As students begin their fall semester, many are often thinking about the classes they will be taking, where they will be living and the student organizations they will be a part of. However, most overlook another significant topic that can appear as the semester begins: campus sexual assault. Red Zone is known as the first six weeks in the fall semester in which incoming students are at a higher risk for being victims of sexual assault. While Red Zone is known to occur in the first six weeks of the school semester, campus sexual assault can also occur even before the semester begins, from the time that students are moving in all the way until the end of the fall semester. The Department of Justice conducted a study on campus sexual assault and concluded that about 62 percent of campus sexual assault reports occurred between August and November.
Sex Week is a student organization at UNC Charlotte that aims to promote the education, discussion and awareness of sex-related topics, such as sexual health and education, LGBTQ+ issues, sexual assault, domestic violence, sex positivity and many other topics. Sex Week has expanded programming to include the Red Zone and highlight the importance of raising awareness of the risk students face during this time period. One of the main goals of Sex Week is to also create partnerships between various student resources and organizations on campus, such as the Title IX office, Center for Wellness Promotion, PLEASE and many more to increase the discourse and education on these topics.
In order to raise awareness on campus sexual assault and prevention efforts during the Red Zone and beyond the school year, Sex Week has created a four part series titled “Red Zone.” Sex Week has collaborated with other student organizations and school-sponsored resources to create events highlighting the ways sexual assault can be prevented and resources available for survivors of sexual assault. Melissa Martin, one of the founders of Sex Week, stated, “Programming, like The Red Zone, is meant to increase student awareness of UNC Charlotte’s resources and encourage discussions about what individual members of the campus community can do in response to the issue of sexual assault.”
Each Thursday in September, Sex Week hosted events for the Red Zone. The four themes included consent and boundaries, healthy relationships, sex and greek life and a movie screening and panel on “The Hunting Ground.” These events allow students to learn more about how to navigate relationships and what to do if they experience sexual assault. It also provides students with a platform to create dialogue on the issue.
Mayanthi Jayawardena, an Interpersonal Violence Prevention Specialist at the Center for Wellness Promotion, was one of the speakers at the first event on consent and boundaries. She commented that she was happy that Sex Week hosted this event, stating, “Navigating boundaries when it comes to sexual activity or healthy relationships can be trickier than we might initially think. We all enter every space with our own values, boundaries and experience, and it is important that we know how to express them and respect others.”
The sex and greek life discussion centered on “challenging our norms surrounding sexual violence, bystander intervention and survivor support.” The talk was led by Bonny Shade, the Associate Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life. She also commented on the importance of the event: “The more we begin to normalize these types of conversations around sex, consent, social normative behavior, the more we will be able to identify and prevent sexual misconduct.”
The last event is a movie screening of “The Hunting Ground.” This film showcases the stories of two students at UNC Chapel Hill and the response from the campus administration to the sexual assault reports. The screening also includes a panel discussing the resources available on campus. Those participating in the panel include the Title IX office, The Center for Wellness Promotion, Greek Life and the UNC Charlotte Police Department.
Sex Week will continue to provide programming throughout the school year. To learn more about Sex Week and Red Zone, visit their website.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual harassment, assault, interpersonal and relationship violence, there are resources available to students. You can visit the student wellness site to learn more about the available resources.