Welcome back to the furniture-moving, textbook-purchasing, over-socializing craze of Block 1. This time of year is chaotic, confusing, and thrilling all at once. The beginning of a semester entails introduction and reintroduction, small talk and overstimulation, excitement, isolation, and exhaustion.

With all the emotional turmoil of transition, it is especially important to remain aware of mental health. Making time to take care of ourselves, whether that’s self-care or seeking supportive resources, is a challenging and necessary part of starting a new school year.  Unfortunately, the energy of a new beginning can also carry potential danger, as it becomes too easy for returning students, and first-years alike to unknowingly enter unsafe situations.

For first years, the exhilaration of college freedom can compound the uncertainty and increase vulnerability to predatory behavior. Studies have shown that students are more likely to be sexually assaulted during the first few months of their first semester than at any other point during college.

This is not to say that the likelihood of assault disappears after this time frame. Twenty-one percent of all transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming college students have been sexually assaulted, 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males. In fact, male college-aged students (18–24) are 78% more likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.

Research has also shown that, regardless of age, sexual violence on college campuses occurs at higher rates during certain times of the year. We are about to enter the window in which these rates are at their peak, with incidents spiking between the start of the school year and Thanksgiving Break. More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur during this time — a period known as the “Red Zone.”

Sexual violence encompasses a continuum of behaviors such as harassment, unwanted touching, sexual coercion, and rape. When polled, 25% of Colorado College students responded “sometimes” to “How often do you experience unwanted brief physical contact such as groping, rubbing sexually, pinching … unwelcome touching of your body?” Thirty-one percent said rarely and 36% said never.

Primary prevention — preventing violence before it occurs — requires a shift in culture and campus climate so that all of these of behaviors are unacceptable and abnormal. However, while we continue to have these conversations and take the actions required for change, it is important to recognize situations where you, someone you know, or someone you see, may be in danger. Acting in these instances will turn you from being a passive bystander into an active one.

To learn more about bystander intervention, attend the Wellness Resource Center BADASS training on Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in John Lord Knight McHugh Commons. 

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