The Lavender and Maroon Zone

Annie Forrest, Theta Zeta, University of Virginia
Annie Forrest, Theta Zeta, University of Virginia

Maybe you’ve heard about it — the Red Zone — or maybe you haven’t. Either way, the statistics don’t change. The reality is that the vast majority of sexual assaults and rapes on college campuses take place during the first six weeks of the fall semester. That’s right now.

red zone

I know what you’re thinking — “but Annie, this is a sorority blog. Why are you talking about sexual assault? Why can’t you just talk about how pumpkin spice lattes are finally back at Starbucks? Or compose a sonnet about how to deal with the ever-present humidity in Mobile, Alabama?”

Here’s my answer: Because sorority women are just as vulnerable as any other students during the Red Zone and just as responsible for doing their best to prevent sexual assault, as well. Sorority women are leaders on campuses across the country, putting them in the best position to provide resources, information and training to a wide population of students. Sorority women can set precedent that sexual assault will not be tolerated.

We all remember how naïve we were as freshmen, believing that the dining hall food was good and that wearing a lanyard was cool. We believed that foam parties weren’t as gross as they really are and that we would remember every name of every person we met during the first few weeks of school. We trusted people because we had no reason not to trust them, but here are the facts — approximately 80% of sexual violence is committed by someone the survivor knows and the time from now until Thanksgiving is when freshmen women are the most vulnerable.

The myth that there’s a creeper in the bush, waiting to jump out and attack a helpless victim is just what I said — a myth. This means that the cute boy offering a drink at a party is much more of a threat than the dark alley on the way back to the dorm. This may not seem like good news for freshmen women who just pledged their loyalty to a sorority (hopefully Sigma Kappa!), but it is.

It means that being in a sorority gives you a large network of same-age and older women who will be by your side no matter what. It means not only becoming part of a sisterhood that will be there to support you if something does happen, but also a sisterhood that will do everything in its power to prevent something from happening in the first place. At least, that’s what I hope for any freshmen Red Zone survivor or survivor in general who is also a sorority woman.

Here you go again, saying “but Annie, I’m not a freshmen and I definitely don’t think lanyards are cool! C’mon, just tell me how you keep your hair styled in the humidity!” Okay, but even if you’re not a freshmen, you still have a responsibility to take care of the new members in your chapter.

Sigma Kappa’s values of friendship and loyalty play a direct role in the reason this pertains to all sorority women, not just those who are currently freshmen. By sophomores through seniors befriending new members, the newest Sigma Kappa women will feel more comfortable opening up if an incident occurs. Being loyal to your sisters means sticking up for them if they’re in a precarious situation and sticking by them if something should happen.

Sororities provide the perfect atmosphere for both preventative and reactive measures concerning sexual violence. Preventative actions like talking to new members about resources, cutting off a sister who’s had too much to drink, or walking a sister home, even though she wants to stay at a fraternity house. Reactive measures like listening to sisters who have gone through sexual violence, providing a safe space for them, giving them back control, telling them that you believe them, and that they have an entire sisterhood behind them are all small actions that can make a huge difference. It’s as easy as saying, “Dude, your car’s getting towed!” (guaranteed he’ll run out as fast as possible) or “Hey, girl, here’s that tampon you asked for earlier!” (total mood killer).*

There you go again, thinking “but Annie, why should I listen to you?”

Here’s the answer: because I’m part of the Red Zone statistic, because I’m a survivor, and because I’m a sorority woman who knows the power of sisterhood in a time of crisis. Hear me out because I’ve listened to countless sorority women tell their stories of sexual violence, because I’ve taken sorority women to the hospital the morning after an assault, and because my sisters supported me. Listen to me because of that.

Lastly, remember to take care of your new members, to take care of your older members, and to take care of yourself. Take a stand to stop sexual violence because women under age 25 are most affected by sexual violence and sororities are full of those women.

All statistics are from Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s website. Visit www.rainn.org for more statistics and resources if you are a survivor, if you know one, or if you just want more information.

*I acknowledge that there are male survivors of sexual violence and that male-on-male and female-on-female sexual violence occur; however, for the purpose of addressing this post to sorority women, I focused on the fact that the vast majority of perpetrators are male.

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