Rowan navigates college “Red Zone” after sexual assault on campus

The Wellness Center offers a host of resources including individual and group counseling, reporting resources, ER transportation for evidence collection, Famcare and medications for STI and pregnancy prevention. - Opinion Editor / Sylent Michaels

What is Rowan doing to navigate sexual assault during the Red Zone period?

Within the first week of the fall semester of 2023, a timely warning from Rowan’s Department of Public Safety was issued about a sexual assault that took place on campus. The assault took place on Sept. 7, two days after the start of the semester, and was reported to public safety on Sept. 9 by a third-party campus official. 

Rowan is legally obligated to report incidents such as sexual assault and other forms of violence in timely warnings under the Clery Act. 

The assault took place in on-campus residential housing at around 8 p.m., though no further detail could be given. The identities of all parties involved are also confidential. The exact details of what exactly happened also remain confidential, as the definition of sexual assault or a sexual offense is very loose, covering everything from groping to rape. It is unclear if any suspect has been identified at this time. 

Reports of unwanted sexual contact and sexual assault are common at this time of year, referred to as the Red Zone. According to The Center for Women and Families, the Red Zone is the period of time from the first day that students are on campus until Thanksgiving, which is when more than 50% of campus sexual assaults occur. 

Amy Hoch, Associate Director of the Wellness Center, says that the most vulnerable groups to assault are freshmen and transfer, international, and LGBTQ+ students.

“Perpetrators look for people who are more vulnerable in general, and freshmen tend to be in that group or transfer students because this is a new place for them. They don’t really know, right, all of the resources, they don’t have a friend group, you know, social connection, and so they might be more easily isolated… somebody who is LGBTQ might mean that that person is going to be less likely to report it because they don’t want to out themselves right or out their identity,” said Hoch. 

Alcohol has been used for drink spiking and for incapacitation of victims for decades, but Hoch said that since its legalization, cannabis has also been being used in the same manner. 

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted during college, and over 90% of those assaults go unreported. 

Allie Pearce, Assistant Director of Healthy Campus Initiatives, wants to encourage more survivors to report.

“We want that person to have the power and control to decide what happens next… if things aren’t reported… we don’t know what we don’t know, you know… our most important concern is so that students know all of the resources that they can choose or not choose to participate in,” said Pearce. 

In 2022, Rowan saw seven Rowan Alerts or Timely Warnings regarding sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact in this period, with the first occurrence during the semester happening on Sept. 7, exactly one year to the day of this semester’s first reported assault, and the last before Thanksgiving break on November 11. 

According to Rowan’s most recent Clery Report, 2019 saw 19 reported rapes and eight instances of fondling for the entire year, 2020 had six rapes and four recorded instances of fondling, and 2021 recorded 11 rapes and seven instances of fondling. Most of these crimes took place within on-campus housing. 

Reed Layton is the senior director for Rowan’s Department of Public Safety.

“I can’t say it’s common,” said Layton in regards to having an assault occur within the first week. “Usually the first month has a lot of activity… I’m talking everything really.”

Layton also said Public Safety takes measures during this time of high activity, such as having extra patrols and six to eight additional officers every weekend around high-traffic areas, like larger dormitories and Rowan Boulevard. Layton made specific reference to Holly Pointe as a heavily patrolled area, due to the high number of predominantly freshmen students that live within the dormitory. 

Rowan officials and departments are aware of the problem at this time of year and provide resources to students in the hopes of preventing or mitigating harm. The Wellness Center also has a variety of resources for providing survivors with mental and physical health care in the aftermath of an assault. These include providing medication to prevent STIs and pregnancy, Famcare every Monday and Wednesday, transportation to the Inspira emergency room to collect evidence if needed, help in reporting to law enforcement or Title IX, chat groups like Chill and Chat or Sit and Sip, as well as individual counseling. Public Safety also hosts RAD self-defense classes for students. 

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