August 14, 2009

Girls Gone Wild?

Posted in Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Rape Drugs), Men's role in sexual assault, Rape Culture, Victim Blaming at 9:55 pm by sacetalks

Some months ago, CBC’s The National aired a segment called, “Girls Gone Wild.” The feature explores the dangers associated with the surge of binge-drinking amongst college-aged women.  It features 3 women talking about how much they drink on a typical night out and interviews “experts,” such as bartenders and a women who has conducted research on drug-facilitated sexual assault, to reveal how women are putting themselves in a “risky situation” by drinking heavily.

The segment is nothing that’s new to us at SACE, nor is it anything that’s shocking.  Unfortunately, victim-blaming programs such as this, even from the most well-intentioned reporters and researchers, is pretty common.

When I talk about why this irritates with me with friends and family, they don’t seem to get it.  “But, don’t you think it’s good that they’re talking about this kind of stuff?  Don’t you think it’s important to talk about how dangerous it is for women to drink so much?”

What irks me is who is portrayed as responsible for sexual assault.  In “Girls Gone Wild,” the message is that women need to protect themselves from assault; women need to drink less; women need to watch themselves; women need to control their own behaviour.  What I would like to see is someone telling perpetrators to stop sexually assaulting other people. Sexual assault doesn’t happen because of what a woman wears, or how much she drinks, or whether or not she’s in a group with other people; it happens because an offender decides to sexually assault her.

Arguing that women need to curtail their drinking to avoid being assaulted is not only ridiculous for its victim-blaming implications, but because of how normalized drinking is in North American college culture.  I remember being in university and it was not only normal to drink, but we were encouraged to drink.  The people who chose to not participate in alcohol-related activities in residence, for example, were not only mocked but excluded from most social activities.  If drug facilitated sexual assault is something that people are concerned about, why not encourage a change in the culture that encourages people to drink when they’re not comfortable with it?

Or!  Better yet!  Why not encourage people to NOT sexually assault each other?!  What a novel concept!  It’d be really great if once, just once, an expose such as this didn’t focus on what survivors were doing wrong, but focused instead on what offenders are doing.  For example, one of last week’s articles states, “the woman admitted she had drunk between 10 and 12 pints of beer.”  SO WHAT?  The only way that is relevant is in proving that what happened was an assault.  It’s written in our criminal code that consent cannot be given when one is incapacitated.  This means that the sentence shouldn’t read, “the victim admitted…” but instead, “the offender admitted that the victim had 10-12 pints before the assault.”  This is the offender’s responsibility, not the victim’s.

‘Cause let me tell you something: sexual assault doesn’t happen because of what the survivor drank, wore, did, or didn’t do; it happens because an offender chooses to sexually assault someone.  Drinking is not the motivating factor.  The offender offending is.

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