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Drinking and Sexual Assault

By Sarah A. Rankin

To the editors:

I am writing to address the September 17 editorial, "Crack Down on Rape."

While it is absolutely true that drinking does not automatically lead to rape, it is undeniable that alcohol and sexual assault are highly correlated. In the majority of campus sexual assault cases nationally, alcohol is consumed by either the perpetrator, the survivor, or both. This is also true for the majority of cases handled by OSAPR. By suggesting that the HUPD and CPD should "focus their energies more on preventing rape and harassment than on a fruitless attempt to head off underage drinking," the author is ignoring the research, which shows that in most cases, these causes are related.

The correlation between alcohol and sexual assault is multi-faceted. In researching college-age sexual assault perpetrators, we have learned that they often use alcohol intentionally, either by seeking out someone who is already highly intoxicated or by encouraging drinking. This does not mean that drinking itself is the problem, but it does mean that we all have a responsibility to make sure our social scene stays safe.

There are a number of steps we can take to help prevent sexual assaults, such as challenging the social norms that mask predatory behavior by hosting safe parties, looking out for each other, stepping up to intervene, and supporting survivors. We should also be careful not to frame rape as a female-only health issue as it is in this editorial. Sexual assault affects both men and women and under-reporting, which is also mentioned in this article, is even more pervasive among male survivors.


Sarah Rankin

Director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

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