now a household name. The former Stanford student’s short sentence of just three months for raping an unconscious woman, despite the court recommendation of six years, is still widely protested and discussed on social media and the news. The following sentences are of people — some innocent, some not — that were…
College begins as the first day of the rest of our lives. We discover our passions, make lasting friendships and learn skills that will take us further into our future careers. New experiences, new friends and new environments await you, and the world seems to be your oyster. Memories are being made on the campuses…
Sexual consent is legally defined as the voluntary agreement to engage in a sexual activity. There is no vagueness or gray areas in this definition. If you or your partner do not give consent, it’s considered sexual assault or rape. If you are drunk, high, asleep or are otherwise rendered unable to make conscious judgments about sex, you cannot give consent.
Even with a definition that simple, some people do not get the idea. Often, when a woman is sexually assaulted or raped, they are blamed for the incident. It could be the way they were dressed, or where and when they were at the time.
The Little Black Dress Doesn’t Mean Yes event in the Student Union Den on Feb. 4 was meant to defy this principle.
“The reason that we picked this event is because we really want to counteract the cultural narrative that if somebody dresses provocatively, or if somebody’s drunk, sexual assault becomes okay or something that we would expect,” Johanna Richter, a student who organized the event alongside UAA Student Health and Counseling Center, said. “And I think that it’s really particularly important to me because of the people that I know that have been sexually assaulted. A lot of them felt like they couldn’t report because the felt like, ‘well, I was drinking, so it’s my fault.’”
The reason for the encouraged attire was simple — it’s often seen as a provocative dress. A common misconception is that a small dress implies consent, when it really doesn’t.
“For a woman’s wardrobe, it’s really basic,” Jacob Shercliffe, the public relations manager for USUAA, said. “It works for everything. You can dress it up, you can dress it down, you can wear it at night, you can just wear it wherever. Unfortunately what that means is that it’s very much cocktail attire, in many ways, and that’s the situation where we’re most in fear of people who are going to be either sexual assaulted or can lead to very bad situations. So the biggest conversation is what affirmative consent means, how that’s going to help people. We want to stop the symbol that wearing a little black dress just means that they want to have sex with you.”
According to Richter, the idea for the event came when Student Health and Counseling brainstormed ideas for bringing the topic up on campus. In addition to kicking off Healthy Sexuality Week, which begins Feb. 9, the event also advertises resources that students and victims can utilize if they’re assaulted or abused.
They weren’t alone. Student Health and Counseling Center had help from many organizations, ranging from on-campus organizations like Student Activities and Student Clubs and Greek Life, all the way to other organizations like Sadler’s Home Furnishings or Nilda’s Party Creations, who donated gift bags, cake and other goodies.
“We’ve had a lot of great support for the event,” said Richter. “USUAA did all of the posters, they were really helpful in making sure that this event happened.”
The event is a departure from previous attempts from UAA to convey the meaning of consent. Many students saw the event as a more successful way to present that information, being more fun and inviting than more typical presentations.
“Just the diversity of ways that you can communicate something really starts to appeal to different people, said Shercliffe. “So I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with having pamphlets and Powerpoint presentations but you only get a very select group of people to go to those events. When you have something more broadly appealing like a mixer where you can meet people and interact, you can have a little bit more fun, and we think that we get a lot more outreach to different types of students.”
It is important to reach out to as many people as possible, because men and women alike aren’t aware of the resources available to contact in case of an assault or rape. Resources like Student Health and Counseling Center on campus, or Standing Together Against Rape (S.T.A.R.) will always be available to those affected.
“Standing against rape and the idea of this ‘yes culture’ and this hyper-sexualized world, it’s important to take a step back and realize we’re all human and we’re all people and our bodies need to be respected, no matter who you are, male or female,” Rebecca Thomas, an Early Childhood Education student at UAA who attended the event, said. “[Little Black Dress] is a good event to open that kind of conversation on campus.”
That was the goal for the event. The organizers realized that this was a multidimensional issue that needed to be presented in a unique and interesting way. In many ways, they succeeded. Many students attended, and it was a fun night full of music, socializing and lots of cake. Most importantly, it got the word out about important resources which will be available whenever people need them most.
The Student Health and Counseling Center (SHCC) offers interesting and instructive trainings and workshops to promote the health and wellness of students here at UAA. As part of offering students crucial services for all-around wellness, programs like Bringing in the Bystander provide students with education and an action plan for responsible intervention and prevention of sexual violence.
“I think most people who grow up in Alaska or have lived in Alaska most of their lives are kind of aware that Alaska is number one in sexual assault in the country, so I think that’s always been a huge concern to me,” said Johanna Richter, Economics major.
Richter works for the SHCC as one of the four Peer Health Educators who teach the Bringing in the Bystander class. State statistics shows that one out of two women surveyed in Anchorage have been a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, and the Bringing in the Bystander class raises awareness about these societal issues.
Richter got involved with the Bystander program through UAA’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition for change. Richter said that in an interaction where sexual assault occurs, the parties involved are the perpetrator of the assault, the survivor of the assault, and bystanders who could’ve done something to prevent that assault from happening. Bringing in the Bystander aims to prevent sexual assault by getting bystanders involved in safe and effective ways.
“The purpose of our program is to focus on the bystander rather than the perpetrator or the survivor and to empower people who maybe could step in and stop the assault,” said Richter, “and teach them techniques so they can do that in a way that one, is effective in preventing that assault and two, doing it in a way to protects their safety, because we definitely don’t want people to compromise their personal safety either.”
Educational betterment, increased awareness and empowerment of bystanders are the main goals of the program, as well as providing a safe space for people to ask questions and participate.
“We have a presentation that we go through that explains what consent is, what rape culture looks like, what good bystander behavior looks like, the bystander effect, which is where a lot of times people will see really bad things happen but they don’t feel like they can help in the situation so they don’t do anything,” said Richter.
The bystander effect is a well-documented social psychological phenomenon where individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. There are lots of factors influencing the occurrence of this phenomenon, and the biggest two, a lack of knowledge or courage to offer help, and the diffusion of responsibility to offer help, are what Bringing in the Bystander aims to target. A large part of the program discusses rape culture, myths about rape and sexual assault, and consent.
“Sexual assault isn’t just men assaulting women, it can be women assaulting men, it can be in homosexual relationships, it’s not just that one scenario,” said Richter.
Bringing in the Bystander also works to help establish clear standards for consent to help clear up some of that confusion. Richter said that the class also uses scenarios where potential assaults could occur to describe specific examples of safe ways to intervene, called “good bystander behavior.”
“For example, you [a bystander] can confront the individual who is trying to take someone somewhere, and it’s safer to do that in a group of people rather than do that by yourself,” said Richter. “You can say things like ‘oh, your car is being towed!’ or do things like that to distract the individual so you can get the person to safety.”
The information and strategies laid out by the program are comprehensive and helpful, and consistently help people become better informed and prepared bystanders.
Betty Bang, a UAA SHCC nurse practitioner and health educator, told TNL that Peer Educators are going through a training to get certified, and that the SHCC will be accepting applications in the spring for the position. Bang talked about how the program can increase positive intervention.
“Research has shown that if people see someone acting in a positive manner, being a positive bystander, they are more likely to be them,” said Bang. “That’s why we show people all these examples of good behavior and going through scenarios of, what could you do. There’s something that everybody can do… We chose Bringing in the Bystander because it was sustainable, where we could train folks and use Peer Health educators.”
The work that health educators are doing through Bringing in the Bystander empowers students and fosters community wellness. The facilitators of the program have found that their lessons are making a positive impact.
“We have a before and after survey that we do with people in the program; a lot of times in the beginning people aren’t really sure what they can do, they aren’t sure what, in a situation where something bad is going on, they can do to intervene and what appropriate bystander behavior looks like,” said Richter. “At the end of the class we do a second survey where we have people explain what they learned from the class and generally the attitudes at the end are that they feel far more confident and comfortable in terms of what they can do in that regard.”
A challenge that UAA care providers face is making sure that all the great resources and services that exist can actually reach people who need it. Disseminating the information has proven difficult, but the program covers a number of resources for sexual assault victims and bystanders.
“We also talk about resources in Alaska for survivors of sexual assault, which is what the Counseling Center provides,” said Richter, “What process you can go through if you want to report, like through the university or to the police, as well as making sure that survivors do have administrative support if they want to report an assault.”
Increasing the accessibility of resources is something that all health professionals are UAA are working to make happen.
“We are on the DVSA Coalition for change, we’re trying to all support each other with all different programming across campus,” said Bang. “We’ve had a lot of really good support from the Dean of Students.”
Since August, the Bringing in the Bystander program has trained 315 students, including 158 athletes, RAs and Student Union leaders. The program has reached countless more through tabling events and other sexual assault prevention programming throughout the year.
“I think that lots of bystanders of sexual assault don’t even know they are bystanders. Educating the public would be the best first step towards decreasing sexual assault in my opinion,” said Amanda Roberts, a Biological Sciences major. “Teach people to look for the signs, and what to do when they see them. Bringing in the Bystander at UAA sounds like a program that aims to inform people in a less confrontational manner. Sexual assault is a huge problem, and I admire those who are working to make a change.”
The next class being taught will happen in North Hall on Nov. 11, available to North Hall residents. Contact information for the program can be found online on the SHCC’s UAA page.
• Birth control and emergency contraception
· Campus outreach and promotions, Classroom lectures, Health education seminars
· Community referral for complex or specialized medical needs
· Depression screenings
· Emergency food cache for students
· Free HIV screening, TB tests $6.00 each
· Prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections
· Program specific health requirements
· Public health interventions
· Routine immunizations
· “Stress buster” events such as free lunches during final exams
· Travel counseling and travel immunizations
• Anchorage Community Mental Health Crisis Line 563-3200
• Providence Hospital Mental Health Emergency Dept. 261-2800
• Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) 279-9851
• Stand Together Against Rape (STAR) 276-7273 (crisis line) 1-800-478-8999
• Gay and Lesbian Help-Line (6-11pm) 258-4777
• Alaska Women’s Resource Center. 610 “C” St., Anchorage, 99501; 276-0528 www.awrconline.org
Community Support Groups:
• Alaska Mental Health Association 563-0880
• grief/loss/death support
• Stand Together Against Rape 276-7273
• Victims for Justice 278-0977 (advocacy and support for victims of crime)
Clinics and Hospitals
• Northstar Hospital 258-7575
• Providence Behavioral Medicine Group 373-8080 (Wasilla) 212-6900 (Anchorage)
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience, and some schools and universities around the nation are taking the initiative of warning their students about subject matter that may trigger a stressful reaction. For example, the student senate at the University of California, Santa Barbara passed a resolution in 2014 to mandate trigger warnings in all syllabi….
Gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming more normalized in American culture. An elementary school in San Francisco introduced gender-neutral bathrooms to its students. The University of Missouri recently implemented gender-neutral restrooms and housing. Several months ago, Boston City Hall initiated their unisex bathrooms for the public. The question is, is gender-neutral going to impact UAA? Sarah Hyland,…
A college campus at the beginning of fall is an influx of new ideas, new people and new beginnings. In college, drugs and alcohol become more prevalent and many will engage in sexual activity. The combination of drugs and alcohol with sex can be dangerous and it’s important to understand when sex is consensual….
As the trees slowly begin to fade to orange, the fight for parking starts anew and hallways at UAA begin to fill and buzz with conversation, something goes unspoken. Rape. What few will tell you is that the beginning of the school year is a time plagued by sexual assault. More college sexual assaults happen…
Rape and sexual violence have had a place in cinema since it began. Women have predominately been the victims of this violence. Women have been victimized and men have been victimizers as early as 1903’s “What Happened in the Tunnel,” a comedy. From the unbearable horror of Gasper Noe’s revenge flick “Irreversible” to the subtle…
In a case of sexual assault on campus, there can be two different amounts of evidence required for action to be taken: “in preponderance of the evidence” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Title IX and the University Police Department use these burdens of proof to take appropriate action on behalf of students.
Title IX’s burden of proof, “in preponderance of evidence,” is significantly less vigorous than that of UPD. It requires that there be just enough proof to make the victim’s story likely. Title IX officer Stephanie Whaley said this can even include cases where 51 percent of the evidence is in the victim’s favor.
With this low burden of proof, Title IX is able to take action at a civil level, meaning they are able to make arrangements for students that do not extend into the legal system, especially regarding the university environment. Some of these arrangements include immediate sanctions through the Dean of Students.
When a report is filed at the Title IX office, an investigative process begins.
“First, we ensure that the person feels safe,” said Title IX investigator Jerry Trew. “We conduct interviews, give education, that sort of thing. If it’s more serious, we can offer interim measures, which could be a class change, a room change in a residential environment, an escort to and from class, a no-contact order for students … we can do things like that to keep people safe on campus.”
Whaley said every reported incident that involves UAA students is investigated.
“When we’re doing an investigation, usually we’ll have someone come forward with complaints and we’ll talk to them about what’s going,” Whaley said. “Then Jerry (Trew) and I will determine whether or not we need to talk to anybody else. If it happens on campus, we’re going to look into it every time. If it has the ability to bleed back onto campus or affect campus life, then we’ll 100 percent look into it.”
Whaley also said victims may choose for Title IX to take an advocacy role as oppose to taking civil action. In this case, Title IX is able to provide support through counseling services and other resources that may aid someone dealing with the residual feelings of an incident.
Both Title IX and UPD work closely to ensure the safety of all people on campus.
“By law, all crimes involving sexual harassment are handed over to Title IX,” said UPD Lt. Michael Beckner. “Within 10 days of an incident, we have to notify Title IX and they do an independent investigation. Title IX deals with civil penalties whereas we would take our case forward to criminal penalties and prison.”
Beckner said when a report is filed with UPD, the claims are reviewed with due diligence to see if they are viable. UPD’s burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the claim constitutes a felony, it is then presented to a grand jury that can give probable cause or “reasonable belief” to indict the person and continue with the process. Once the person is indicted, they are arrested and then presented before a judge, where a trial will take place.
Every person on campus has the right to feel safe and the right to be heard. Both UPD and Title IX take all reports of sexual harassment seriously, and victims are always encouraged to come forward to report their incidents, no matter how small it may seem. Anonymous reporting is also an option.
“Universities are stressful,” Beckner said. “People are here to learn and we don’t need the type of people that are there to harass, stalk or assault. If people don’t want the police involved, there is always an option to report.”
For more information, call the Title IX office at 907-786-4680, or contact University Police Department at 907-786-1120.
If you see something do something, is a commonly known phrase when it comes to actions a bystander should take if witnessing a sexual assault. But what does “do something” truly entail?
“In the event of witnessing a sexual assault, the first course of action should be determined by safety for both the victim and the witness. This should also include calling the police as well,” said Becca Shier local Anchorage resident.
The instinct to help others comes naturally for some Breana Fejes; a UAA student did not hesitate to say that she would step in to help a victim. However not all people are as comfortable.
“We really encourage people to step in do something if they see something that they don’t think is right or that they don’t agree with and that of course covers sexual assault and power based personal violence. The difficulty with that is it’s not always easy or safe to step in” said Julie Dale, member of the Community education and prevention team at Standing Together against Rape, or STAR.
If the environment is not safe but one would really like to help there are numerous ways to intervene without putting oneself in harm’s way or making matters worse for the victim. “One of those ways would be to delegate that task to somebody else” Dale said. For example at a bar one can bring up suspicious behavior to a bouncer or bartender, or here on campus individuals can report to suspicious activity to campus police at 907.786.1120.
There are people whom think that stepping in can’t make a difference or that the next person will do it, something; however the more people that act the better the chances to end sexual assault.
The webcomic “Penny Arcade” has a great strip regarding what they call the “Greater Internet F—wad Theory,” or GIFT for short. Basically, it states that a normal person, when given anonymity and an audience, turns into a total F—wad, as they say. Thus far, The Northern Light’s Red Zone coverage has included safe partying tips and steps one can take to avoid sexual assault on campus. But on campus is not the only place where one can feel sexually threatened. The GIFT has demonstrated that harassment can happen to anyone, by anyone on the Internet. The tale of Zoe Quinn, which is pretty big in the news now, pertains massively to the topic of online sexual harassment. Zoe Quinn is the developer of a recent game called “Depression Quest,” a semi-fictional visual novel of sorts that explores depression — what it does to victims and those who surround them. It’s definitely a topic worth discussing. But that is not the reason that Quinn is making headlines right now. She’s making headlines because she’s had to fight back against legions upon legions of Internet trolls. Upon putting her game up on Steam, it was faced with tons of comments threatening to rape and kill her, among other despicable things. A man claiming to be her ex-boyfriend jumped on the bandwagon, too, making several humiliating and shameful allegations about her. And this has added fuel to the fire in what seems like a perpetual harassment loop. You may think to yourself that this is just an isolated case, but it’s really not. The Internet’s culture has a history of being misogynistic and cruel to its female members. But what not many realize is that there’s a system in place to prevent and punish that kind of behavior. Title VII and Title IX both apply to online harassment, and if you’re being harassed or threatened by co-workers or students online, talk to someone about it. Don’t let them get away. It is the duty of these titles to prevent harassment and threats, and that applies to the Internet as well. And that leads to another side of this topic that I’d like to talk to: the harassers. Yes, that means you, reader. Chances are you are a normal person who uses the Internet, granting you anonymity and an audience. But you don’t have to be a total F—wad. You’re more responsible than that. Sexual harassment is not okay, no matter where it happens. In fact, by doing it anonymously on a global, digital stage, you’re making it worse. The harassment being inflicted on Zoe Quinn can only be possible on the Internet. And while the Internet is a wonderful invention, it still saddens me that many immature people are using it to belittle and shame others. Many message boards and social networks allow you to report behavior like this, and they do have rules against that kind of thing. If you’re threatened, you can take it up with an administrator or report it, which will probably lead to a ban or a warning. These networks are doing all that they can in stopping this kind of behavior. You can help them out, and vice versa. No matter where or how you’re harassed, there’s help for you. If you feel threatened or unsafe by someone else on the Internet, there are people everywhere to talk to. And if you post on the Internet, be responsible. You’re an adult. Don’t be a total F—wad.
Fact: Most sexual assaults on campuses involve alcohol. Many parties also involve alcohol, and when students party — especially freshmen — things can get dangerous. But there are ways to be safer and smarter about sex and partying to prevent becoming a victim or offender.
The weeks leading to Thanksgiving are a particularly dangerous time for incoming freshmen, and this time period has become known as the “Red Zone.” According to a Campus Sexual Assault study conducted in 2007, this time period is characterized by the highest rate of campus sexual assaults, mostly involving college freshmen.
These statistics, while influenced by several factors, can result from students trying to fit in amongst a new group of people, having less supervision and being unfamiliar with surroundings and situations. Most of the sexual assaults that arise from this happen because of alcohol — according to Core Institute, alcohol is a factor in 90 percent of campus rapes. The Core Institute also reports that 73 percent of college students drink at least occasionally, and that puts many students at risk.
Knowing the principles of consent is the first step to preventing sexual assault. Scott Hampton, director of Ending the Violence for the Consexuality Project, outlined four principles regarding consent, shown to the right.
While drinking and partying, remember to always trust yourself and to not give in to peer pressure. Alcohol is not required to have fun, and judgment is impaired while drinking. Remembering these things can keep one out of a lot of trouble.
“Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re so far out of it that you don’t know what you’re doing to yourself,” said University Police Department Chief Rick Shell.
If you want to drink at a party, try to bring a person you trust along with you. This person can help look after you and make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of.
“If you’re going to parties, have somebody with you that can help. … Kinda like a safety partner,” Shell said. “So that if one of you does get too far off, the other can help out and … protect you from the predators that may be out there.”
“Teach your friends to be good bystanders,” said Jerry Trew, a Title IX investigator at UAA.
University Police Department detective Teresa Denette suggests letting someone know if you are going out, as well as where you will be going and who you’re going with. She also suggests that individuals avoid leaving drinks unattended or accepting drinks from strangers.
A brochure from BACCHUS & GAMMA Peer Education Network says, “Be extra careful getting into sexual situations when you’ve been drinking. Alcohol abuse sometimes leads people into sexual situations they may have avoided if they were sober.”
Always have a plan of how you will leave the party either at the end of the night, or if something is going wrong or you don’t feel safe. Don’t ever leave a party alone with someone you have just met, either.
You can even download a mobile application called “circleof6,” which allows users to just tap their phones twice to send six user-selected people a message that says, “Come and get me. I need help getting home safely. Call when you’re close. My location is near: (link to your location).”
The app also has hotline numbers for a variety of issues including rape, sexual abuse, relationship abuse and more.
UPD suggests contacting the law enforcement if you believe someone has tried or has sexually assaulted you. Immediately go to the nearest hospital if you have been hurt.
“Contact the police department that wouldhave the jurisdiction over it,” Shell said. “So if it happens on campus, it would be us (UPD), 786-1120, or 911 if it’s happening right then, or the Anchorage Police Department — it’s 786-8900.”
Denette said that once one notifies the police of a sexual assault, the victim will be taken to the nearest Sexual Assault Response Team Center and will see a forensic nurse.
“I encourage you to report it immediately to the police, so an investigation can be completed,” Denette said.
Shell said students who may be apprehensive about involving law enforcement alternatively report the incident to the Dean of Students Office, which will also provide resources for the victim as well.
Sexual assault and harassment are major issues for young Americans in today’s culture. Some people already know this, but what most people don’t know is the identity of those disproportionately targeted by this harassment — the LGBT community. The acronym LGBTQA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual identities, though the acronym is…
In a perfect world, rape and sexual assault victims would not be associated with terms like “slut” and “whore” and “asking for it.” But then again, in a perfect world, rape would not be a problem we would be facing on a daily basis. The situation has gotten so bad that one in every four women face sexual assault during the four years of their college career alone. Why are the numbers this stark?
Rape culture exists in our community. We perpetuate it. It is everyone’s fault. It is so deeply ingrained in our social lives that we have become blind to how we all help it fester and worsen.
Rape is almost never about lust. Rape is about exuding power over someone else. Rape functions to make the victim feel helpless and alone. It is to feel in control of someone else’s personhood.
This is where the public comes in. We give the assaulter even more power by blaming the victim, shaming the victim and trivializing the violence against them. By saying things like the victim “was asking for it” or was “leading the perpetrator on,” we give the rapist the power they seek when he or she commits the act in the first place.
We live in a world that normalizes and trivializes rape. So what’s the result? Rape culture. Rape culture describes a society in which sexual violence is normalized because of our backward views on gender, sex and sexuality. Women and men both — but women especially — are daily victims of it.
In this way, it’s normal to trivialize rape. “What was she wearing?” and “Why did she drink that much?” are uttered far too often when a woman is the victim of sexual violence. Rape culture teaches us that the natural state of a woman is to be raped, and the natural state of a man is to rape. To be clear, men are the victims of sexual violence too. And while women are predominantly victimized, the lines get blurrier every day.
Stop blaming the victim. No one asks to be raped. No one has the right to rape.
By, Tulsi Patil and Kierra Hammons
Its the reason rape is one of the most under-reported crimes in our community. Its the reason most sexual offenders will never face the consequences of their crimes. Its the reason rape culture still exists in people’s lives.
“There’s a lot of stigma that you will be … chastised that you could have done something to prevent this and you didn’t,” said University Police Department Chief Rick Shell. “And that’s where we’re working, in law enforcement and in the community, to try to erase as much of that stigma as possible.”
The numbers are harsh and difficult to accept, but they are a reality that is inescapable.
According to the 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey, 37.1 percent of women in Alaska face sexual violence. The 2013 University of Alaska Campus Security and Fire Safety Report disclosed totals for forcible sex offenses on UAA’s main campus: one in 2010, four in 2011 and three in 2012.
As of Aug. 3, there are 1,222 sex offenders registered within the city of Anchorage — 164 of which are registered within the area of UAA’s ZIP code.
Everyone is at risk, but with education, safety can be increased.
What is the “Red Zone”?
Between the start of school and Thanksgiving, university freshmen are at particular risk for sexual assault. This period has been dubbed the “Red Zone,” and a Campus Sexual Assault study conducted in 2007 showed that more than half of sexual assaults on college campuses occur during this time.
“College freshmen … have moved out of the house — naturally you get freedom that you’ve never had,” said UAA Title IX investigator Jerry Trew.
But despite this luxury, West Virginia University has identified this as a contributing risk factor for the Red Zone. It is important for students to act carefully in spite of this freedom in order to ensure their safety.
Preventing sexual assault
The first way to prevent sexual assault is to avoid becoming a perpetrator. Sex is a mutual, consensual act, and sex without consent is assault.
According to the Red Zone Awareness Campaign, consensual sex has three components between partners: verbal consent, a sober state of mind and mutual agreement.
A lack of “no” doesn’t mean “yes,” and proceeding to a new stage of sexual activity without a verbal, sober and mutual “yes” entails sexual assault. Protect yourself and your partner by communicating consent each step of the way.
Trew said he recommends a suggestion a student brought to his attention: “Always assume it’s a no until the other party gives an enthusiastic yes.”
Though the cause of sexual assault lies with assaulters themselves, this is not a perfect world and everyone can take precautions to protect themselves against potential assault.
The university has a number of sexual assault prevention programs, including Rape Aggression Defense classes and monthly sexual harassment training for university employees.
Aside from these programs, there are several ways to make one’s university experience safer. Don’t accept open drinks from strangers. Go to parties and other locations with a friend.
“We want friends to look out for each other,” Trew said.
Talk about boundaries and consent with each of your partners so actions and intents are clear.
Sexual assault can come from an escalation of simple misunderstandings between partners. Ambiguous language or role play can send the wrong message, so it is critical to discuss the meanings of vague phrases, such as, “Take me home with you.” If you and your sexual partner have not had this discussion, make time for it — and in the meantime, only use clear phrasing to avoid a dangerous misunderstanding.
But even with precaution, some things are out of one’s control. And if this happens, don’t shy away from the help offered on campus.
“If something doesn’t look right or feel right, report it,” Trew said. “We take it seriously.”