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Alcohol, Date Rape Drugs Exacerbate Rape on Campus, Lead to "Blaming the Victim"

Afraid of Being Blamed and/or Shamed, Rape Rarely Reported By Female Students

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For students raped under the influence of alcohol, the situation grows more difficult. Women fear that if they report an assault, they'll be blamed for "getting drunk and having sex." This "blaming the victim" attitude can traumatize the rape victim even further.

Bad Advice

When a college student who'd been assaulted wrote to "Ask Amy," the Chicago Tribune syndicated advice column penned by Amy Dickinson, the reply she received in the November 27, 2009 column reflected this "blame the victim" view:
Dear Amy: I recently attended a frat party, got drunk and made some bad decisions.

I let a guy take me to "his" room because he promised that he wouldn't do anything I wasn't comfortable with.

Many times, I clearly said I didn't want to have sex....Then he quickly proceeded to go against what he "promised." I was shocked, and maybe being intoxicated made my reaction time a bit slow in realizing what was happening....[I]f I wasn't kicking and fighting him off, is it still rape?... I haven't felt the same since it happened. Am I a victim?

-- Victim? in Virginia

Dear Victim?:...Were you a victim? Yes.

First, you were a victim of your own awful judgment. Getting drunk at a frat house is a hazardous choice for anyone to make because of the risk (some might say a likelihood) that you will engage in unwise or unwanted sexual contact.

Although Dickinson went on to offer resources and advised contacting authorities, she avoided the term "rape" and instead used the word "sex" in connection with the assault.

"Slut Shaming" Victims

Dickinson's response illustrates an outdated yet persistent view that a woman is somehow at fault if she's been drinking; there's less outrage over rape when alcohol is involved. If she's underage and drinking, the blame heaped on the victim is even greater.

Also at play is the idea of slut shaming, the act of labeling a girl or woman a slut to demean her and disparage her actions -- actions which may be commonplace among her peer group but are used against her to hurt or humiliate.

"Roofies" and Date Rape

"Getting a girl drunk" to force sex pales in comparison to a more recent development -- use of the date rape drug Rohypnol ("roofies"). Tasteless, colorless and odorless when slipped into a victim's drink, roofies cause drowsiness, amnesia, and reduce inhibitions. Effects begin within 20 minutes of ingestion and last 8-12 hours -- up to 36 hours when mixed with alcohol. Women dosed with a date rape drug have little to no memory of what happened. All traces of the drug leave the body within 72 hours and are not found through routine drug screening. With no evidence and hazy recollections of what happened, few women say anything.

Next page: Why peer pressure often keeps campus rape victims silent

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