The Tribune’s May 22 article, “A Drinking Problem,” which aimed to expose the pervasive binge-drinking among Cal Poly students, implies that one risk, even side-effect, of copiously drinking alcohol is that one can be sexually assaulted. Essentially, it implies that drinking causes sexual assault.
Using alcohol can seriously impair judgment, lower inhibitions, and even cause blackouts or unconsciousness, making one more vulnerable to sexual assault — not by “opportunistic males,” but by criminal perpetrators.
However, those effects do not actually cause sexual assault. Sexual assault is caused by sexual assailants!
Offenders use alcohol as a tool to identify potential victims, and to subdue them during the assault. And, as exemplified in Sunday’s article, offenders know if they and their targets are drunk. Society may discount reports because the survivor “should (have) know(n) not to get drunk and pass out.” Such a victim-blaming spin allows perpetrators to evade responsibility by saying, “She was drunk! What do you expect?”
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We expect differently. We expect responsibility for these crimes to be placed with criminals whose behavior is not to be inadvertently condoned.
So what can we do? The Sexual Assault Recovery & Prevention (SARP) Center has identified one way to directly address alcohol-facilitated sexual assault: we offer free, one-hour-long Bar-Stander Intervention Trainings for local bartenders, bouncers, and other bar staff throughout San Luis Obispo County, who will learn how to identify and intervene in situations that could escalate into sexual assault. For more information, please contact Jess Hawley, our education services coordinator, at 545-8888.
For the rest of us who don’t work in a bar, here are some simple ways to intervene safely before a sexual assault occurs:
If someone looks uncomfortable, pull them aside and ask if they are OK.
Check in with yourself: do you feel you can get the victim out of the situation and keep both of you safe? If not, call law enforcement!
Realize that violence is not the answer, and should never be the goal.
Listen to your gut; if something doesn’t look or feel right, it probably isn’t.
Use humor to ease tension and deflect aggression.
Divert attention from a targeted person by asking for directions or striking up a conversation.
True friends speak up; it’s OK to say those actions aren’t cool.
There is power in numbers! Grab friends before approaching a suspicious person.
Remember: No one ever deserves to be raped. No one ever asks for it.
Believe survivors who disclose to you.
Jeannette Page is the crisis services director and Jane Pomeroy is the crisis services specialist at the SARP Center.