The Red Zone: Sexual Violence Resources & Information for DC College Students

The beginning of the school year is an exciting time for college students, but it also marks the start of the something known as the “red zone.” One in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college,[1] more than 50% of those sexual assaults occur during the “red zone,” which takes place throughout August, September, October, and November.[2]

As DC college and university students head back to school for a new year, we want to empower them with knowledge, information, and resources about sexual assault.

Friendly reminders:

Before diving into the information, we want to share with you few reminders that may be helpful for student-survivors, or for friends, families, fellow students, staff, and faculty responding to a survivor’s disclosure.

1)    No one deserves to be sexually assaulted and nobody is ever “asking for it.”

2)    Anyone can be a victim. Anyone can be an offender.

3)    Consent is required for every single sexual contact.

4)    Consent is required every time persons engage in a sexual act. Consent from a different day or a different time or a different act does not mean automatic consent for any future sexual encounter.

5)    What someone wears does not make them more or less likely to be sexually assaulted, nor does their outfit mean they consent to sexual acts.

6)    Drinking alcohol or taking drugs can affect a person’s ability to consent. If someone is unconscious, they CANNOT consent. If the person has been drinking or is under the influence, it is possible that they cannot consent. If it is unclear whether the person you are with can consent, it is best to stop. Err on the side of caution!

7)    Consent means communicating an enthusiastic “yes!” Silence is not consent. Freezing or not “fighting back” is not consent.

8)    There is no “right,” “wrong,” or “normal” way to react to sexual assault. Everyone’s reaction to trauma is different!

9)    As a survivor, you do not have to report to the police or the campus administration.

10) As a survivor, you do not have to do anything you don’t want to do.

Frequently Asked Questions:

If a college or university survivor wants to report sexual violence, who can they report to on campus?

Most DC schools provide survivors will multiple avenues to report sexual violence. Survivors can choose who they feel most comfortable reporting to.

On-campus victim advocates:

Most schools have confidential advocates on-campus. These advocates are specially trained to work with students to provide confidential emotional support and assistance after experiencing sexual violence. This support and assistance includes working with students to access campus resources (like counseling or medical care) and explaining options for reporting (or not reporting) sexual violence. Advocates are usually found on the campus’ health center.

NOTE: While these campus advocates are confidential resources, they are also mandated reporters for child sexual abuse. If you are under 18 and disclose a sexual assault, they may be obligated to report what you tell them to university officials, the police, and/or child protective services.

Title IX Offices:

These offices follow the mandate of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits any education program or activity that receives Federal funding from discriminating “on the basis of sex.” While many know about Title IX as it applies to equity in athletics, Title IX also requires any reports of sexual violence or sexual harassment against students are responded to appropriately. If a survivor decides they want to begin a university administrative proceeding against an offender (often referred to as filing a sexual misconduct complaint), they can report directly to their school’s Title IX office. If a survivor prefers to go to another campus resource first (like a campus advocate), these resources should have a survivor get in contact with the Title IX Office.

The Title IX office will handle any formal complaint, investigation, and proceeding related to an instance of sexual violence on campus. They can provide survivors (usually referred to as “complainants”) with information about the Title IX process, and assist survivors with getting any reasonable accommodations they need to continue their studies. Such accommodations may include: changing dorms, modifying class schedules, or requesting extensions.

It is important to note that a school’s Title IX office is a neutral entity whose main function is to investigate and administer the school’s Title IX proceeding to determine whether the offender (called “respondent”) violated the student code by engaging in sexual misconduct (note: different schools may have different terminology for the offense).

While the Title IX office is a private resource, and will not normally share your information with the public, they are NOT a confidential resource. If you share information with them that is relevant to the case, it will likely be shared with the respondent and be included in the investigative report.

Different schools have different formats for Title IX proceedings. Check your school’s Title IX website to see whether your school has an investigative or hearing model and learn what to expect.

Campus Police:

The most important information to know about reporting to campus police is to understand that they are different from reporting to regular law enforcement. A report to campus police SHOULD NOT and does not mean that a survivor is choosing to engage in the criminal justice system. Under Title IX and the federal Clery Act, a survivor should be able to choose whether or not to report to DC’s Metropolitan Police Department (DC’s local police force). If a survivor has chosen NOT to report to law enforcement, but law enforcement is contacted by campus police or someone else from the survivor’s school anyway, please notify your Title IX Office and contact NVRDC for assistance. If a survivor decides they DO want to report to MPD, the survivor can ask campus police to help them report.

As with Title IX offices, the campus police are NOT a confidential resource. What you share with them will become a part of their investigation and their report.

Will on-campus resources call the police or call a survivor’s parents?

Campus resources should not call MPD or a survivor’s parents without the survivor’s permission. However, there may be limited circumstances where they may feel compelled to do so. Examples of these situations include 1) whether the survivor is minor 2) whether there is a serious medical emergency and/or 3) whether the survivor poses a serious threat to the safety of the campus.

What happens if the survivor was drinking and/or taking illegal drugs?

If the survivor was drinking or taking illegal drugs when the assault occurred, it is HIGHLY unlikely that the university will take any action against the survivor. Schools are interested in investigating the sexual assault, and not the underage drinking that may have occurred prior to the assault. Many DC schools state in their Title IX materials that they students who are assaulted after consuming alcohol and/or drugs will not be disciplined for underage drinking or using drugs if they report the sexual assault to their school.

Similarly, if a survivor chooses to undergo a medical forensic exam (often called a “rape kit”) or chooses to report to the police, the forensic nurses and police officers will prioritize the sexual assault investigation over getting the survivor in trouble for intoxicating substances.

Where can survivors get a medical forensic exam (also known as a “rape kit”)?

There is only ONE hospital in DC that provides medical forensic exams—MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Survivors CANNOT receive a medical forensic exam if they go to an on-campus hospital.

Please note that a survivor can get a medical forensic exam WITHOUT having to report to law enforcement or campus authorities.

If survivors want more information about a medical forensic exam, or need assistance in getting to the hospital, they can call the DC Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC to be connected to a confidential NVRDC advocate. The advocate can answer questions you have, accompany you during the exam, and provide free transportation to the hospital via Uber.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center
Emergency Department
110 Irving St NW
Washington, DC 20010

What does a survivor need to know before getting a medical forensic exam?

Ideally, survivors should get the exam within 96 hours of the assault.

If a survivor plans on getting a medical forensic exam, they should try not to:

1) shower

2) urinate or have a bowel movement

3) eat/drink or smoke

4) chew gum

5) douche

6) change clothes

It is ok if a survivor has done one or more than one of these actions; however, the recommendations are made to increase the chances that the forensic nurse will collect as much evidence as possible during the exam.

To learn more about medical forensic exams, visit DC Forensic Nurses website! http://dcforensicnurses.org/faqs-for-patients/

What off-campus resources are available to survivors?

Off-campus resources are listed at the bottom of this article. The list includes non-profit organizations that provide services such as medical forensic exams, legal assistance, advocacy, and information and support.

What if a survivor does not want to report to MPD or campus police but is concerned for their safety?

Some DC universities and colleges provide for accommodations without having to file a formal Title IX complaint. This includes being able to change dorms, changing class schedule, and other measures that may make a survivor feel more comfortable. For more information about available accommodations, talk to a campus advocate or your Title IX Office. 

Additionally, survivors seeking more formal protection may choose to get a civil protection order (CPO) at DC Superior Court. A CPO is similar to a restraining order in that it is a legal mechanism which prohibits a person from contacting, abusing, threatening, or approaching you in any way. It also provides the flexibility for additional terms of protection to make you feel safe.

To receive more information on civil protection orders, including free legal assistance in getting a CPO, please contact NVRDC at (202) 742-1727.

RESOURCES

Below is a list of local and national organizations that can provide survivors with information, advice, and representation. In addition to these resources, be sure to check your school’s website or UASK DC for the resources specific to your school. These can include your school’s Title IX office, victim advocates, campus police, or student groups that advocate against sexual violence.

LOCAL RESOURCES

DC FORENSIC NURSE EXAMINERS

The DCFNE website provides great detailed information on what evidence is collected during a medical forensic exam, what to expect during/after the exam, as well as other useful information.

W: http://dcforensicnurses.org/

T: 1-844-4HELPDC (to access a medical forensic exam)

DC RAPE CRISIS CENTER

DC Rape Crisis Center operates a telephone hotline providing trained counselors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Provides counseling and emotional support for survivors of rape, incest and childhood sexual abuse. Offers a companion program to accompany survivors to hospitals, courts and police proceedings.

W: http://dcrcc.org/

T: 202-333-RAPE

DC SAFE

DC SAFE (Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment) ensures the safety and self-determination for survivors of domestic violence in the Washington, DC area through emergency services, court advocacy and system reform.

W: http://dcsafe.org

DC VICTIM’S HOTLINE

The DC Victim Hotline provides free confidential, around-the-clock information and referrals for victims of ALL CRIME in the District of Columbia. Sexual assault survivors can contact the DC Victim Hotline to access a medical forensic exam.

W: https://dcvictim.org/

T: 1-844-4HELPDC

METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT (MPD), SEXUAL ASSAULT UNIT (SAU)

The Metropolitan Police Department’s Sex Assault Unit investigates sexual assaults involving victims ages 18 and older. (Sexual assaults involving juvenile victims are investigated by MPD’s Youth Investigations Branch.) The members of the SAU are specially trained in the investigation of sexual assault, and the detectives recognize and understand the sensitive, personal, and invasive nature of sexual assault crimes. Sexual assault crimes are investigated with respect for the rights of the accused and the victim.

W: https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/sex-assault-unit

T: (202) 727-3700

NETWORK FOR VICTIM RECOVERY OF DC (NVRDC)

NVRDC assists sexual assault survivors seeking a sexual assault medical forensic examination by providing advocates who accompany survivors to the hospital. Our advocates provide support through the initial crisis phase and the recovery process. If a survivor chooses to receive a forensic exam and report to MPD, an NVRDC advocate can be with the survivor while they make the report to police.

NVRDC also provides a variety of free and trauma-informed services to victims of all crime types in DC. NVRDC’s legal program provides information, advice, and representation to crime victim in DC who want to pursue 1) Title IX processes 2) civil protection orders and/or 3) criminal cases against the offender. NVRDC’s case managers provide emotional support to crime victims, as well as information and referrals to other resources including (but not limited to) assistance with compensation, safe housing, entry into counseling, follow-up medical care, and legal services.

W: www.nvrdc.org

T: (202) 742-1727

NOTE: this is NVRDC’s office number. If you are seeking a sexual assault forensic medical exam, please call 1-844-4HELPDC to speak with an NVRDC on-call advocate.

UASK DC

UASK Washington, DC, is an all-in-one resource that guides college students in the District of Columbia in responding to sexual assault. For the first time, resources and information from all eight universities and community organizations are available in one place to create the ultimate resource for students, their friends and families, and campus staff. 

W: http://www.assaultservicesknowledge.org/uaskdc

NATIONAL RESOURCES

END RAPE ON CAMPUS

End Rape on Campus (EROC) works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels.

W: http://endrapeoncampus.org

T: 424.777.EROC

KNOW YOUR IX

Know Your IX is a national advocacy group that provides information to students about their Title IX rights.

W: https://www.knowyourix.org/

NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE (via RAPE, ABUSE, INCEST NATIONAL NETWORK)

W: https://rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline

For assistance via live chat, please visit: https://hotline.rainn.org/online/

T: Call 800-656-HOPE(4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. This is a safe and confidential service.

STALKING RESOURCE CENTER

The Stalking Resource Center promotes awareness, action and advocacy to enhance victim safety, hold stalking offenders accountable, and enhance the ability of professionals, organizations, and systems to effectively respond to stalking.

W: http://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/stalking-resource-center/help-for-victims

T: Call 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846) for information and referrals.

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[1] Krebs, C. P., Lindquist, C., Warner, T., Fisher, B., & Martin, S. (2007). The campus sexual assault (CSA) study: Final report. Retrieved from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/221153.pdf

[2] Campus Sexual Assault Study, 2007; Matthew Kimble, Andrada Neacsiu, et. Al, Risk of Unwanted Sex for College Women: Evidence for a Red Zone, Journal of American College Health (2008).