Not everyone you meet at college is a friend

The period between September and Thanksgiving recess is known as the Red Zone. It’s when freshmen and sophomore females are at the most vulnerable time in their lives for sexual assault.

You know enough to be aware that sexual assault happens on campus. You might have heard about a friend of a friend who had a bad experience. At night, you never walk alone and always in well-lit areas. Maybe you are not the partying kind. You prefer hanging around in your dorm with a small group. You have even discussed looking out for each other at parties. You are prepared. You are aware. It could never happen to you.

Then you get a text from a male friend, the one who sits next to you in your history class, inviting you to a last-minute get-together. He’s the guy who saves you a seat up front at each lecture. You don’t know him very well, but he seems nice enough and your friends are coming, too. However, this person is basically a stranger to you. Yes, you know him, but only in a public context.

In college, it’s not likely that you will be attacked by a random stranger who jumps out of the bushes or who hides behind cars in the parking lot. Statistically, you need to be worried about the people you know. The person that is most likely to sexually assault or rape you will be someone familiar. You may go to classes with him; you may see him at parties; you may be connected through social media. It may even be someone you consider a friend. The Department of Justice reports that 90 percent of college women who have been sexually assaulted or raped knew their attackers.

As awareness of sexual assault on college campuses grows, research has focused on the types of men involved in these crimes. It is worth noting that sexual assault at schools is not primarily carried out by repeat offenders. Hundreds of conversations with college-age men and women over the last 10 years and a recent study have shown that college-age men can be roughly divided into three categories.

The Good Guys: This makes up most men, and they are the ones who do the right thing, whether by intervening or exercising good judgment.

The Bad Guys: A limited selection of men that will offend and re-offend, including serial rapists.

The On-the-Fence Guys: These are the opportunists. They will take advantage of a woman if she is in a compromised state, such as drunk, drugged or passed out. This is supported by research indicating that one-third of college men admitted that they would rape a woman if they knew that nobody would ever find out and that there would be no consequences. A man in this group might also be acting under the influence of alcohol or drugs and will feel guilty afterwards.

Be kind, be friendly, but be cautious with new friendships and relationships.

For more information, visit defenduniversity.com.

Steve Kardian has spent more than 30 years as a career law enforcement officer. He is a certified New York State/FBI defensive tactics instructor and an expert on the criminal mind. Kardian is the author of The New Superpower for Women and founder of Defend University, where he trains thousands of people each year on safety and self-defense, as well as strategies and tactics uniquely tailored to women’s safety.

Steve KARDIAN