PBS reports that as college students returned to campus amid the pandemic this past fall, they faced a heightened risk of sexual assault on campus. Larger universities, such as Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina, and Indiana University, reported an increase in sexual violence incidents on campus last fall. During the so-called “red zone,” which comprises the first few months of the fall semester, college students are at a higher risk for unwanted sexual experiences, according to this study.
As a result of the pandemic, “[b]oth the freshman and sophomore classes are coming in for the first time and really haven’t been exposed to this new way of learning and formulating new friendship groups and trying to just figure out their way…,” says Kenyora Parham, executive director of the group End Rape on Campus (“EROC”). The Me Too Movement further notes that 50% of sexual assaults on campus occur during this red zone.
Student activists have raised alarms about sexual assault on campus and how administration and university officials have mishandled students’ complaints. While new Title IX regulations were finalized by the Department of Education in 2020, critics say the new statutory framework may actually discourage survivors from coming forward with their stories. Activist groups like EROC are working to overturn the new regulations, though action may not be taken until May 2022—near the end of the current school year—which for many, feels too late. “We want something sooner than May, because students are still going to continue to experience sexual assault at even higher rates than ever before, and schools can continue to be held unaccountable for what is happening to students,” Parham said.
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