We’ve heard the story more times than I’m comfortable with. “A young woman was sexually assaulted at a party where she was highly intoxicated”. This is a case that continues to happen consistently mostly on college campuses, but even in the high school age group. There is something obviously very problematic with the news headlines that report these stories. Why? Because the fact that a woman was intoxicated during a sexual assault is completely irrelevant to where the blame needs to be placed. The moment alcohol is reported in a sexual assault case, there is a shift in society’s minds where they want to place blame.
Once it is discovered that the victim was intoxicated, suddenly society gets confused on whose fault it is that the assault took place. “Well if she wasn’t so drunk, he wouldn’t have taken advantage of her.” “If he was drunk too, then it couldn’t have been rape.” The fact that alcohol was involved changes nothing. A victim is still not at fault and the perpetrator is still the one who committed the crime. It seems as though, if the victim is underage there is a whole new layer of blame on the minor and on their parents. “Why would they let their child go to these kinds of things? What do they think is going to happen?”
One of the biggest cases our generation had seen where there was a huge dispute over who is at fault in a rape case that involved alcohol was the Steubenville High School rape case. In August of 2012, a high school female was sexually assaulted by her fellow classmates publicly while she was incapacitated by alcohol. Many of the students present even went as far as to post the acts on social media websites. So many people from the town blamed the female for her own rape and blamed her for trying to ruin the future careers of the students on the football team who had raped her. This type of reaction did not stop in just the town, this became a reaction that spread across the nation. Everyone was talking about this case and everyone had an opinion. Unfortunately, a lot of those opinions put the blame on the female for being heavily intoxicated and for “putting herself in that situation”. It seemed as though all throughout this case, the only thing the mainstream media could say was how terrible it must be to be convicted of rape. CNN, NBC, and many other news outlets reported on how sad it is that these two young men have had their futures thrown away, and that they now have to register as sex offenders and that will ruin any chance they have of a promising future. We see the problem here, right?
Our nation lacked compassion for this female who was raped. Instead of speaking out about how it is so horrible what this young woman went through, we heard about how it is so horrible what the young men are about to got through. But our lack of compassion does not end with this one case. We live in a society where rapeculture is alive and prevalent. Even looking at the first example I gave today, “A young woman was sexually assaulted at a party where she was highly intoxicated”, puts the blame on a victim. The addition of alcohol to any sexual assault case instantly makes the victim at fault in society’s eyes.
Consent is mandatory in all situations, including when alcohol becomes involved. Consent does not mean there was no “No”, it means there was a “yes”. When alcohol is involved, both verbal and nonverbal consent must be obtained. Verbal being an active “yes, I am into this” and nonverbal being participating and visibly enjoying. This only applies until a certain point, once a person is unable to walk, slurring their words, vomiting, or anything that shows they are too intoxicated to make a conscious decision, that person cannot give consent under any circumstances. End of story.