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Sex and alcohol: Recipe for disaster

Amanda Pena | Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Our generation has redefined the limits of partying by engaging prematurely in the excessive binge-drinking and sexual activity of the college atmosphere. Because it is seen as “the norm” to drink heavily and have random hookups, other students, friends and peers may find themselves on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to issues of sexual assault and rape.
“The Notre Dame Security Police Department is investigating a report…of forcible fondling…” We all know those emails. Many of us dismiss them once they reach our inboxes. Some even crack a few jokes about how ridiculous “forcible fondling” sounds. But behind every email we receive from NDSP regarding sexual assault, there is a victim and an assailant walking around campus with us. You’ve probably brushed by a rape survivor when you went looking for your friends in the dining hall. Sexual assault and rape are incredibly sensitive and often controversial issues that spur fiery debates about who is at fault in these situations.
Take the recent convictions of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the two young men found guilty of raping a 16-year-old peer at a party in Steubenville, Ohio. The victim’s inebriated state prevented her from consenting to any sexual activities that were performed on her by Mays and Richmond, but supporters of the high school football stars were quick to suggest she “put herself in a position to be violated.” This tends to be the common argument against victims, especially women, of sexual assault. But all too often, defendants and their supporters make this claim, which can prompt victims to blame themselves for the assault and succumb to feelings of shame, embarrassment, depression and trauma.
Before I proceed, I am not claiming men aren’t, or haven’t been, victims of sexual assault and rape, because those cases deserve the same attention and importance as any other. However, it is a more common situation for women to be in, thus making it easier to explain my opinions on the matter.
At Notre Dame, I have overheard guys complain the women here claim they were “raped” or “sexually assaulted” because of their Catholic consciences, and instead of dealing with their regret, they rectify the situation by reporting it as a crime. Many also believe it is the victim’s fault for putting themselves in that situation because of how they dress, their level of intoxication or that they have a history of physical intimacy with the assailant or others. But how a person dresses cannot be taken as an invitation for sexual activity. Intoxication does not, and by definition cannot, give permission for engaging in sexual behaviors.
Yes, it is difficult to grapple with the idea that a person’s ensemble is not always suggestive of their intentions, but it’s true! For starters, clothes for women nowadays are made shorter and skimpier – I challenge you to find a trendy pair of shorts that are longer than the length of your fingertips by your sides. Most shirts are now designed to be sheerer and shorter in the front and longer in the back. And unless you would like to see a girl dressed in knee-length skirts and cardigans from the “Misses” section of a department store, it is nearly impossible to find clothing that is suitable to go out in on the weekend that doesn’t suggest going to visit your grandmother the next day. And if that isn’t reason enough, sometimes the way a girl dresses is merely a confidence-booster. Women want to feel beautiful or sexy about themselves, and if they have found confidence in a skirt and heels, then more power to them! But that CANNOT be taken as an open invitation for sex unless she soberly consents to it.
Sexual assault and rape are grave crimes committed both on and off our campus, and our community needs increased levels of awareness, resources and support for our Notre Dame family members. The University needs to react more quickly to reported cases of assault and rape because the trauma a victim experiences affects them faster than a five-day follow-up on a claim.
A friend of mine had left Notre Dame after being raped at a party. More students are speaking up about their stories involving rape and sexual assault on irishbreakingthesilence.wordpress.com. These issues are raw, explicit and traumatizing. They take away a part of their victims and force them to move on with their lives.
Drinking and sex will always be a part of the college environment, but I encourage you to be vigilant, smart and protective over yourself and those you care about to prevent finding out how destructive these crimes are firsthand.  

Amanda Pena is a sophomore sustainable development studies major with a poverty studies minor. She can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.