Friday, April 17, 2009

Preventing Rape By Intoxication

From CBS 8:

A Web site aimed at educating high school-aged students about the crime of rape by intoxication was unveiled today by law enforcement officials and community leaders.

The Web site, KnowThePrice.org, includes compelling videos featuring interviews with sexual assault victims, a prosecutor, police detective, sexual assault response team doctor and college fraternity members -- all giving first-person accounts designed to educate young people about rape by intoxication.

"With the number of reported cases of rape by intoxication in San Diego County increasing 60 percent from 2007 to 2008, this campaign will provide the community with a valuable resource and help educate youth on the dangers and repercussions of this very serious crime," said Susan Golding, head of the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation, which provided major funding for the outreach campaign.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said taking advantage of a person who is too drunk to know what's going on is illegal.

This type of prevention effort is real prevention since it is aimed at preventing teens from taking advantage of others. Too often what is called rape prevention makes victims responsible for rape and feeds the rationalizations of rapists.

Here's the text from the home page of Know The Price:


Partying with alcohol can quickly turn into a dangerous situation that could ruin your life. Face facts: if she's wasted, intoxicated, asleep, or unconscious, there's no such thing as "consent." Rape by intoxication is a serious felony that destroys lives and puts offenders in state prison for 8 years. Look for the signs, and stop it before it happens. One choice can change everything.
The word intoxicated will cause some people to react negatively and claim that what is being labeled as rape might not be rape, but they are overlooking that using intoxication as a tool to get sex is using intoxication to rape. The gender specific wording will bother some people as well, but this wording is directed at a specific criminal trend and that trend is highly gendered.

Most of the excuses for rape by intoxication are gendered as well. A popular excuse is that most girls who want to have sex allegedly need to get wasted before they will agree to do what they really wanted to do while sober. Under this excuse a girl getting intoxicated is a girl communicating her unlimited consent. A similar excuse is that girls get drunk in mixed company as a way to get random sex without having to be personally responsible for that sex.

I've never yet heard someone who used these types of excuses claim that boys who get drunk are signalling that they want to be taken sexually in order to get the sex they want without the responsibility.

But what I have heard from some of these people is that if a girl exploits a boy's intoxication that she is a rapist. These people have granted consent by intoxication on behalf of girls and have denied consent by intoxication on behalf of boys. Unsurprisingly, to me at least, these attitudes reflect the demographics of rape by intoxication.

Those who use this type of excuse to justify their actions will have the consent only of those who make this excuse, but by law to not be a rapist you need consent from the individual you want to have sex with. If some man says that drinking to the point of passing out is consent this statement only applies to those who want to have sex with him.

Too often lack of clear communication about consent comes from bystanders when they make excuses for rape by saying that lack of consent might have been unclear. This attitude allows rape as long the rapist can find a way to rape without eliciting the word, "No." This also sets up those who don't want to rape to become rapists by teaching them that rape only counts when rapists view their own actions as rape.

Anything short of clear, freely given consent (verbal or non-verbal) is rape. Confusion, mixed signals, etc. all mean stop. And not please stop. Must stop.

The legal responsibility for preventing rape can never be with the potential rape victim. Not clearly communicating lack of consent is still lack of legal consent. Guessing that you have consent is not the same thing as actually having legal consent.

Just as important as the message about consent is the message that it is committing rape which ruins lives and which can put someone in prison. This means that the consequences are correctly assigned.

When rape prevention efforts say that the report of rape can ruin lives, the rape victim becomes the person who ruined the rapist's life when this is not true. Besides being untrue this assignment of responsibility can contribute to harassment, threats and physical violence against those who report.

If a teenager picks up a gun and shoots a classmate through the thigh on a lark it isn't that classmate who is ruining the shooter's life by reporting. The same is true if a teenager commits rape on a lark. The "on a lark" part does not nullify the crime committed. It should not nullify the consequences for someone who can so easily assault another human being.

Yet for far too many people rape on a lark or without a thought about what that rape will do to the victim is seen as something which shouldn't count as a crime. This attitude directly communicates those people's tolerance for rape and their willingness to dismiss the harm done t rape victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:57 AM   2 comments links to this post

2 Comments:

At April 17, 2009 6:19 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

It is vital that such campaigns are gender specific in their language because overwhelmingly it is males who commit sexual violence against females - not the reverse.

The common usage of gender neutral language serves one purpose only - to hide the gender of male perpetrators. Women as a group are not given this 'privilege' because their biological sex is always identified within the first sentence of any news or media reporting. Whether it is to report a woman was victim of a crime or instigator, she is identified by her biological sex. Men, however are commonly identified as 'youth(s), 'people,' 'group' all of which can be assumed to mean both females and males, but in fact only refer to males.

 
At April 20, 2009 2:27 PM, Anonymous m Andrea said...

"If some man says that drinking to the point of passing out is consent this statement only applies to those who want to have sex with him."Oh god that was great. You have such a way with words.

 

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