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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review: Recent Articles Highlight Sexual Assault Issues

Editor's note: There will be a general campus forum on sexual assault at 6 pm on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 in the Fiesta Room of the Coates University Center.

Nearly everyday I receive a forwarded article about sexual assault on college campuses. While many contend that there are university efforts to cover-up assaults and there is gross incompetence in the handling of cases, I find these assertions to not be true in the majority of cases. These are really complex issues and situations and results can be second-guessed on any side of any given case. Processes should be evaluated in full, not based on outcomes of high-profile cases. While I have given much attention to this topic, here, over the last year, I think it deserves it.

So here are some of my choices of really good recent articles that I recommend:

How Drunk is Too Drunk to Have Sex?
By Amanda Hess, February 11, 2015

What I like: This reinforces to me that our newly proposed behavior-based policy hits the mark. In it, in the absence of force, coercion, or a lack of consent, drunk sex is not a violation. Incapacitation essentially means just that. A lack of control of motor skills. This change has been vetted by the Coalition for Respect and sent for comment to all students, faculty, and staff.

It's clear to all reasonable people that it's cool for two sober men and/or women to enthusiastically consent to sex and that when one person in unconscious, that's assault. But there is an ambiguous middle ground between clear-eyed sober and passed-out drunk where one or both parties may become too intoxicated to meaningfully consent to sex, and school have now been tasked with discerning that line for themselves. In doing so they've been forced to confront a host of philosophical, moral, physiological, and practical questions -- none of which have easy answers.

On a Stanford Man Who Alleged a Sexual Assault
By Connor Friedersdorf, January 28, 2015

What I like: This is a thoughtful, non-judgmental piece that asks more questions than offers answers. And, it makes it clear that in a word, it's "complicated."

How we ultimately define sexual assault is a choice–one that combines elements of prevailing culture and law, of connotation and denotation. Insofar as a community adheres around a notion of sexual assault that tends to involve high degrees of predation and trauma, the stigma against it will remain relatively powerful. As "sexual assault" is broadened to encompass gray areas that combine low degrees of predation with victims who aren't traumatized, the stigma may diminish.

Why It's So Hard to Talk to Our Daughters About Campus Rape
By Susanna Schrobsdorff, January 29, 2015

What I like:
Everyone understands (or should understand) that women have the right to go to a party and drink and choose to hook-up. It is never their fault if they are assaulted. And yet, we should be able to arm them with risk reduction tips. If it is precautionary it isn't victim-blaming.

It’s not fair, but it’s reality. I realize that I need to have some version of the talk that so many African-American parents have with their sons about being careful of what they wear and how they behave so as not to put themselves in danger.

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