content warning: sexual assault and alcohol intoxication, rape
Alcohol is the most widely used date-rape drug; 89 percent of assaults occur when the survivor is incapacitated due to alcohol. Sexual assault is never the fault of survivors, regardless of whether they were using drugs or alcohol (voluntarily or against their will). -American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Sexual Assault Should Not Be a “Risk” Associated With Drinking:
“‘People don’t get raped because they have been drinking, because they are passed out or because they are drunk. People get raped because there is a perpetrator there — someone who wants to take advantage of them.” Even though alcohol is associated with sexual assault, it’s not actually a direct association. Getting intoxicated only leads to rape when there’s someone present to commit that rape. When you remove rapists from the equation, the risks of getting drunk — which, of course, do involve serious public health consequences — don’t include getting raped.” – Tara Culp-Ressler
Rapists Use Alcohol as a Tool to Discredit Their Victims:
“We live in a country where it is safer to commit an act of rape than to publicly disclose having survived one. While the overwhelming majority of perpetrators face no consequences for their actions, the majority of survivors who speak out do” (The Monument Quilt). This is especially true in the case of survivors who were intoxicated during their assault. If they choose to report, survivors are questioned about why they got so drunk and why they went to the party. In court, defense attorneys use survivors’ intoxication and history with drugs and alcohol to discredit their stories. Among peers and family members, survivors are often blamed for drinking too much and accused of bringing the assault on themselves. Rapists target the most vulnerable, those that are the least likely to be believed. In cases involving alcohol, rapists seek out situations in which the victims’ level of intoxication will invalidate their experiences. This system works because we as a society silence and blame survivors rather than uplifting and believing them.
Alcohol and Consent FAQ:
At what point in drinking do people lose their ability to consent?
Consent must be informed, voluntary, mutual, and can be withdrawn at any time. This means that when sexual contact is forced, whether expressed or implied, or when coercion, intimidation, threats, or duress is used it is not consensual. Silence or absence of resistance does not imply consent, and past consent to sexual contact or activity does not imply ongoing or future consent. If a person is mentally or physically incapacitated from drinking to the point that they cannot understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual situation, they cannot consent. If they pass out or fall asleep during the course of the night, they cannot consent.
Alcohol affects everyone differently. There is no standardized number of drinks that pushes everyone to a certain level of incapacitation. The bottom line is that if you’re not sure someone can give consent as defined above, it’s best to wait until all participants have sobered up.
Should alcohol and sex be mixed at all?
Talk to your sexual partners about their levels of comfort with alcohol and sexual activity. Some people are comfortable having sex when they have been casually drinking but are not drunk, while others won’t want to mix the two activities at all. Just as every person’s body has a different alcohol tolerance, people have different levels of comfort with drinking and sex based on their preferences and past experiences.
Will you get in trouble for drinking if you report an assault that happened while intoxicated?
Under the new Hopkins Sexual Misconduct Policy — enacted as of Fall 2015 — students have amnesty from drug and alcohol-related sanctions when reporting a sexual assault. This applies to students under the age of 21 and/or living in student residence halls. The policy states, “Sometimes individuals may be reluctant to report instances of sexual misconduct because they fear being charged with violations of other University policies, including those regarding alcohol or drugs. The University encourages students to report all instances of sexual misconduct. The University will not impose disciplinary action (except for a mandatory intervention for substance abuse) for a violation of student alcohol or drug policies for a student who reports to the University or law enforcement an incidence of sexual misconduct or who participates in an investigation of sexual misconduct as a witness.” The official policy in full can be found here.
“What if they’re both drunk?”
“Intoxication is not a defense for rape. Intoxication is not an exonerating circumstance. Failing to recognize that the victim is too drunk to consent is not a defense of sexual assault. This is what we need to remember: the responsibility for figuring out the other person’s mental state is on the initiator of the sexual act. If you want to get some, you have to be certain that they want to get some too. So if you are too drunk to confidently ascertain this information, you shouldn’t engage in these intimate acts.” —Paula Ethans, “Paula vs. Patriarchy”