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Title IX director offers advice for navigating the ‘Yellow Zone’ for sexual assault

You may not know it, but you’ve just entered the yellow zone — the time of year when students, especially freshman, are most likely to be sexually assaulted.

“I don’t want to take the joy out of being a new freshman at Belmont,” said Lauri Chaudoin, Belmont’s director of Title IX compliance and prevention programming. “But at the same time, I want them to be fully aware that they’re at an increased risk.”

The yellow zone —  which is sometimes called the red zone — takes place from the start of the fall semester through Thanksgiving.

There are many different theories on why this time is particularly dangerous for freshmen, including the new freedom of being away from home for the first time and a lack of a solid community to help keep the student safe, Chaudoin said.

“I walk this line of really trying to educate the freshmen and RAs and RDs, TT leaders —  people who work with the freshmen — just so they’re aware and they can lend support. The line I’m walking is also not to scare them to death at the same time,” Chaudoin said.

For the students themselves, Chaudoin offered suggestions about navigating this high-risk time. However, she emphasized these tips are to help students be aware, not to place blame on anyone who may find themselves in a difficult situation.

“I want to caveat everything I’m about to say by making sure every reader knows that we give this advice out of love,” Chaudoin said. “But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to blame someone who didn’t follow one of these steps, because sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.”

“I don’t care if you walked down a dark alley, or you went with someone you didn’t know, or if you engaged in certain behavior we’re about to talk about. It does not mean it was your fault.”

Tips for Navigating the Yellow Zone

1. Use apps like “Circle of 6” in case of an emergency. With the press of a button, “Circle of 6” can alert trusted contacts to your location and that you may need help. Location sharing can also be a useful tool, but it doesn’t have the added benefit of notifying a friend in the case of an emergency.

2. Be aware that drugs and alcohol inhibit decision making and your ability to navigate dangerous situations.

3. Always keep an eye on your drink. No matter where you are, from a restaurant to a party, there is always the possibility your drink could be drugged. The Title IX office has coasters available that can be dipped into your beverage to make sure it hasn’t been drugged, and they will be handing these out across campus throughout the year.

4. Be aware that most assaults aren’t perpetrated by strangers, but by acquaintances.

5. Try to walk in groups of three or more, especially at night. Even though most victims know their attackers, it’s still important not to walk alone in public, Chaudoin said. If you’re at Belmont, Campus Security offers 24/7 escorts for students on campus, so, in the event you need to walk home alone, you can ask Campus Security officers to walk with you to ensure you make it home safely.

6. Look out for your friends. When you’re out with a group, do your best to keep an eye on the people you came with and make sure everyone gets home safely. If it seems like a friend may be in trouble, do your best to get them out of that situation and back to the group.

These tips are especially relevant during the yellow zone, but students should keep them in mind all the time, Chaudoin said.

In college, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted. This number is higher for members of the LGBT community, said Chaudoin.

In the event that a student is sexually assaulted, the university has a number of resources available to help.

For information about how to report a sexual assault or receive confidential support, clickhere.

Even if the student chooses not to pursue an official complaint, Chaudoin can connect them to Belmont Counseling Services, off-campus resources or a victim advocate, she said.

Chaudoin also has the authority to change student schedules and move housing in the event of an assault, she said.

“One of the most helpful accommodations I can provide through Title IX is academic accommodations. Let’s say an assault occurs during the middle of final exams, which happened last semester,” Chaudoin said. “I was able to work with their professors and have the exams postponed.”

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