OPINION: During the ‘red zone’ of the school year, sexual assault is still unacceptable

Illustration by Sammy Newman

Bryce Randall, Contributing Writer

As is expected during the first six to seven weeks of a new school year, VCU and Richmond have seen recent reports of sexual assaults. But this isn’t unique to VCU; it’s become such a national expectation that this time period is referred to as the red zone” by some news outlets. As the school year gears up, the risk of being sexually assaulted goes up. 

So, since some of you didn’t get the memo, I feel the need to make it abundantly clear: Assault in any form is intolerable. If someone does not want to hook up with you, politely accept their decision and leave. Learn to respect people’s space and choices. Proceeding to sexually approach someone without their consent is repulsive, harmful and frankly pathetic. 

In August, there were four reports of sexual assault, battery or forcible sodomy across the Monroe Park and MCV campuses, and three cases of indecent exposure; in September, there were four more reports of sexual assault, battery or forcible rape, and one of indecent exposure, according to university police logs. One recent example is the case involving two men who police say assaulted a woman and posted a video of the assault on Snapchat. 

One of the most twisted facts about these assaults, among many others, is that they only represent a small fraction of the total number of people who have been assaulted. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, commonly known as RAINN, only 1 in 5 women make reports after being sexually assaulted. Additionally, RAINN goes on to note that college-aged women are three times more likely to be attacked than the average woman. 

In response to these statistics, one of the things the Office on Women’s Health advises women to do is stay in illuminated areas or ask a friend or campus security to go with them while walking at night. From a non-predatory male perspective, though, this is ludacris. When I’m out at night, I do not have to think about staying in well-lit areas. I also have never felt the need to ask my friends or, God forbid, campus security to walk with me. As a 6-foot-2-inch African American male, I am not the prey that most predators are hunting for. Statistically speaking, I am about four times less likely to be raped or sexually assaulted in comparison to college-aged women. 

The way I see it, women should not have to fear walking the streets at night in the first place. Along the same lines, there shouldn’t be a fear of setting your drink down at a party or going out with someone alone. College is supposed to be an enjoyable experience where we grow into ourselves. Nobody should feel as if they are going to get attacked the moment they let their guard down. 

The United States Justice Department defines sexual assault as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.” You’d think that with a definition this straightforward more guys would take the hint.. 

Let’s take a quick peek at the word “nonconsensual.” If the person you are attempting any form of sexual activity with says “no” or “stop,” you should walk away. If the person gives you the slightest inkling of evidence that they are not interested in you or isn’t even conscious enough to give you consent, leave them alone. Unless someone directly gives you permission to touch them, you have absolutely no right to invade their personal space. Is there something about the phrase “no means no” that guys have trouble understanding? 

This definition also applies to people changing their minds about giving consent. Perhaps in the beginning they wanted to engage in the activity, but later changed their mind. That is their choice. In this situation, they are revoking the consent they gave. Therefore, keep it moving and mosey along. 

Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault and, on that note, the solution to campus sexual assaults shouldn’t be focused so much on teaching college-aged women to be safe. The solution should be aimed at teaching men to have some respect and understand how to keep their hands to themselves.

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