This month, thousands of students are gearing up for college, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for young adults to develop new relationships. During this time, students can experience a whirlwind of emotions – from excitement and adventure, to feeling anxious or unsure.
It’s also the beginning of what is called the “Red Zone,” which is a six-week timeframe where students, particularly first-year students, are more likely to experience sexual assault on campus. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), more than 50 percent of campus sexual assaults occur between August and November*. Additionally, females between ages 18 and 24 are at the highest risk of intimate partner violence.
So what can be done to help prevent sexual and relationship violence? In one word – education. Comprehensive sexual health information is imperative in changing our culture. One Student (http://onestudent.org/) is a program implemented across Ohio that focuses on a culture of consent on college campuses. Working in partnership with the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), the goal of One Student is to provide students and their allies with programs, resources and opportunities to address sexual violence.
Consent means that all parties involved give permission for each sexual act, and that all parties are able to consent without coercion or diminished mental capacity.
The Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH) served as a community and training partner in the pilot of the One Student campaign to emphasize the importance of bystander intervention. A bystander is someone who witnesses or becomes aware of an act of sexual or relationship violence, but isn’t directly involved in the behavior. TCFSH provides education on how bystanders can safely intervene in these uncomfortable scenarios. The Where’s The Line? Campaign gives bystanders a confidential and anonymous resource to safely and appropriately help victims.
It is important that middle and high school students receive comprehensive sexual health information, too. This includes information on setting boundaries, understanding what makes up a healthy or unhealthy relationship, and naming all forms of relationship abuse.
TCFSH has a Training and Advocacy department, where trainers travel to schools in Franklin County and the surrounding counties to educate students on healthy relationships. The demand for these free trainings has recently increased, especially considering the ever-changing technology that students have at their fingertips. A favorite topic amongst middle school and high school students is “Dating in a Digital World.” This training session explores the use of technology and how it can be used for power and control. Trainers also discuss how to recognize the warning signs of abuse, how to respond appropriately as well as resources in the school and local community.
In addition to arming students, parents and staff with knowledge on the topic, there are federal laws in place on campuses (educational institutions that receive federal funding) to help stop sexual and relationship violence, including sexual harassment and stalking. These laws are Title IX and the Clery Act.
Everyone has a role to play in reducing sexual assault. Most importantly, if someone you know discloses that they have been a victim of sexual assault or intimate partner violence, start by believing them. KnowYourIX.org provides tips on how to support a victim: https://www.knowyourix.org/for-friends-and-fami/supporting-survivor-dating-violence/.
National Sexual Assault Hotline (operated by RAINN)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (operated by Loveisrespect)
Text “loveis” to 22522
Ohio Sexual Violence Helpline
End Rape On Campus (EROC)