A recent piece written by Emily Tate focused on the unfair dangers to men presented by the new rules on drunken sex. But the affirmative consent standard does not create unreasonable dangers for men; rather, they help eliminate unreasonable burdens that victims of sexual assault have faced for generations.
Tate posits a hypothetical hook-up in which fictional “Katie” irrationally wants to call voluntary drunken sex “rape.”
Using this scenario alone, she appears to want readers to continue to uphold the status quo, in which the majority of rapes perpetrated are those in which predators can and do use alcohol as a weapon.
In her criticism of the new rules on rape, Tate says the “numbers do not add up.”
Actually they do. Dr. David Lisak, who’s research on non-stranger rapists has served as a guidepost for helping rape prevention in numerous colleges around the country, spells out the numbers. He, along with other researchers, have conducted studies showing that two-thirds of acquaintance rapists are responsible for at least 90 percent of rapes on college campuses, assaulting on average six women each.
Thus, the eight percent of college men who admit to having forced sex on women (the one in 12 thatTate cites) are easily responsible for raping the 20 to 25 percent of college women who have reported being raped.
Dr. Lisak and others have also found most acquaintance rapists use alcohol to mask and facilitate their crimes, or to lower or eliminate their victims’ resistance and to make themselves look drunkenly and innocently misguided. These assaults typically are not “drunk miscommunications,” as Tate suggests, but premeditated crimes committed by serial predators.
The “Yes Means Yes” standard of sexual consent isn’t a trap that Tate suggests, but is a fact-based response to this reality.
This is a long-overdue change in the way schools understand sexual assault and sexual interactions.
And it accomplishes one extraordinary thing — it takes the legal responsibility of rape off the potential victims and puts it on the potential predators. Any person who initiates sexual activity is responsible for obtaining a verbal “yes” from the other person throughout the sexual encounter. It reduces ambiguity in sexual situations by ensuring that consent is freely and actively given.
To that end, the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign we are launching encourages students to take personal responsibility and to use good judgment.
It encourages them to think through a few things before hooking up with someone after a night of drinking.
Students can start to ask these questions: Is he or she acting this way because he or she is very intoxicated? If he or she gives consent, are they too intoxicated to be able to make a decision about whether or not we should hook-up? Will he or she remember this in the morning?
This makes for a clear choice of action for both men and women. If anyone is concerned about regretting the hook-up they’re about to engage in, then they should abstain.
It’s that simple. Abstaining will completely relieve the uncertain party of any chance of being falsely accused of rape. Even more importantly, abstaining prevents this “uncertain” party from raping someone.
An enormous number of lives have been and continue to be ruined by rape. Of our nation’s yearly quota of at least 100,000 college rape victims, one-third contemplate suicide; most of them see their mental health impacted, their grade point averages tanked, their hopes for graduate school trashed and their futures reduced to shadows of what they might have been.
It’s estimated an individual rape victim is burdened with over $100,000 in lost productivity, education, housing and other social and financial losses, and that rape costs our nation over $127 billion annually.
These victims, and society as a whole, are incurring terrible costs by our willingness to continue to let rapists get away with it.
In her misreading of the statistics, Tate also implies that a significant percentage of women are actually lying about being raped.
Yet all credible studies of rape, both in the United States and globally, put the percentage of false reports at between one and eight percent — the same as for any other crime, according to research by Lisak.
Given that only five percent of college women report their assaults to formal authorities, The Miami Student should consider how a piece like this might have the real and troubling outcome of continuing to silence survivors and enable abusers.
It is well past time to take the risk of rape off of the victims’ shoulders. Let’s tell young people everywhere, if you’re going to have sex, make sure you and your partner are sober enough to give consent.
That is not too much to ask.
President of MARS
Founder, Only with Consent
Founder, Party with Consent
Author, Ally to Title IX
Title IX researcher and media task force member