Police in Charleston, South Carolina, were right to warn students on Tuesday after two sexual assaults were reported near the campus.
But were they right to include in the warning the fact that the victims had both been drinking and to include statistics about alcohol and sexual assault?
The warning from Charleston police described basic details of the sexual assaults. One happened near campus and the victim was not a student; the other happened between two students in a car off campus. But the added information that both victims had been drinking certainly suggests that alcohol contributed or caused these victims to be sexually assaulted. Not only is that victim blaming, but it is not even true — rapists cause rape, not alcohol. While everyone should be aware that people can put themselves at greater risk for crimes by drinking, it’s an irresponsible assumption on the police’s part to pinpoint booze as the problem, as if, per Slate.com author Emily Yoffe’s suggestion, that if women “stop getting drunk,” rape would no longer occur. That’s factually untrue.
The College of Charleston’s Vice President of Student Affairs told SC’s The State newspaper that she think it wouldn’t be responsible to not warn students about the link between drinking and crime. I don’t entirely disagree with her that more specific information is helpful for personal safety. If rapists were attacking women in the library, for example, I would want to know that detail before I hit the books there. However, that’s kind of a flimsy defense that won’t improve a whole lot in the long run. There are bigger structural problems that need to be addressed, but aren’t being addressed, because it’s easier to blame victims for their own victimization. This is unacceptable. Given the lack of nationwide mishandling of sexual assaults on campuses which have lead to numerous complaints to the federal government (including one this very week at UCONN), methinks colleges should do more about punishing the rapists in their midst, not warning students that — duh — booze clouds your judgment. It’s time to tackle the more difficult problems instead of blaming miniskirts and margarita mix.
Anyway, the fact of the matter is that police and administrators don’t really need to warn women that rapists prey on their victims when they’re drunk. Yeah, I said it: from the teen boys in Maryville, Missouri, who gave two younger girls alcohol from a “bitch cup” to drink before raping them to the Phi Kappa Tau brother at Georgia Tech who emailed his frat with tips on “Luring Your Rape Bait,” men do a good enough job teaching women this themselves.
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.