First six weeks of college are rape "red zone" for freshmen

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The first six weeks of college are considered a "red zone" for incoming freshmen when it comes to rape.

According to officials at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the first month and a half of college is the time when freshmen women are most likely to be raped or experience attempted rape.

A spokesperson for UNCW said incoming freshmen often aren't accustomed to looking out for themselves, and they don't have all the facts on the best ways to prevent rape.

"Since we're in a new place, we're all really vulnerable and uncomfortable with our surroundings for awhile," said UNCW freshman, Dana Pruitt. "People can tell if someone's a freshman."

That's why UNCW starts educating first year students on rape prevention and response from day one.

Tips and information given to students during orientation instructs them to stay in groups, be aware of their surroundings, and watch their alcohol intake, a factor that affects both the victim and the perpetrator in most college rapes.

Of course, all the facts in the world can't keep every incident from happening. Rapes do occur frequently on and around college campuses. In fact, one in four college students reports being raped.

In the case of a rape, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructs victims to avoid taking a shower or brushing his or her teeth.  That goes against most victims' first instincts, but it's the only way to preserve evidence and have a chance of putting the attacker behind bars.

The next step, after getting to a safe place, is to call for help. New this year, UNCW has a victim advocate on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kathy Ross, who is certified by the state of North Carolina as a Victim Services Practitioner, provides direct services to student/staff/faculty victims of dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Ross provides counseling, court advocacy, hospital accompaniment, community outreach and referrals.

Nearby Coastal Horizons off Shipyard Boulevard offers help after rape as well.

"It takes away a piece of you," said Julie Ozier, a supervisor/counselor with the Rape Crisis Center of Coastal Horizons. "It really gets to your heart and soul."

But Ozier says rape doesn't have to happen if the entire community puts its foot down--men and women. That's the only way a disturbing "one-in-four" statistic will go down to zero.

To reach UNCW's 24-hour rape crisis line, call 910-392-7460 or the C.A.R.E. office at 910-962-CARE (2273). For more on rape prevention and response at UNCW, click here.

The number for the Coastal Horizons 24-hour crisis line is 1-800-672-2903. To visit the Coastal Horizons Rape Crisis Center website, click here.

For rape statistics and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click here.

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