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Dear Prudence Advice Columnist Suggested Possibly-Date Raped Woman Is “Trying To Ruin Someone Else’s Life”

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“Trying to ruin someone else’s life is a poor way to address one’s alcohol and self-control problems.”

This is true. But is this really the most intelligent — to say nothing of compassionate — thing for an advice columnist to say to someone whose friend was possibly date raped?

No, Dear Prudence at Slate.com, it was not.

Here is the question an anonymous reader asked Dear Prudence (aka Emily Yoffe) in a live-chat on Slate:

A friend recently called me and said she had a one-night stand after drinking too much. She was beating herself up over drinking too much and going home with a guy she met at a bar. I reassured her that everyone makes mistakes and didn’t think much more of the account. However, since then, she has told many people that she was a victim of date-rape — that the guy must have put something into her drink. She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn’t have given consent so she was a victim of rape. She now wants to press charges—she has the guy’s business card. I have seen her very intoxicated on previous occasions, to the point she doesn’t remember anything the next day. I’m not sure on what my response should be at this point. Pretend she never told me the original story?

Despite learning about this situation third-hand, it is clear to me that this woman did not offer “enthusiastic consent” to have sexual relations with this guy. Enthusiastic consent is predicated on the idea that consent is not about the absence of a “no” — which, of course, cannot be given if person has indeed been roofied or is too drunk/too drugged to voice consent. It’s about a clear “yes. Yet Prudence seized on the drinking part in her response, missing several of the possible victim’s red flags in this reader’s question:

  • She thinks the guy put something in her drink, which shows an element of suspicion on her part.
  • She is telling people she was date raped, which is not a small thing to admit.
  • She has even called a rape crisis hotline for counseling, which shows she is affected by it. 
A criminal case here would likely be quite weak, as it sounds as if it will come down to “he said” versus “she said.”( The allegation this woman is trying to ruin someone’s life would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.) Regardless of the fact she probably can’t get her possible rapist put behind bars, which is really a question for a lawyer, this woman clearly did not give consent. “Having sex” with a woman who is blacked out, passed out, or otherwise too drunk to say no is not consent.  That’s date rape.  It may not be pleasant to think about — it’s much easier to think that rapists are guys who jump out from behind the bushes — but the reality is that this women’s “one night stand” sounds like her drunkeness was exploited. But that’s not what Dear Prudence said. Her response to all these red flags was, in part, to say this:
Trying to ruin someone else’s life is a poor way to address one’s alcohol and self-control problems. Since her first version of the story is that she was ashamed of her behavior, and since you have seen her knee-walking drunk on other occasions, it sounds as if she wants to punish the guy at the bar for her own poor choices. 

Dear Prudence should know better than to dismiss a woman’s possible date rape so glibly.

Because the first version of the story is always the full version of the story?

Because you can’t get raped when you’re drunk?

Because being drunk on past occasions means she couldn’t have been raped this time? 

Because “punishing” a someone she met at a bar  through the court system is just so easy, lovely and pleasant that just anyone would undertake it?

It boggles the mind, really.

Now, I can agree with Prudence and the letter writer  that it sounds like there is some problematic drinking going on. Drinking so much that you cannot remember what happened the next day is dangerous. Not only does it put you in the defensive position around someone who doesn’t care about getting consent from you, but it puts you in a poor decision-making mindset when it comes to other bad behaviors, like getting into fights or getting behind the wheel of a car. I’ve never quite understood the feminists who say, “Rah, rah, women should learn self-defense!” when learning how to hold your liquor is a far more common way all women can protect themselves.  I’m personally of the opinion — which sets me apart from other feminists on this issue — that knowing how much you can drink before you black out or pass out is a really, really important matter of self-protection.

All that being said, any problematic drinking is a separate issue than the one being asked in this question: this question was about how to help someone who believes that she was raped. Shaming and blaming a possible date rape victim is the absolute wrong response. 

[CaptainAwkward.com]

Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.

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