Content Warning: This blog post contains discussion of rape, victim shaming/blaming, and Brock Turner (the Stanford rapist trial boondoggle). Here’s a picture of one of my cats (hiding from a guide dog in training who was staying with us), in lieu of white space, in case you need to exit out without reading this link. I *totally* get that, and you have my solidarity. ❤ I’ve had to click out of a few links, or even avoid clicking them.
Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion of what happens when people drink alcohol, discussion of what the consequences are for drinking, especially if you get drunk, especially-est if you get falling down black-out drunk. As I have some experience with this, I thought I’d shed some light on the matter.
The consequences of drinking alcohol include:
- Getting tipsy/buzzed
- Getting drunk
- Becoming emotional
- Peeing a lot
- Difficulty walking
- Passing out
- Throwing up
Please note that you may not have all of these symptoms. The symptoms you experience depend on a variety of factors and vary from person to person. They also vary for the same person depending on factors including (but not limited to) what you drink, when you drink it, how fast you drink it, your food intake, your water intake, medications, medical conditions, etc. This is a list of some of the symptoms (or consequences) you *might* experience after drinking alcohol.
Now, let’s talk about…
Things that are unequivocally NOT consequences/symptoms of drinking alcohol:
- Sexual assault
I know it’s a shorter list, but please, read it again. Read it a few times. I’ll wait.
In the wake of the Brock Turner boondoggle, in which a man was convicted of raping an unconscious woman and received only a 6 month sentence in county jail, I’ve heard multiple people make remarks along these lines.
“They’re both facing the consequences of their choices.”
“She shouldn’t have drunk so much.”
“Things would probably have turned out differently if she hadn’t gotten so drunk she blacked out.”
“She needs to take responsibility for her choice to drink/get that drunk.”
“The person who gave her her last drink holds some responsibility too.”
“This is why women shouldn’t drink very much.”
“Women who drink need to make sure they have a trusted friend who’s sober with them.”
“She made a choice to drink and now she’s paying for it.”
“Please drink responsibly so this type of thing doesn’t happen.”
“Her life is being affected by her drinking choices.”
“Choices like theirs have consequences.”
“Never set yourself up to be attacked or raped.”
“It’s too bad she chose to drink to incapacitation and now has to face the consequences of that choice.”
Here’s the thing. I’m going to let you in on something that is apparently not a known fact to everyone. This is REALLY important, so pay close attention, ok? You ready? Here we go.
Rape is not a consequence of alcohol. Rape is not a consequence of drinking alcohol. Rape is not a consequence of getting drunk. Rape is the consequence of someone who decides to rape someone else. RAPE IS NOT A CONSEQUENCE OF DRINKING.
There is only one person who is responsible for the fact that Brock Turner raped a woman who was drunk and unconscious. That person is Brock Turner. And Brock Turner didn’t rape this woman because he was drunk or because she was drunk. Brock Turner raped this woman because he’s a jerk who said “To hell with consent. My wants are more important than her humanity, and consent doesn’t matter.” It wasn’t because he was drunk, because rape isn’t a consequence of drinking.
I’ve been drunk before, to varying degrees (everything from vaguely buzzed to vomiting, blacking out, and probably had some alcohol poisoning going one. I’ve also been raped and otherwise sexually assaulted. And you know what? The two happened independently of one another. With the exception of one time (and that time involved an abusive and manipulative relationship and grooming that had been happening for a while including while sober, ad was generally a crappy situation, but isn’t that always the case?), I wasn’t raped when I was drinking. I was raped/sexually assaulted when I was sober. And the rapists? Also sober.
I’ll tell you one story in particular. Years ago, there was a night where I was really unhappy, and I ended up *really* drunk. Like, really really really drunk. I couldn’t stand up or walk straight. I ended up having to be carried up the stairs, stuck in a shower, and put to bed once I was clean, dried off, dressed, and no longer smelled of vodka and orange Fanta (terrible combination, if you’re wondering). I spent most of the night vomiting and it was well over 24 hours before I was actually sober. I blacked out at a couple of points. It’s taken me YEARS to finally remember most of the night, but there are still a few blocks that are missing. Quite frankly, looking back, I’m pretty sure I had alcohol poisoning. Fortunately, the friends I had around me – both male and female – were decent people. Despite the fact that some of them were drunk and I was drunk, nobody raped me, and I didn’t rape anyone. One of the guys was the one who carried me upstairs and deposited me with the female friends who got me cleaned up and taken care of. He was alone with me in a stairwell while I was drunk… no rape happened. Why? Because rape isn’t a consequence of drinking alcohol (or doing drugs).
If rape were a consequence of drinking, why do sober people rape? Why are sober people raped? Rape isn’t about alcohol, just as it’s not about what the person who was raped was wearing, whether they were flirting, whether they initially said yes and then changed their mind, whether they said yes to some petting but no to anything further, whether they were doing drugs, whether they’re a sex worker, whether they are sex-positive, or anything else. Rape isn’t even about sex. Rape is about power. Rape is about someone who decides that what they want matters more than the person they want it from.
There is nothing I can do that makes me responsible for my rape. Being raped is not a choice I make. Being raped is not the consequence of any of my choices. If I am raped, it is not my fault in any way, shape or form. To say that it is, to say the things I listed above in the examples of things people say, is to blame me for someone else raping me.
This line of thinking of “She chose to drink irresponsibly” is victim blaming. It’s a part of rape culture. It takes some of the culpability and responsibility off of the shoulders of the rapist and puts it squarely on the shoulders of the rape survivor. That’s not right. Unfortunately, a lot of the people I see saying “She’s now dealing with a devastating consequence to her choice to get drunk” don’t realize that that’s them blaming her for what the rapist did. They say “What?!? OF COURSE I’m not blaming her! He’s the rapist, it’s not her fault. Why would you think I blame her? I don’t blame her for being raped. I just think she should have made better choices.” And they don’t see the contradiction. They don’t see that they’re putting the choice to rape on par with the choice to drink, when they’re not at all the same thing.
You should also know that if this applies to you, if you’re one of the ones saying “Well, it’s a consequence of her getting so drunk, she should have been more responsible in her drinking”, you’re telling the people around you that should they/we ever be raped/sexually assaulted, you are not a safe person to come talk to. Why? Because you’re likely to sit there and – even without realizing – find some way to pin the blame on us and make it OUR fault. That’s one of the things you say when you make it about the rape/sexual assault survivor instead of leaving it all on the rapists shoulders. Think really hard about whether that’s the message you want to send. Hopefully, it’s not, and now that you know better you’ll do better.
I’d like to share the words of the woman whom Brock Turner chose to rape. This is part of the letter she wrote (you can read the full thing here)and read as her victim statement at his sentencing. Her words are powerful and spot on, and it’s only right that she be given airtime to voice this.
“He has done irreversible damage to me and my family during the trial and we have sat silently, listening to him shape the evening. But in the end, his unsupported statements and his attorney’s twisted logic fooled no one. The truth won, the truth spoke for itself.
You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt. And I thought finally it is over, finally he will own up to what he did, truly apologize, we will both move on and get better. Then I read your statement.
If you are hoping that one of my organs will implode from anger and I will die, I’m almost there. You are very close. This is not a story of another drunk college hookup with poor decision making. Assault is not an accident. Somehow, you still don’t get it. Somehow, you still sound confused. I will now read portions of the defendant’s statement and respond to them.
You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.
Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.
You said, If I wanted to get to know her, I should have asked for her number, rather than asking her to go back to my room.
I’m not mad because you didn’t ask for my number. Even if you did know me, I would not want to be in this situation. My own boyfriend knows me, but if he asked to finger me behind a dumpster, I would slap him. No girl wants to be in this situation. Nobody. I don’t care if you know their phone number or not.
You said, I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around me was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.
Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.
You said, During the trial I didn’t want to victimize her at all. That was just my attorney and his way of approaching the case.
Your attorney is not your scapegoat, he represents you. Did your attorney say some incredulously infuriating, degrading things? Absolutely. He said you had an erection, because it was cold.
You said, you are in the process of establishing a program for high school and college students in which you speak about your experience to “speak out against the college campus drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that.”
Campus drinking culture. That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to people about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.
Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Campus Sexual Assault. There’s your first powerpoint slide. Rest assured, if you fail to fix the topic of your talk, I will follow you to every school you go to and give a follow up presentation.
Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life.
A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
(Note: The survivor has made a follow-up statement addressing why she chooses to remain anonymous, and it’s not only to protect her identity. Read more here.)
Alcohol didn’t rape this woman. Brock Turner raped this woman. Not because he was drunk or because she was drunk, but because he chose to rape her, to act with total disregard for her body, her autonomy, and her rights. He treated her like a possession, not a person. Alcohol isn’t a sentient being, Alcohol doesn’t take over brains and force them to rape.
Before I go, I want to say it one more time, because it’s that important for people to realize.
Rape is not a consequence of drinking alcohol. Rape is a consequence of a person who decides to rape someone else. Alcohol does not cause rape. Rapists cause rape.
Resources for rape/sexual assault survivors and those who know/care about them
Now, I’d like to take a minute to switch over to talking about resources for rape/sexual assault survivors and the people who know/care about them, because that’s *really* important.
If you or someone you know has been raped, it is not your/their fault. There are resources to help you. You can contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and they can chat with you confidentially 24/7 via internet or phone. They can also help you find local support. RAINN also has a page with national resources that might be of some use. Additionally, you can research and see if you/they have a rape crisis center nearby. RAINN also has a page with info about the DoD Safe Helpline.
“DoD Safe Helpline provides a way for DoD community members affected by sexual assault to get help. These services are provided by RAINN through a contract with the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO).” –RAINN: DoD Safe Helpline.
Other options for members of the US military and their dependents include
- Calling your local MTF and they should have an option on the phone menu to get put through to the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
- The DoD SAPRO (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office) website includes a section for victim assistance, which includes a breakdown of assistance options (including reporting options) by duty status: Active Duty, Reserve Component, Transitioning, Veteran, DoD Civilian, DoD Dependent, and DoD Contractor.
If you are a college student, you may have options/resources available through your campus nurse/health clinic, if you have one.
Planned Parenthood also has a page with information about rape/sexual assault. One thing of note from their page:
“Some hospitals/clinics have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs. These programs have nurses who are specially trained to collect evidence and provide medical care following a sexual assault. You do not have to cooperate with a law enforcement investigation in order to receive a medical forensic exam at no cost. The National Rape Hotline should be able to direct you to the nearest SANE program.
Many people who have experienced sexual violence are concerned about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You can come to any Planned Parenthood health center for Emergency Contraception (within 5 days) and STI testing.” –Planned Parenthood: Rape/Sexual Assault Information
These are some of the main resources I usually direct people to, and they should be able to point you in the direction you need to go and give you advice specific to your situation. If you are a rape/sexual assault survivor, I am so sorry for what you’re going through. Know that there are people out here, including me, who support you 100% and unconditionally. If you need help, please reach out. If you’re not sure what you should do, you can reach out. You are not alone.