This letter is a response to the column "Underage drinking harms university students" that ran on March 13th.
Andy Wilson’s article was right, in a couple of ways. The drinking culture at USC is pervasive. It is hard to have a social life on campus without the presence of alcohol. But he was wrong in several ways, especially in his insinuation that alcohol is to blame if a student is sexually assaulted.
The majority of Wilson’s article discusses underage drinking and the problems it poses. But several statements that he makes show that Wilson blames alcohol for things it can’t be blamed for. Mainly, the pervasiveness of sexual assault in college culture.
For example, let us consider the following statistic: “According to a Washington Post poll, 62 percent of women in college who experienced sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact had been drinking alcohol just prior to the incident and 14 percent reported being incapacitated (unable to give consent) when the incident occurred.”
Why does this statistic matter? It shouldn’t matter if 100 percent or zero percent of women had been intoxicated. A woman has the same rights to consume alcohol as a man. If a girl goes to a bar and has too much to drink, she has a right to that, and she has a right to go home safely and experience what every man expects to experience after a night of heavy drinking — a late morning and a hangover.
Let’s consider some other (conveniently left out) statistics from this same Washington Post poll.
Eighty-nine percent of victims stated that no one was held responsible or punished for the incident, despite the fact that 71 percent told someone about the incident.
Only 15 percent of students felt that “stronger enforcement of alcohol restrictions” would be helpful in preventing sexual assault, while 52 percent of students thought that “harsher punishments for those found guilty” would be effective.
We live in a society where rapists get barely any jail time, if any punishment, for their crimes. Instead of blaming outside forces, let’s face the real issue, which is the prominence of people who believe that sexual assault is OK. Who believe that if a woman is inebriated, it is OK to have sex with her, even if they know she wouldn’t consent otherwise.
Alcohol is not to blame for campus rapes. Rapists are. And it is time that we stop giving those rapists an out by trying to blame other factors for their behavior. Whether you are drinking, smoking pot, wearing a tight skirt, out alone or anything else, you have a right to your body and your safety. No one can take that away.