Alcohol: The Ultimate Blame Game Enabler by blogger Dana

Alcohol: The Ultimate Blame Game Enabler by blogger Dana

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.

 

 

Alcohol and Consent: Complicated, or Not so Much? By blogger Joanna

Alcohol and Consent: Complicated, or Not so Much? By blogger Joanna

Fade in:

It’s a Saturday night in a crowded bar. Jane is drinking, dancing and singing along to “Piano Man”– a typical collegiate scene. Around 2 a.m. when things wind down, Jane notices her friends have left. She knows it’s too late for her to walk home alone safely, so she asks a male friend to escort her. He does, and in a series of alcohol-blurred events, Jane lets him in her room. He tries to get her to have sex, and Jane says no– she says it multiple times, but he won’t back off. She tries to physically restrain him, but the alcohol has made him aggressive and entitled, while it’s made her exhausted. Eventually, she gives in with a defeated “whatever”.

This happened to a friend of mine (she gave me permission to share the story here) and it is disturbing for many reasons– one of them being the number of women who will nod their heads in recognition while reading it. This kind of thing happens far too often in college towns and beyond, and factors leading up to the assault are fairly formulaic:

  • Feelings of entitlement to sex
  • An imbalance of physical strength
  • Questionable consent

And, of course, these are compounded by the big one:

  • Alcohol

When alcohol is a factor in sexual assault, the situation can become a convoluted, finger-pointing mess. It often renders consent nebulous and hazy– in Jane’s story, her lack of consent is pretty clear, but in other cases, the victim is often blacked out, passed out, or too drunk to resist. And on the other side– if the assaulter is drunk, his ability to recognize the lack of consent is impaired (to Jane’s assaulter, her “whatever” might have sounded like an enthusiastic “yes!”). Sometimes the assaulter is oblivious to the fact that he’s doing something wrong.

Alcohol takes situations that are often presented as black-and-white (no means no! consent is sexy!) and warps them into shades of gray. Years after her assault, Jane still doesn’t quite know how to feel. Was she raped? Should she have taken action against her assaulter? Would anyone have taken her seriously if she had?

All of this might make a college-aged woman wonder if she should even drink at all. No woman wants to put herself in a situation where this sort of thing can happen, right?

Let’s stop right there. What’s wrong with that idea? One: alcohol is a part of life in college, and it can be hard to avoid. And it’s likely that one night you’ll end up drinking more than maybe you planned to– it happens. Two: no matter how drunk you are (accidentally or not), that does not mean you’ve “put yourself” in the position to be assaulted. Maybe you put yourself in the position to be drunk by drinking, but that never means you put yourself in the position to be a victim.

So if the solution is not to stop drinking, then what is it?

To solve a problem, one must find the root cause. In the list of factors leading to sexual assault I noted above, I mentioned entitlement, which I think is the most deeply rooted cause of sexual assault. There are plenty reasons why a man could feel entitled to sex– in Jane’s case, her assaulter felt she owed him something in return for walking her home. In other cases, maybe the victim had been flirting with the assaulter, or the victim let the assaulter in her room (as Jane did), or perhaps she’d consented to sex with him before. Or maybe society has told the assaulter in a myriad of ways that sexual “conquest” is the ultimate masculine goal.

Of course, none of these “reasons” are reasonable, but they undeniably exist in some peoples’ minds. And alcohol only magnifies feelings of entitlement, making it harder to see past them and recognize any lack of consent coming from the other side of the equation. So, to stop people from feeling more entitled when they’re drunk, we must stop them from feeling entitled at all.

This might seem like a lofty goal, but if you look around the internet, you’ll see that the movement has already begun. A great example is this genius video that likens the idea of consent to offering someone tea: Consent: not actually that complicated ¹ (warning – strong language). The video simplifies the idea of consent and makes it internet accessible– a definite step in the right direction for society as a whole.

Of course, it’s not easy or simple to enact change at the societal level. But still, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to teach everyone that no one is entitled to sex– that it happens only through mutual trust and consent. I think once this idea is embraced and celebrated, alcohol will no longer be a dangerous, complicating factor that results in nearly one-half of all sexual assault cases. Instead, it will just be another part of college life, something you can chose to partake in or not– a factor that results in the entire bar joining in a rousing chorus of “Piano Man”.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty simple to me.


 

¹This video was made by Blue Seat Studios, and the script came from the blogger Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess.

 

Alcohol: A Dangerous Drug by blogger Rhaina

Alcohol: A Dangerous Drug by blogger Rhaina

In recent years, doctors and activists seem to have definitively identified one substance as the number one date-rape drug in America: alcohol. Alcohol has contributed hugely to the notions of date rape, gray rape, victim-blaming, and to the rapidly spreading rape culture as a whole. Alcohol is considered to be a dangerous drug because it is widely socially accepted, unlike casual drugs (such as marijuana) or much more controversial “hard drugs” such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Especially among college students, no one looks twice at a person who is drinking alcohol. However, to a perpetrator of sexual assault, it can signal a potential target. If you are a female in college, you’ve most likely been told to “watch your drink” when you go out—otherwise, someone could spike it with more potent alcohol, or even slip drugs into it. This advice is only slightly helpful. Besides being a covert form of victim-blaming, the biggest risk to it is that it downplays the danger that is already implicit when drinking—if you ingest enough alcohol, you will be at-risk for a sexual assault even without the use of drugs or physical force.

Being intoxicated to any degree can lead to slowed reactions, loss of consciousness, and a loss of muscle control, which could result in an inability to fight back against an attacker. Unfortunately, it can also lead to memory impairment, which is a huge obstacle for anyone who is a victim of sexual assault while under the influence of alcohol. Reporting a sexual assault to police or campus authorities means that you will have to recount what has happened to you, and the inability to remember certain details clearly can be interpreted as dishonesty. This is why some sexual assault victims decide not to report their assaults, or to follow through with any disciplinary or legal action. Some women are even discouraged from reporting, told that “no one will believe you”, or “that won’t hold up in court.”

Because society has normalized sexual violence to such a large degree, people are constantly forming new excuses for this violence and ways to discount victims; to tell them that they do not matter and their stories are not important enough to be heard. One of the ways this happens is with terms such as “gray rape”: “sex that falls somewhere between consent and denial, in which neither party knew exactly what the other one wanted.” Another, more common term is “date rape.” Date rape is simply defined as rape by someone known to the victim, although it is not very sensible to create a separate term for this, because the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that 90% of all sexual assaults and 46% of all rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

Alcohol is a large factor in the consideration of gray rape and date rape, because it is presumed that if someone did not explicitly consent to sexual contact of any kind, it is likely because they were under the influence of alcohol and not because they really didn’t want to give consent. While this applies more directly to gray rape, date rape contains another set of fallacies entirely: the definition of the term itself, commonly thought of as a lesser or more bearable assault, dispels the very idea that we can place responsibility with the victim by saying such things as “don’t drink around people you don’t know” or “always take a friend out with you” and then blaming them if they don’t.

While alcohol has been labeled the number one date-rape drug, it may be more accurately labeled “the number one contributor to rape culture and public misconceptions about sexual assault.” No matter the age, location, or lifestyle, all women and men should be able to casually drink without the fear of being assaulted or the fear that they will be blamed for anything that happens to them while they are under the influence. All too often, we use one glimpse into another person’s life or story to make a judgment and decide for ourselves what we think they deserve. In the case of sexual assault, this is more dangerous than we can imagine—while alcohol may occasionally cloud the judgment and loosen the inhibitions of those who use it, it should not impair our own judgment so far that we begin to accept sexual assault in any form or by any name.