Facing The Red Zone:
WCJ Provides Services for College-Age Victims of Sexual Assault During Critical Time of Semester
by Rachel E. Riggs
Every August, a flux of young people come to Jacksonville to attend one of the many institutions of higher learning in this city. They move into dorms and apartments, they buy toaster ovens and wall art, and they settle into building a new life—with new friends, new parties, new sporting events, new tailgates, and new romantic relationships.
Sexual violence affects everyone regardless of education status, gender, and age. During the months of August through November, young women and men attending college are at higher risk for sexual assault compared to their peers who are not at college.
University administrators and researchers have dubbed the period “The Red Zone” because this is when reports of sexual assaults are most prominent on college campuses.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), women between 18 and 24 years of age are three times more likely to be victims of sexual assault, and over 50% of college sexual assaults occur during The Red Zone. In addition, male college students between 18 and 24 years old are 78% more likely to be the victim of sexual assault or rape compared to their peers who are not in college.
RAINN suggests that college students need to know the resources available to them on campus and in the community. Although it is never the victims’ fault, college students can take steps to stay safe, including attending parties (or tailgates) with trusted friends and drinking from closed-lid cups that have not been left unattended. In addition, if college students ever feel unsafe, they should know that it is okay to lie to get out of the unsafe situation.
Only one out of five college-age women reported using victim services. The Women’s Center of Jacksonville (WCJ) is already working to close this gap. Here are some of the ways the rape recovery team at the WCJ is working to provide services to all victims of sexual assault.
- The Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (S.A.F.E.) Center. The S.A.F.E. Center is available 24/7 to all women and men who have been sexually assaulted so that sexual assault forensic medical exams can be conducted. These forensic exams, although not mandatory, help empower victims by giving them valuable evidence if they choose to press charges on their perpetrator.
- The 24-Hr Rape Crisis Hotline. The WCJ runs a 24-hr hotline where victim advocates offer crisis intervention, information, and referrals. This number is 904.721.7273
- Free mental health counseling by a trained, caring WCJ therapist is provided to all who seek these services, including individual counseling and group counseling like the Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Bosom Buddies, and the Teen Survivor Support Group.
Through the support of donors and grants, the WCJ is working hard to ensure that the S.A.F.E. Center, the hotline, and counseling services are operational for years and generations to come. These services are just a few of the ways the WCJ helps empower all victims of sexual assault—especially during The Red Zone.
November 10, 2023
Rachel E. Riggs, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of public relations in the School of Communication at the University of North Florida. Her research focuses on understanding the role of media in encouraging adolescents’ and emerging adults’ disclosure of sexual assault and mental health problems. Through her research and service, she hopes to make a difference in the lives of women through education and awareness.
Rachel is also a volunteer with the WCJ. Click here for more information on how to get involved.