Each year on the third Thursday of September, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization (The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN) strives to raise awareness about sexual violence on college campuses. This Thursday, September 17th, is national RAINN Day. The annual program was specifically designed to “empower college students to educate their peers about risk reduction and recovery resources on their campus” in direct regards to sexual assault.

The period of time between the beginning of the fall semester and Thanksgiving break has become known as the Red Zone. During this time, there are more sexual assaults on college campuses in the U.S. than at any other time of year. One particularly assertive way to spread awareness at the start of a new term is for college media editors to release a pertinent story describing what the Red Zone is, how students can avoid problematic situations by reducing their vulnerability, and where to go to get help if they’ve been victimized.

The National Institute of Justice’s campus sexual assault study of 2007 showed that more than 50% of all sexual assaults on college campuses happen within the Red Zone. By the time they finish their undergraduate degree, 20% of female students and 4% of male students will have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault. In order for students to protect themselves, they should make sure they know their own sexual intentions and limits and communicate them clearly. Certainly, they should trust their gut feelings, ask for help or make a scene if they feel threatened. If they do find themselves in a situation, they should get verbal consent from their partner prior to any sexual activity. These are just a few of the proactive ways that both male and female students can protect themselves year-round.

U.S. News & World Report noted that raising awareness through short-term introductory programs is not necessarily effective in preventing college rape in the long run. A comprehensive strategy, such as 3rd Millennium Classrooms’ Consent & Respect course, has the potential to affect positive change among students and can be a vital part of a multi-tiered prevention plan for reducing sexual violence on college campuses.