Alcohol and consent don’t mix

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As students fill up the campus classrooms again, many are also getting ready to fill up the local bars and party houses to celebrate the new semester and reunite with friends– and for some, that means drinking alcohol. While students are told about the dangers of irresponsible alcohol use intermittently throughout their college career, the issue of sexual consent is not always brought up.

Criminal Justice professor, Dr. Stacie Merken, says to understand what constitutes the term “consent,” it is important to know its legal definition.

“Consent is a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” Merken said. “This means the individual must voluntarily, by their own will, agree to the sexual activity. Any type of situation which falls short of a voluntary agreement does not constitute consent.”

Christina Beverly, a TCU junior, says consent is when both parties give permission for anything to happen, but it is hard to say if someone can give consent depending on how much he/she drinks and whether the parties know each other.

“I don’t think anyone can consent when they’re not in the right state of mind,” Beverly said. “So when drinking it depends on how drunk they are and how well they know each other.”

Merken says there is never a blurred line when someone says “no” to an unwanted sexual act, and consent is completely lost once any type of mechanism that hinders complete control over one’s body is used.

“If there is the slightest bit of question that an individual does not have complete cognitive function due to alcohol, drugs, or other altering substances, consent is not plausible,” Merken said.

In many cases of sexual assault, blame is shifted to the victim. Fear of victim blaming is a frequent reason people never come forward about their assaults. Merken says 80 to 95 percent of sexual assault or rape victims who are college-aged students do not report their incidents.

Merken says it may be easy for society to blame the victim by focusing on what they were wearing or doing, but rape and sexual assault are never their fault.

“In a good portion of cases and due to victim-blaming, some victims feel no one will believe them,” Merken said. “Also, many individuals do not realize they were raped or sexually assaulted due to years of buying into the victim-blaming culture.”

For more information about sexual assault, students can turn to their student handbooks and read the section, “Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Retaliation Policy” (beginning on page eleven). There are also a variety of courses in the Criminal Justice Department discussing sexual assault and rape or check out Not On My Campus TCU’s Facebook page.