Fondling incidents spark conversation on sexual assaults at college campuses

By Sarah Siock

The notice of two fondling incidents sent by Public Safety on Sept. 7 serves as a reminder of the importance of raising awareness on the “Red Zone,” a time where sexual assaults increase on college campuses throughout the country.

What is the Red Zone?

A 2007 report published by the Department of Justice found that around 50% of sexual violence incidents on college campuses happen between August and November. This time period is referred to as the Red Zone.

The Sept. 7 incidents both involved the same individual who is known to the survivors, according to the notice published by Public Safety. One incident occurred near Daly’s Dining Hall and the other occurred off-campus.

Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown and Public Safety Director James Waldon declined to comment on whether the individual is currently allowed on campus and, what township the off-campus incident took place in. However, as Public Safety’s notice said, the university issued a no-contact order to the suspected individual involved in both incidents. Additionally, the notice said university officials were conducting an investigation as per Title IX and Rider’s Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy.

Brown said neither incident was reported to the police at the request of the survivors.

“When individuals make a report to the university, they are offered the chance and provided the information on how to make a police report. They are not required to do so. In this instance, neither student wanted to make a report to the police,” said Brown.

Sexual assault and violence at Rider

The most recent security and fire safety report, which is from 2020, states there were three reported rape cases and six domestic violence incidents on campus that year.

However, Title IX Compliance Officer Thomas Johnson said that based on Rider’s data, the campus does not experience a Red Zone period.

“There hasn’t been anything that stood out to me to say that there is a time of year that there is a spike in cases reported throughout the year. What I would say about reporting, is that it’s not necessarily a linear process. Somebody might experience something in one month, and they may wait, or they may not want to report for several months later. So there’s not necessarily that correlation,” said Johnson.

Typically, freshman and newer students are most vulnerable during the Red Zone since they are adjusting to a new environment, according to the Justice Department’s study. However, Johnson said he has not found one particular group of students to be vulnerable during a specific time frame at Rider.

Support for survivors

Johnson added that Rider does offer supportive measures to survivors of sexual assault and violence in various ways, including through the nonprofit organization Womanspace, the counseling center and the option to alter housing assignments. Johnson added that the university also offers support that is specific to a survivor’s request.

“If someone comes to us and asks for specific assistance, the goal is to help restore access back to the institution and have them have full access of their education. That’s what the support measures are there for,” said Johnson.

Student Government Association (SGA) President and senior computer science major Elizabeth O’Hara noted the support offered to survivors through SGA. The student government extends support for survivors of sexual assault through its sponsorship of the “Me Too Monologues,” which serves as a platform for students to openly discuss mental health and sexual harassment via real stories and experiences submitted anonymously by Rider students.

“This type of behavior has no place at our university and these allegations are taken very seriously…SGA’s Health and Safety Committee also has signs installed on the back of bathroom stalls that provide resources, including phone numbers and websites, for victims of sexual assault, violence and rape. We encourage students to report all incidents to the appropriate channels that best suit their needs,” said O’Hara.

Johnson also gave advice on how students can stay safe on campus and why it is important to be a vocal bystander. However, he emphasized that the blame is not placed on victims

“That’s where I think of the more global bystander intervention. Are you willing to step up, because that keeps people safe,” said Johnson.

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