Sexual assault occurs when people do not respect personal boundaries and do not ask or look for consent.
While presumably well-intentioned, President Mark McCoy stated that high sexual assault on college campuses is related to alcohol consumption. Through this statement, McCoy is contributing to the detrimental narrative of victim blaming. He is normalizing sexual violence against women. While he has issued a Letter to the Editor to clarify his poor choice of words, he cannot un-ring the bell.
It is time to stop blaming alcohol for sexual assault and address the fact that there are people who feel entitled to other people’s bodies.
In a 2001 study, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states, “Although alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur, this phenomenon does not prove that alcohol causes sexual assault.”
Individuals who are sexually assaulted are not violated because they are incapacitated; they are violated because there is an individual who is there to take advantage of the situation, and ultimately feels entitled to another’s body. Rape and rapists are mutually inclusive, not rape and alcohol.
McCoy said sexual assault is a disaster for all involved, for both the survivor and the perpetrator. The perpetrator made the choice to engage in inappropriate sexual behavior; the survivor did not. Survivors of sexual assault at DePauw have said their assailants remain on campus with punishments that do not serve justice and are granted the opportunity to violate others.
The perpetrator continues with life hardly interrupted, unless they are expelled. Expulsion from the institution is not a disaster, it is punishment barely congruent with the egregious nature of the crime. Rather than alcohol being the cause, sexual assault at DePauw is high because there is minimal accountability for those who commit these crimes.
Finally, condemning sexual violence by citing that you have women in your life that you care for personally, is deeply problematic. Respect for women should not be dependent on your relationship to them. Sexual assault is a heinous crime, and you should be appalled regardless of your relationship to the individual attacked. Women should be respected because they are human.
The institution needs to push for a cultural shift. It must stop this notion that individuals would be safe from sexual assault if only they did not consume alcohol, and focus the attention on those who believe they have the right to another’s body.