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Binge drinking and rape

Posted Oct 25 2013 6:01am

bongzilla-1 Slate has a point/counterpoint on the issue of alcohol and rape on college campuses that has gotten a lot of attention.

Emily Yoffe, while placing blame on the rapists, points to binge drinking as an important risk factor for being raped.

I don’t believe any of these statistics will move in the right direction until binge drinking joins smoking, drunk driving, and domestic abuse as behaviors that were once typical and are now unacceptable. Reducing binge drinking is going to require education, enforcement, and a change in campus social culture. These days the weekend stretches over half the week and  front-loading  and  boot and rally  are major extracurricular activities. Puking in your hair, peeing in your pants, and engaging in dangerous behaviors have to stop being considered hilarious escapades or proud war stories and become a source of disgust and embarrassment.

…nothing is going to be as effective at preventing alcohol-facilitated assaults as a reduction in alcohol consumption. The 2009 campus sexual assault study, co-authored by Krebs, found campus alcohol education programs “seldom emphasize the important link” between women’s voluntary alcohol and drug use “and becoming a victim of sexual assault.” It goes on to say students must get the explicit message that limiting alcohol intake and avoiding drugs “are important sexual assault sex protection strategies.” I think it would be beneficial for younger students to hear accounts of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault from female juniors and seniors who’ve lived through it.

tumblr_m8okjeZsDH1rqbggzo1_500 Amanda Hess argues that Yoffe’s focus is too narrow.

Peter Lake , the director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law, told Yoffe that, in her words, “it is unrealistic to expect colleges will ever be great at catching and punishing sexual predators; that’s simply not their core mission. Colleges are supposed to be places where young people learn to be responsible for themselves.” Punishing rapists is not the “core mission” of any society, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle. That’s especially true for colleges, which are legally required under Title IX to not just catch and punish predators who operate in their institutions, but to also take serious action to prevent students from victimizing each other in the first place. Failing to do so directly affects the schools’ ability to focus on academics. To cite just one  relevant case : In 2007, the University of Colorado at Boulder was compelled to pay out nearly $3 million to two women raped on its campus after a court ruled that the university “had an official policy of showing high-school football recruits a ‘good time’ on their visits to the CU campus,” and failed to supervise the “players who served as hosts” despite having knowledge of at least one previous case of a high school student who was assaulted by the school’s recruits. Failing to address the culture that contributed to those assaults constituted “deliberate indifference.”

Colleges can start changing those structures by refusing to put the onus on victims to prevent their own assaults, and instead holding perpetrators accountable for the crimes they commit—often, while drunk. Wayne State University psychologist Antonia Abbey  notes  that one study of college date rapists found that 62 percent “felt they had committed rape because of their alcohol consumption.” They “believed that their intoxicated condition caused them to initially misperceive their partner’s degree of sexual interest and later allowed them to feel comfortable using force when the women’s lack of consent finally became clear to them.” Importantly, the rapists “did not see themselves as ‘real’ criminals because real criminals used weapons to assault strangers.”

I’d agree that Yoffe’s focus on women risks framing rape as a women’s problem, when it’s really all of our problem. Further, Hess makes clear that binge drinking is a problem for all of us too.

A great illustration of the point that binge drinking on campus is a problem for all of us came to light at Eastern Michigan University (where I teach) this week. Demarius Reed was murdered in his apartment building and his dead body was ignored for hours by several people because they assumed he was passed out drunk from a party the night before.

UPDATE: Matt just pointed out that the NY Times has a Room For Debate section on  Young Women, Drinking and Rape

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