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STRIVE, SAFE working to address possible double red zone

Infographic by Anna Chung

By Talha Arif     9/14/21 10:38pm

Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault.

The SAFE Office and Students Turning Rice Into a Violence-Free Environment are currently creating a training schedule in order to provide a refresher bystander intervention workshop for College Teams and Student Leaders, according to Cathryn Councill, director of the SAFE Office.

The red zone refers to the period from mid-August through Thanksgiving break when students new to a university are most vulnerable to sexual assault, according to Councill. This training initiative comes amidst the possibility of a “double red zone” due to two classes of students who are less familiar with the Rice party experience or campus life, according to STRIVE director Aliza Brown.

“We really want to look at how to help mitigate some of that and provide resources and education to especially support students who may not be familiar with those parts of the Rice experience,” Brown, a Will Rice senior, said.

Thirty-two reports of sexual harassment, which includes acts of sexual violence such as sexual assault, were received by Rice from Aug. 15 to Nov. 14, 2020, according to University Title IX Coordinator Richard Baker. Comparatively, from Nov. 15, 2020 to Feb 14, 2021, there were six reports.

These dates reflect when Rice received the report, not the date of the incident which may not have occurred during that period, Baker said.

According to Councill, there are a variety of possible reasons for the red zone, including new students not knowing campus culture, being unfamiliar with their surroundings or due to the process of meeting new people and making friends. Councill said sexual assault is in no way the fault of the victim.

“Unfortunately, there are others in most communities, including Rice, that could see new students as vulnerable and use power and control to harm them, or they do not model how to assess for enthusiastic consent or utilize those skills themselves when engaging with others,” Councill said.

Libby Atkins, a STRIVE liaison, said all of these new adjustments can heighten peer pressure and anxieties at the beginning of the semester.

“While new students are adjusting to pressures of social life, some are also drinking alcohol for the first time ... not to mention that older students may be drinking or partying more to make up for lost time socializing at college during the pandemic,” Atkins, a Lovett College senior, said. 

According to STRIVE liaison Mallory Newbern, liaisons undergo extensive bystander training and work to consistently pass this training along to students at their colleges.

“Martel specifically is holding a meet and greet for our liaisons this week in an effort to connect with underclassmen who do not necessarily know who we are or what STRIVE does,” Newbern, a Martel College senior, said.

Atkins said many new students have not received good consent or sex education when they matriculate to Rice.

“While it is absolutely critical to share crisis response resources and survivor support to new students, the rape culture that necessitated these resources to exist in the first place needs to end,” Atkins said.

Alcohol and sexual violence

Izzie Karohl, the former director of the Student Association Interpersonal Violence Policy committee, described the double red zone as a phenomena where multiple classes are new to spaces where alcohol and drugs are present, correlating to higher rates of sexual violence.

“Personally, the beginning of the year always scares me because new students often don’t have the same support infrastructure as other students,” Karohl, a Will Rice College senior, said. “When I was a new student, I was less likely to reach out for help, ask professors for extensions, and confide in friends because I had only just met them.”

The SA IPVP committee aims to focus on educational, policy, and collaborative initiatives that minimize the occurrence and harm of interpersonal violence on campus, according to current IPVP director Jacob Tate. 

Tate said students should all consider their role in the creation of the red zone, such as whether students are overemphasizing the necessity of partying as they return to campus and whether they are keeping an eye out for new students.

“Sexual assault is both a policy issue and a cultural issue,” Tate, a Sid Richardson College senior, said. “While groups like IPVP and STRIVE and SAFE can work on the policy issue, we need the buy in of the entire campus to improve the culture around partying and sex.”

Karohl said she helped pilot a presentation with STRIVE last semester at Jones and McMurtry College to empower upperclassmen to create safe party spaces in the fall, and is working to expand these discussions to all colleges.

51.8 percent of female survivors of rape and 65.9 percent of female survivors of sexual touching at Rice reported their assailant had drank alcohol, according to 2019 Association of American Universities Campus Climate survey data. The data also indicated that 84.9 percent of female survivors of rape and 78.3 percent of female survivors of sexual touching reported drinking alcohol before the incident.

Rice imposed an indoor alcohol ban on Aug. 30 due to elevated COVID-19 cases, to which several college chief justices responded that the policy would likely cause more drinking to occur off-campus. Brown said that with the ban potentially moving more parties off campus, it is important to note the differences in the on-campus versus off-campus processes for reporting sexual violence.

“Assaults that occur off campus are not considered to be under Title IX, they are considered to be under Code of Conduct violations, which changes the process,” Brown said. “The Code of Conduct does not include cross examination, [with] the accused student and reporting student seeing each other in a trial… however, it’s still a draining process.”

According to Policy 828, Title IX does not apply to conduct that does not arise as part of the educational activities and programs of Rice University.

Brown said that it is important to note that amnesty policies protect students if they report a sexual assault or any type of sexual or relationship violence, even if they were breaking the indoor alcohol ban.

Initiatives moving forward

Councill said the SAFE office also provides training for staff and faculty, through critically thinking about the societal and systemic issues that contribute to violence, how to be an active bystander and how to support students who have been impacted by interpersonal violence.

Karohl said she wants students to know they are worthy of help and support without reporting what exactly happened or who hurt them. She also said students should be mindful about creating non-alcohol centered events.

“If a friend doesn’t seem like they’re interested in going out, offer to hang back with them and put on a movie in commons or something,” Karohl said. “Normalizing opting-out can create a culture where people can express their needs and take care of themselves, and I think it will lead to a healthier Rice overall.”

Atkins said to ensure new students’ first college experience isn’t defined by violence, teaching college students about relationship boundaries and consent is extremely important.

“Rice prides itself on holding its students to high academic standards. It is the responsibility of the university to ensure that their students are equipped with the knowledge necessary to maintain healthy sexual and social relationships too,” Atkins said.

Brown said it can be easy to to shy away from conversations about sexual violence on campus when students don’t think it will be applicable to them, but everyone ultimately plays a role in upholding the Culture of Care. Councill also said sexual violence prevention requires the entire community.

“To truly prevent violence, we have to not only address the potential and current victim survivors, but also the people in the community who could be active bystanders and those who have the potential to harm others,” Councill said.

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