By Nivi Obla, Hanaa’ Tameez and Kelly Zegers
Earlier this year, United Educators, a company that provides liability insurance to educational institutions, released a study showing that more than half of alleged sexual assault victims on college campuses are freshmen girls. If you factor in sophomores, the total is nearly 75 percent. The report also shows that 88 percent of alleged victims of gang assaults are also freshmen.
Many of these assaults take place during what’s often referred to as “the red zone,” the first few weeks of the semester when you don’t have too much school work and can still afford to go to out every weekend after you have paid for your textbooks. This is not to be confused with the “red zone” at Stony Brook, also known as the student fan section at sporting events.
We, the managing editors of The Statesman, have had our fair share of positive and negative experiences at Stony Brook. Now that we are all starting our senior year, we want to share some of the things we learned about staying safe while still having fun.
- Frat parties? Buddy system: Always always always go to parties with a friend or with a group. 95 percent of frat-party fun is the people you are with. You do not want to be drunk and alone in a house full of strangers. Having friends around you ensures that if you do run into trouble, at least one person will have your back (we hope). Make sure your phone is charged and you have Lindy’s Taxi in your contacts.
- Trust your gut: If at said party–or anywhere in general–you get a weird vibe from someone, there is a reason for it. While part of college is pulling yourself out of your comfort zone, do not put yourself in danger. If someone or a situation makes your stomach turn or your heart drop (not in the cute way), remove yourself as quickly as you can.
- Your body, your rules: One of the wonderful things about your body is that it’s yours. No one knows it better than you do and no one can take that away from you. So if a kiss lingers too long or a hand wanders farther than you want it to, take control. Know that in the moment, it is completely respectable to make the right choice for yourself. You do not have to prove anything to anyone. You can say no at any time.
- Don’t feel obligated to entertain unsolicited attention:
HT: I will never forget walking back at 3 a.m. from the train station to Mendy after a concert and two guys very loudly and aggressively trying to get my friend and me to stop “just to talk.” At the end of January, in the middle of a freezing night, no one wants to just “be your friend” at that hour. Keep walking.
NO: A lot of unwanted attention can come from people you are friends with. Friends mean well, friends think you are great – but even the greatest of intentions can leave you feeling uncomfortable. If a friend is crossing the line, stop giggling and playing it off. Be direct and say something. A friendship that makes you feel uneasy is not a friendship.
- Tell someone: Whether you are going on a Tinder date or for a run at night because you do not want anyone to see you sweat in the light of day, tell your friend, or your roommate or your RA. When you are new on campus, it is easy to get lost, mentally, emotionally and physically. Let someone who you trust know where you are if you are worried about where you are going. Make sure they have your number and you have theirs.
KZ: As a commuter, I am often walking to my car alone late at night. While I have never had a bad experience doing so, I always text my friends to let them know I got home. It is likely that nothing will happen, but there are always people who would care if something did.
- You have nothing to prove:
NO: After three long years, I have come to the conclusion that it is still really fun to stay in and chill with the people I really love rather than go out every weekend to fight for the attention of a guy who will not text me back. Is it exciting the first few times? Of course! If you want to go out, go out. Have a great time. If you do not want to go out, you do not want to drink, you do not want to smoke – great. It does not mean you are no fun. Do not let the your peers pressure you otherwise. Some of the best memories I have are from events where I played the sober friend.
- Be aware, not paranoid: Walk around campus during the day and get a feel for how the buildings are laid out. If you are going out, make sure you know how you got into the house or bar or club. But there is no need for a stifling fear of potential harassment. You do not have to constantly scan your surroundings when you are walking back from the library at 2 a.m., but it might help to not have your earbuds in until you are back in your dorm.
- If something happens, report it: There are so many resources on campus — to make sure you are mentally, emotionally and physically okay. Talk to your RA, or someone else you trust, about what happened so you will always have someone you can confide in. You could also check in to speak with a counselor at CAPS, who are here and trained to help you get through it. Do your research and know what is available to you.
We understand that our experiences are unique and do no reflect those of all students here. We are curious as to how the other half of the population navigates the red zone. So, Seawolves, what do you do to stay safe? Let us know in the comment or tweet to us @sbstatesman.
Featured image photo credit: G M