Friday, February 26, 2010

Undetected Rapists on Campus: A Troubling Plague of Repeat Offenders - Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice

Jennifer Peebles and Kristen Lombardi writeUndetected Rapists on Campus: A Troubling Plague of Repeat Offenders - Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice

It is an excellent read, but I would like to point up some issues that are connected with this problem.

The primary issue is binge drinking. In many of these accounts, one or more of the participants are so drunk that they have passed out. Now I am not excusing the behavior one iota, but we must recognize that getting so drunk that you are unable to say no in the company of someone who has made it clear he does not want to hear the word no, and who may also be impaired due to excessive alcohol use, is a recipe for disaster. I'm not saying these girls deserved to be raped, that is not at all my intent, but they do need to recognize that their actions were part of the problem. When you play with fire, you often get burned. One must remember that you alone are responsible for your own safety and that you must at all times be on guard against those who might do you harm. It is no different from going to a bad neighborhood in a expensive car, parking it on the street, leaving it unlocked with the keys in the ignition and then wondering why the car was gone when you came back later. Yes, ultimately the person that took the vehicle is the culpable party, but your insurance company isn't going to buy you a new car because you left the car unlocked and the keys in the ignition either. You share some of the blame. Yes, this young man would appear to be a serial rapist, but he was a rapist of opportunity. These women supplied him with the opportunity by getting shit-faced in his presence.

So what do we need to do? We need to address the issue of binge drinking first and foremost. These young adults are going through a time in their lives in which they for the first time, do not have a parent or guardian watching over them so they go a little crazy. They drink to excess, they experiment with drugs and sex and all sorts of other things. You'll note that the perpetrator in this case is a black man. Many of these young girls (whom I would bet are probably white) may have succumbed to "jungle fever" in the heat of the moment and/or the depth of the beer glass, only to look at the situation in the cold light of the morning and thought to themselves, "What do I tell my boyfriend/parents/girlfriends? Did we use a condom? Am I going to get pregnant? Does he have the clap or AIDS?" and decided that the safest thing to do was to claim they were drunk and the sex was not consensual without really contemplating the effect such a claim might have on the other party. Selfish claim, but all to often true none the less.

But legally, sex with anyone who is impaired due to alcohol is by definition non-consensual. How many of us have gone on dates, had a couple of beers and then had sex with our dates? Are we all rapists? Technically yes, we were. Where does one draw the line? Therein lies the problem with case law and consent. The line is entirely too blurry even when sober and it is all too easy for a young man to run afoul of the rules, especially when he is drunk and his (and her!) hormones and not his brain are in control. Therefore it is incumbent on the girl to avoid such situations whenever possible. And it is incumbent on young men to be careful too because the consensual sex you had last night, might in the cold light of day, be claimed to be non-consensual, and you only have your word against hers, and the simple fact of the matter is that the legal deck is stacked against you.

Another issue we must consider is one of violent sexual assault. Not every sexual assault that occurs on campus is of the date rape type (although a great majority are), many are conventional violent assaults. In such a case, a 110 lb young woman is not likely to be able to fight off a 200 lb male intent on raping her (or robbing her, or abducting her, or killing her) without the use of a weapon to level the playing field (no pun intended). Currently state law allows colleges and universities to forbid the carrying of concealed weapons, even with a permit. And State law also does not allow anyone under the age of 21 to obtain such a permit anyway. Therefore, a young woman is legally prevented from defending herself from an attacker. Both the state legislature as well as the college administrations share culpability here. A young man or woman may join the military at age 18 and carry a weapon on the battlefield to defend this country, but is prevented from carrying a weapon to defend themselves in their private lives. This is simply morally wrong. This however can only be fixed at the legislative level.

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