Binge drinking not to blame for rape

COMMENTARY BY
SARAH MUELLER

For this week’s article, I chose to write about the New York Times’ recent debate concerning binge drinking and date rape on college campuses, entitled “Young Women, Drinking and Rape.” But upon reading the public comments on the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” I determined that enough was enough.
The premise for the debate was this: “With studies finding an association between binge drinking and rape on college campuses, is there anything wrong with telling women not to get blind drunk?” Six formal degree-holding, high-ranking debaters provided their input. From there, users replied to the six posts, transforming the debate into an explosion of nasty remarks, insightful analyses, heart-wrenching narratives and ignorant interpretations. This diverse and chaotic commentary served as a perfect population sample, setting a prime example of the societal disequilibrium that controversial issues such as binge drinking and date rape instigate.
Many of the posts expressed the opinion that females place themselves in dangerous situations by binge drinking, one of those situations being rape. My sentiments, though, are that binge drinking and rape, though they are in fact serious issues, are not correlated. Binge drinking does not prompt rape. Blaming binge drinking equates to blaming the victim; even advising a woman not to binge drink as a protective measure against rape still shifts partial blame onto her. Binge drinking is, of course, a serious issue, producing serious health consequences and decision-making deficits. That stated, however, linking binge drinking and rape insinuates the notion that by deciding to drink, a woman consciously allows for the possibility of sexual assault and rape.
Martha Shelley from Portland, Ore., provided an interesting analogy in her comment posted in response to the debate.
“If I leave my car unlocked with the keys in the ignition, someone is liable to steal it. The thief is 100% responsible for his criminal actions. I am not responsible for the theft, but I still suffer the consequences: considerable inconvenience, a financial loss, and probably a stiff hike in my insurance rates. Same goes for a young woman who gets blind drunk at a frat party. She isn’t responsible for being raped, but she is going to suffer serious consequences: humiliation, psychological trauma, the risk of pregnancy, and the risk of a number of diseases, some of which are incurable,” Shelley wrote.
Another person from Portland, whose username was Kidipede, commented as well.
“Drinking — male or female — doesn’t cause rape; rapists do. The danger in warning women about drinking and rape is that it provides cover to rapists by associating the two together in people’s minds. It’s true that everybody should be warned that drinking makes you vulnerable, but there’s no reason to single out women, or to single out rape. Drinking also makes you more likely to be hit by a car, lose your keys, hit a friend, etc,” Kidipede wrote.
Rape and sexual assault can happen at any time and in any location, in any atmosphere. You could be at a party, sure. But you could also be walking down the street, in a work environment, in your own home, in a committed relationship, married or even hanging out with someone you thought was your best friend. It is ugly, and it should not be sanitized, redefined or excused by binge drinking.
Yes, binge drinking limits your inhibitions. Would I recommend it? Not at all. But telling women specifically to stay away from such activities as a preventative measure against sexual assault and rape sends the incorrect and horrifying message that the woman in jeopardy could have done something different. Blaming binge drinking is no better than excusing rape by blaming the clothing a woman wears, her “flirtatious personality” or the fact that “she was asking for it.”
Therefore, it is not the alcohol that makes drinking so dangerous for women; rather, it is that society has determinedly employed alcohol as a scapegoat for rape. There is no justification in the world that makes rape or sexual assault tolerable, nor is there any amount of blame that can be shifted onto the rape victim that negates a rapist’s actions. Remember who the victim is, and stop making excuses.

contact the writer:
sarah.mueller@scranton.edu

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