AC VOICE

© 2014 ACVoice. All Rights Reserved.

Blurred Lines: Amherst College Sends Mixed Messages on Alcohol and Sexual Assault

Never The Survivor's Fault

(Ethan Corey)– Ever since Angie Epifano published her courageous op-ed in The Student and students protested outside of a Trustees’ meeting in front of the Lord Jeffery Inn, there has been a general consensus that the College needs to dramatically change its approach to sexual misconduct. The old system failed to protect the needs and rights of survivors and far too often silenced or discouraged students from coming forward if they were assaulted. On top of that, many students, staff, and administrators held victim-blaming attitudes that contributed to a campus culture that tacitly and impliclitly normalized, excused, tolerated, and even condoned sexual assault. But, according to the College’s own website, things are different now; the College has taken action and solved the problem. Unfortunately, an alcohol education program recently sent out to the incoming Class of 2017 suggests that the College hasn’t made anywhere near as much progress as it would like to think.

San Diego State University’s Alcohol e-Checkup to Go (e-CHUG) program is a “personalized, evidence-based, online prevention intervention” designed to “motivate individuals to reduce their consumption using personalized information about their own drinking and risk factors,” which means in practice that it is a propagandistic, skewed device that pathologizes any and all forms of drinking, no matter how moderate they may be, and very strongly encourages you to stop drinking, especially if you’re underage. There are a lot of problems with the survey, from its patronizing tone to its specious claims that often lack any meaningful supporting evidence (apparently drinking underage is associated with suicide and murder?) to its generally limited efficacy in promoting safer drinking behavior. But the biggest, most egregious flaw with e-CHUG lies in its potentially triggering, victim-blaming treatment of the relationship between sexual assault and alcohol.

As the College’s administration and the authors of the program have been more than eager to inform me, there is a very strong association between alcohol consumption and sexual assault. An alcohol education program that didn’t discuss this issue would be failing to do its job. But e-CHUG doesn’t just inform participants of the relationship between drinking and sexual violence; it insinuates a causal link between them. In one part of the program discussing the “risk factors” of drinking, participants are informed that:

One area of risk taking that is especially relevant is sexual risk. When intoxicated, people are more likely to do things they would never do when sober, including not using condoms, having sex with someone they would not have otherwise chosen, or committing acquaintance rape or becoming a victim of sexual violence [my emphasis]. Alcohol is associated more closely with crimes of sexual violence than any other drug (CASA, 1999).

Read the parts in bold closely. The language pretty clearly suggests that “becoming a victim of sexual violence” is a “thing” that you are “more likely to do” when intoxicated, which of course implies that the victim is somehow complicit in her/his assault. Moreover, the claim that intoxicated persons are “more likely to do things they would never do when sober” suggests that those who commit acquaintance rape while drunk would never have raped anyone without the pernicious effects of alcohol on their judgment. While there may be a grain of truth to this, the implication that alcohol caused them to rape absolves rapists of responsibility for their actions and allows them to use intoxication as a cover for their sexually inappropriate behavior. Beyond that, placing “committing acquaintance rape” and “becoming a victim of sexual assault” directly adjacent to each other in the sentence seems to place both victim and perpetrator on the same level of responsibility, since it implies that both “committing acquaintance rape” and “becoming a victim of sexual assault” are consequences of drinking.

The above quote is far from the only mention of sexual assault in the program, however. In a section called “Frequency, Quantity, and ‘Not-So-Good Things’ About Alcohol,” participants answer a number of questions about their drinking habits and the negative consequences that may be resulting from them, including the following question:

How often during the last year have you had unwanted sexual experience(s) while under the influence of alcohol?

Now, “unwanted sexual experience(s)” does not necessarily mean sexual assault, but it certainly encompasses it (more on this point later). Thus, this question positions being sexually assaulted as a “not-so-good thing about alcohol” and forces any survivors of sexual assault who may be taking this program to confront memories of their assault, a potentially traumatic and triggering experience for many. What’s worse, however, is the feedback participants receive if they report any unwanted sexual experience(s) on the survey:

Do away with it

Yes, you read that correctly. e-CHUG is actually telling survivors of sexual assault that they could meet their relationship goals, whatever those may be, by decreasing or doing away with being raped. While I’m sure ending sexual assault would greatly improve the lives of rape victims, the program is pretty blatantly implying that victims have control over whether or not they are assaulted. That, ladies and gentleman, is what anybody with half a brain calls blaming the victim.

 
“Friends don’t let friends commit sexual assault.”
 

I spoke to Peggy Barrett, Director of Prevention and Innovation at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, about the language in the program, and she said that not only is the suggestion that alcohol causes sexual assault completely unsupported by the evidence, this misconception actually provides rapists with social cover to engage in sexually inappropriate behavior:

What you’ve quoted here are often very common ways that people think about [alcohol and sexual violence]; they think the way to stop people from assaulting other people who are intoxicated is to make sure people don’t drink, rather than to focus on stopping people from hurting people who have been drinking, and that’s what seems to be missing here. Most of the ways to end sexual violence are to stop the people who are doing it from doing it [my emphasis].

According to Barrett, cultural attitudes around drinking, which often portray drinking by women as a sign of sexual availability and excuse aggression by intoxicated men, make alcohol the drug of choice for would-be rapists. Rapists drink because intoxication allows them to justify their transgressive behavior, and rapists target people who have been drinking because they’re easier prey. Alcohol doesn’t rape people; rapists do. Does that mean we shouldn’t talk about the link between alcohol and sexual assault? Hardly, say Barrett:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with helping people understand that they’re at risk. If you have a child that you’re responsible for, you would teach them safety things like how to cross the street and so forth, but you would also assess the environment that they’re in, and if people were driving recklessly in order to hit children on the street, I don’t think we would put up with that for very long. That’s the situation we have with sexual assault; we have people out there looking for people with vulnerabilities in order to take advantage of them, and we’re allowing that to go on.

Instead of blaming alcohol for sexual assault and viewing efforts to decrease drinking as potential solutions for sexual violence, we should be focusing on stopping rapists from committing rape. Barrett used an analogy with drunk driving to make this point clear. When we try to stop drunk driving, we don’t just inform potential victims of the risks and ask them to take precautions for their safety; we focus on the perpetrators, placing harsh penalties on those caught driving drunk and encouraging people to be active bystanders with slogans like “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Maybe, suggests Barrett, we need to start spreading the message that “friends don’t let friends commit sexual assault.”

 
“Nothing changed in our thinking”
 

After I discovered this language in the program, I contacted several members of the administration as well as the authors of the program at San Diego State. Upon receiving my email, says Dr. Doug Van Sickle, one of the principal authors of the program, they changed much of the language I highlighted in order to (in his words) “strengthen some of the declarative statements that we make about alcohol and sexual abuse.” The first section that I highlighted now reads:

One area of risk taking that is especially relevant is sexual risk. When intoxicated, people are more likely to do things they would never do when sober, including not using condoms or having sex with someone they would not have otherwise chosen… Alcohol is also more closely associated with crimes of sexual violence than any other drug (CASA, 1999).  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that, of all women who have experienced sexual assault,  “approximately one-half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both” (NIAAA, 2013).  It is important to note that alcohol use is never the cause or an excuse for sexual assault.  Sexual assault is a crime [his emphasis].

The question about “unwanted sexual experience(s)” now includes the clarification that “(Unwanted experiences might include not using condoms, having sex with someone you may not have otherwise chosen, etc.)” and the personalized feedback for the question now contains the same disclaimer as above that “alcohol use is never the cause or an excuse for sexual assault.”

This is, of course, a great improvement over the old language, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. The new language still portrays sexual assault as a risk associated with drinking, which still draws the focus away from the perpetrators, and offers no insight into why such an association may exist or what concerned individuals should do about it. A program like this isn’t the place necessarily to delve into all of these issues, but the new language is still just a cop-out at best. Moreover, the “clarification” of the meaning of “unwanted sexual experience(s)” is quite confusing. According to Dr. Van Sickle, the language was changed to reflect the fact that:

There may be students who have thought ‘I haven’t used a condom’ or ‘I’ve had sex with somebody who I might not have otherwise; yeah I had that unwanted sexual experience.’ Or there might be a student who has been sexually assaulted, so the first exposure to the concept in the program is unwanted sexual experiences; left purposefully vague, but polling for things at the lower end, not at the sexual assault end. Are there things you may have done that you wish you wouldn’t have done, short of sexual assault? And of course somebody who’s been sexually assaulted is going to say ‘unwanted sexual experiences? I was raped!’, so of course they’re going say yes to that.

So now the program lumps together a huge range of experiences, some of which may be sexual assault, some of which may not, but makes no attempt to distinguish between either.

More importantly, the question dances around issues of consent that are crucial when it comes to the relationship between drinking and sexual assault. If an individual is intoxicated, he or she cannot give consent. Someone having “unwanted sexual experience(s) while under the influence of alcohol” very likely cannot give consent. So if they have sex with a partner who isn’t wearing a condom or someone they “would not have otherwise chosen,” it is very likely still an instance of sexual misconduct or assault. Despite this, the program never addresses the issue of consent at all, even though navigating sexual consent while under the influence is one of the most important areas of concern when it comes to alcohol and sexual violence.

What’s most mind-boggling to me about this program is the fact that the authors, who are all clinical psychologists with years of experience working with college students could fail to see the problems with the language in the survey until I, a college student, pointed it out. Even more disturbingly, they don’t seem to have learned their lesson. In fact, when I spoke with Dr. Van Sickle, I asked how their thinking had changed on the issue of alcohol and sexual violence. He told me:

Nothing changed in our thinking…we’re psychologists who work with college students, so we’re very well aware of alcohol issues and sexual assault issues…. There are unwanted sexual experiences and there are sexual assaults that are a crime; how can we present that information to a student in a way that is least likely to lead to blaming the victim, to including that kind of relationship between alcohol and sexual assault?

If that’s the case, then why was the victim-blaming language in the survey in the first place? Dr. Van Sickle’s response was revealing:

There is an undeniable link between alcohol and sexual assault. It’s there, it’s sort of an elephant in the room; it would be inappropriate not to allow a student to endorse that, if that’s happened to them, and they’re looking at negative consequences [my emphasis] with respect to alcohol. It would be remiss of the program not to allow somebody to share that experience.

Great. So he still thinks that sexual assault is a “negative consequence” of drinking, i.e. that there is a causal link between drinking and sexual assault. I’m so glad that the College is using an alcohol program developed by someone who openly claims that sexual assault is caused by drinking. In fairness, he denied believing in a causal link between sexual assault and alcohol several times during our conversation, but the original language of the survey and his statement above cast serious doubt on his comprehension of the issue. Besides, even if he has had a change of heart, e-CHUG has not notified any of the over 600 colleges and universities around the world that use this program about the changes or the original language.

 
“We’ve been so impressed by the company and their response”
 

Last week, I spoke with Interim Dean of Student Conduct Susie Mitton Shannon and new Dean of Students Jim Larimore about the e-CHUG program and the College’s approach to alcohol and sexual assault. Dean Larimore said that the goal of the program was to “introduce the topic [of drinking] and establish sort of a baseline of information, and in effect try to set the stage for personal conversations once students are on campus.”

Of course, one may wonder how useful a program containing victim-blaming and triggering language is for establishing “a baseline of information” and sparking productive conversations about alcohol use at the College, but the deans seemed to think that despite the language, the program still offered (in Dean Mitton Shannon’s words) “a foundation upon which to dialogue…about how we want to address respect.”

In fact, Dean Mitton Shannon downplayed my criticism by arguing that the language isn’t victim-blaming at all:

After receiving your email, I went back to two people I know that are survivors…and said to them, ‘did you see this as victim-blaming?’ and their response was no. They said ‘no, because I am a survivor, there is a heavy correlation between alcohol use and risky choices, right, and risky behavior, and so I did not see it as victim-blaming.’

Using two nameless survivors to legitimate blaming the victim is both incredibly exploitative and fallacious; it’s like saying that you’re not racist because you have a friend who’s black. Besides that, her characterization of becoming a victim of sexual assault as the product of “risky choices” and “risky behavior” is little more than a barely veiled attempt to blame the victim—assault is the absence of choice or autonomy. You don’t get to use survivors of sexual assault as magic talismans to absolve you of responsibility for your incorrect and reactionary views about the relationship between alcohol and sexual violence. You don’t get to say you’re not blaming the victim when you literally blame sexual assault on “alcohol use and risky choices” in the exact same sentence.

Dean Mitton Shannon also denied even knowing that the language was in the survey in the first place, claiming that, “the survey…takes you on a different path based on your answers. And so, I am not a survivor of sexual assault; I’ll just put that out there. I took it legitimately.”

First of all, her claim that she could not have seen the language I highlighted because she’s not a survivor of sexual assault is just not true. I took the survey dozens of times, because I have too much time on my hands out of journalistic duty to the College community, and no matter what you enter you still see the language I quoted above. Additionally, I find it hard to believe that the College would not have vetted the program more closely than just a quick run-through by Dean Mitton Shannon, especially on a topic as sensitive as alcohol and sexual assault. Failing to catch this language before it was sent out the Class of 2017 is just negligent.

Ultimately, I have no reason to doubt the good intentions of the deans or the authors of the survey. Talking about the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault is unavoidable, especially at a school like Amherst College, and I’m glad that the issue is being brought up before Orientation. My younger sister, who will be a senior in high school this fall, recently took a state-mandated health education course for high schoolers in one of the largest school districts in the country (Baltimore County Public Schools), and, according to her, neither sexual assault nor the meaning of consent were mentioned even once. I can only assume that many if not most new students arriving at the College will have had a similar (lack of) exposure to the subject, so I really do think it’s important that the topic gets addressed starting from day one.

Nevertheless, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and e-CHUG fails to give new students the right messages about alcohol, sexual assault, and consent. The changes to the program’s language don’t really make a difference, since most first-years have already taken the program, and the College did not feel it was necessary to notify them about the changes. Indeed, Dean Mitton Shannon seemed absolutely copacetic about the program, saying that she has “been so impressed by the company and their response; it’s really been a great experience.” In the climate of Amherst College, this is simply unacceptable.

About Ethan Corey

Ethan Corey is a junior at Amherst College. Find him on Twitter at @ethanscorey or share your thoughts in the comments.

39 comments on “Blurred Lines: Amherst College Sends Mixed Messages on Alcohol and Sexual Assault

  1. anon15
    August 7, 2013

    Oh, it’s Dean Mitton Shannon, what did you expect? I have yet to hear of her ever listening to logic and reason. Such a shame.

    • Ethan Corey
      August 8, 2013

      If you have any stories or encounters with the College’s administration that you would like to share, please email me at ecorey15@amherst.edu. Thanks!

  2. snaps to you, ethan corey. you’ve done some great work here.

  3. Erica
    August 8, 2013

    This article (and the viewpoint it espouses) is so naive I’m not sure where to begin. Give our college some credit for actually making an effort to curb sexual assault and inform students of one of the well-documented risks associated with alcohol consumption.

    Obviously yes, sexual assault is a crime, and is never the victim’s fault, and the responsibility for any sexual assault lies 100% with the perpetrator — full stop. Nobody is debating that.

    But you’d have to be an absolute moron not to believe that students drinking less would result in fewer sexual assaults. And that is the end goal. Just imagine for a second the number of sexual assaults that would take place if nobody at Amherst drank alcohol. It would be very, very few. That’s an extreme example, but it hopefully it gets the point across. The school administration sees reducing alcohol use among the student body as a means of reducing the incidence sexual assault. And statistically, they’re not wrong. You need to start any discussion of Amherst’s administrative decisions by acknowledging that their goal is the same as yours — as everyone’s.

    Also, just maybe you should trust the expertise of the clinical psychologists who have spoken with more victims of sexual assault than you or I ever will.

    To see the college’s efforts as some kind of insult to victims is totally counter-productive. I’m not saying be satisfied or that this is enough, I’m just saying that you should acknowledge that the college is devoting significant resources towards addressing issues of sexual assault at Amherst (and has been for quite some time).

    If you want to talk about obstacles to addressing issues of sexual assault at Amherst, you can start by asking if your complete lack of cooperation with and support for the administration might — just might — not be helping.

    • Ethan Corey
      August 8, 2013

      “Give our college some credit for actually making an effort to curb sexual assault and inform students of one of the well-documented risks associated with alcohol consumption.”

      Trying to curb sexual assault should not be a luxury or a special thing that the College deserves credit for. Not being raped is sort of on the level of having adequate housing or food; if you don’t have it, you’re not in a safe environment. So, I don’t really see much reason to give the College a ton of credit for making some (admittedly important) changes only after several decades of student activism and the threat of a lawsuit. I mean, up until last semester, the College was in violation of Title IX; they admitted that and “voluntarily” became compliant. That’s not a gold star achievement.

      “Obviously yes, sexual assault is a crime, and is never the victim’s fault, and the responsibility for any sexual assault lies 100% with the perpetrator — full stop. Nobody is debating that.”

      I’m glad you think so, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t, as evidenced by my post above.

      “But you’d have to be an absolute moron not to believe that students drinking less would result in fewer sexual assaults. And that is the end goal. Just imagine for a second the number of sexual assaults that would take place if nobody at Amherst drank alcohol. It would be very, very few. That’s an extreme example, but it hopefully it gets the point across. The school administration sees reducing alcohol use among the student body as a means of reducing the incidence sexual assault. And statistically, they’re not wrong.”

      I’ve yet to see those statistics. An association between alcohol and sexual assault does not mean that if you reduce drinking, you will reduce sexual assaults. For instance, check out this civil complaint filed by a student from Liberty University, where drinking is completely prohibited for all students, regardless of age: http://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/fsawg/datacenter/cleryact/libertyuniversity/LibertyUCleryCampusSecurityComplaint.pdf

      “You need to start any discussion of Amherst’s administrative decisions by acknowledging that their goal is the same as yours — as everyone’s.”

      I didn’t include this in the article, but that was literally the first thing I said to the deans in my meeting with them: “I really do think we share common goals in the sense that we all want a safer, stronger, more respectful campus.” Additionally, I said in the article above that “I have no reason to doubt the intentions” of the administration or the authors of the survey, but intentions aren’t really the point here. People want action. If the best of intentions lead to victim-blaming and don’t actually reduce sexual assault, then they’re completely worthless.

      “Also, just maybe you should trust the expertise of the clinical psychologists who have spoken with more victims of sexual assault than you or I ever will.”

      I actually decided that speaking with a rape prevention expert at a nationally-recognized rape crisis center who has spoken to more victims of sexual assault than you, I or Doug Van Sickle, Ph.D. ever will was probably a better move, especially since she seemed focused on actually stopping sexual assault, instead of shaming victims for their alcohol consumption.

      “If you want to talk about obstacles to addressing issues of sexual assault at Amherst, you can start by asking if your complete lack of cooperation with and support for the administration might — just might — not be helping.”

      My “complete lack of cooperation”? I emailed the administration about my concerns with the survey nearly three weeks ago. I met with them, and gave them a chance to explain themselves and correct the mistake. I did my due diligence. Besides that, had I not pursued this story, the language in the survey would have remained unchanged and no one would have known about it. I’m not saying I’m some noble public servant or anything, but adversarial journalism is crucial for holding people in positions of power accountable. I want the administration to succeed as much as anyone, but that doesn’t mean I’m obligated to be their clapping monkey every step of the way.

      • Ethan Corey
        August 8, 2013

        Not sure what happened with the formatting here…

  4. Anonymous
    August 8, 2013

    “having sex with someone they would not have otherwise chosen” is a disgusting pet-name for rape in the survey content

  5. Anonymous
    August 8, 2013

    This article takes every statement, whether a part of the alcohol information study or an interview response, and twists them into completely out of context and contorted quotations.

    How can you possibly tear apart the assertion that alcohol makes people do things they normally wouldn’t do and makes people more likely to commit sexual assault or be sexually assaulted? None of that is opinion, it’s fact. One at a time:

    “When intoxicated, people are more likely to do things they would never do when sober.” I don’t think anybody who’s ever had a few drinks in a night would deny that this is a fact. Yes, people do things that they would not normally do when drunk, but you are completely liable for any crime you commit while under the influence. This is a fact, which in no way excludes anyone from culpability when they are committing a crime, whether it is theft, rape, or murder.

    Now for the part saying that people are more likely to commit acquaintance rape when drunk than when they are sober. Obviously, if you take this statement out of context and apply it to every situation, it is untrue and perhaps offensive. However, if you take it for the message it is trying to convey, it is also a fact. Alcohol will render a man (because obviously you are only talking about men) less adept at reading cues and making sound decisions than abstaining would. Have you never made a mistake, something that you wish you could take back, after you’ve a night out? The point of this is not to liken you’re mistakes to sexual assault, I hope, but simply to prove that you, as an individual, are statistically more likely to make commit sexual assault when drunk than one sober. To immediately condemn everyone who’s made a huge mistake-and one that they should be held accountable for-as a psychopath rapist who included alcohol in their grand scheme to assault somebody and avoid the stigma and responsibility that goes along with it, is asinine. Should we take every decision ever made by an individual, even when severely intoxicated, as concrete evidence of their moral fiber and character? If you think that’s reasonable, the vast majority of college students, certainly me, and probably you, are horrible people who shouldn’t be a part of society. I’ll move on.

    The last part, and the one you seem to harp on the most: When intoxicated, you are more likely to become a “victim of sexual violence.” You immediately launch into the victim blaming aspect of this issue, which is not even relevant to the quote you rip out of context. You are more likely to become a victim of sexual violence when intoxicated than when sober: True. When intoxicated, you are not well equipped to defend yourself or make sound decisions. That is a fact. If somebody gets severely intoxicated, throws on expensive clothes, and walks around a shady part of the inner city with their wallet bulging out of their pocket, is he/she more likely to get robbed than if one had his/her wits about him/her and didn’t make irresponsible decisions? Yes. You have to be responsible for yourself and look out for yourself no matter how much you think the world, society, or Amherst College has to change. The program described here was designed to educate incoming students about the potential dangers they face at college, not describe to them a utopia where no bad people exist and we can all get along peacefully. I don’t want to be combative, but grow up, take responsibility for yourself, and stop blaming Amherst’s administration-especially here when they took action to help students avoid potential dangerous situations and life changing mistakes.

    Obviously sexual assaults are horrible. Obviously this world (and campus) is not perfect and we need to do better. But, nitpicking every word and method the college employs to help and educate students on the dangers and situations they encounter is counterproductive. Alcohol is dangerous. Alcohol will make you act in ways that you normally would not. Alcohol will put you at a greater risk of harm than sobriety. These are facts, facts that this program was trying to teach to inexperienced and at risk college freshman. This is not some machine designed to blame sexual assault victims through the subliminal use of rape victim damning vocabulary.

    You also harp on the consent issue, of course, which actually goes against your entire argument. If a woman is intoxicated, she is intrinsically unable to give consent. Thus, every time a woman has a few drinks and has sex she is inherently a “victim of sexual misconduct.” Disregarding the fact that that principle is incredibly gender biased and borderline insane, it clearly defends the point that people are more likely to be victims of sexual assault when intoxicated than when sober.

    I’m sure you will simply peg me as a supporter of rape and sexual assault in any and all forms, and that is a shame. I am firmly against anything of the sort, and believe our society needs to change. However, this belief does not lead to the that people should wear whatever the want to wear, go wherever they want to go, drink as much as they want to drink, and expect no consequences because they believe the world should be better and it is not their fault. Take responsibility. Accept that this program teaches kids, most of whom are inexperienced with alcohol, to be careful and avoid dangerous situations. It is not out to blame the female race for rape or rationalize the actions of rapists. It is a good program that teaches valuable lessons. Don’t feel the need to immediately inspect it for single phrases and even words that you can twist to deem it as victim blaming and rape encouraging propagada. If we direct all programs at the criminals who commit crimes, we avoid informing the innocent public how to protect themselves from such crimes. Do you lock your car door when you park it on the street? Why? Because the risk of someone stealing from your car is higher when it is unlocked compared to locked. You could simply say, “it was wrong for somebody to steal my belongings when I left my car unlocked and unattended on a sketchy city street,” and you would be right. It was wrong, but who’s the idiot? You are. Furthermore, if you moved to a brand new city, would you not appreciate and abide by advice describing areas to avoid and methods to keep yourself safe? That is what this program is trying to do. Maybe you would like to continue to assume that the world should be one idyllic fairytale where everybody loves everybody, in which case, good luck. Look at reality, look at the purpose of this program, and hop off the bandwagon that attacks Amherst administration with complete disregard for what they are actually saying and doing, and simply employs blind judgement and ignorance to convey arbitrary and useless arguments.

    • Ethan Corey
      August 8, 2013

      “I don’t think anybody who’s ever had a few drinks in a night would deny that this is a fact. Yes, people do things that they would not normally do when drunk, but you are completely liable for any crime you commit while under the influence.”

      Okay, sure, in a banal sense you’re correct. But what are the practical implications of this? Tell people not to drink because they might rape someone? That removes the responsibility from the perpetrator and blames alcohol for something that the perpetrator deliberately chose to do.

      “Now for the part saying that people are more likely to commit acquaintance rape when drunk than when they are sober. Obviously, if you take this statement out of context and apply it to every situation, it is untrue and perhaps offensive. However, if you take it for the message it is trying to convey, it is also a fact. Alcohol will render a man (because obviously you are only talking about men) less adept at reading cues and making sound decisions than abstaining would.”

      Where did I say I was only talking about men? You seem to be projecting beliefs onto me that I don’t actually hold. But regardless, rape doesn’t happen because men become “less adept at reading cues”; that just makes us seem like idiots. According to Peggy Barrett, whom I spoke to for this story, there is little evidence that alcohol makes people more likely to rape or engage in aggressive behavior; in fact, the causality usually runs in the opposite direction; people drink to give themselves cover for engaging in sexually inappropriate or aggressive behavior. So, yes, it may be true that people are more likely to commit acquaintance rape when drunk (although that Montana study I cited in the article shows that most rapists are just “buzzed”), but just citing that fact without trying to understand why paints a misleading and rape-excusing picture of the relationship between drinking and sexual assault.

      “You are more likely to become a victim of sexual violence when intoxicated than when sober: True. When intoxicated, you are not well equipped to defend yourself or make sound decisions. That is a fact. If somebody gets severely intoxicated, throws on expensive clothes, and walks around a shady part of the inner city with their wallet bulging out of their pocket, is he/she more likely to get robbed than if one had his/her wits about him/her and didn’t make irresponsible decisions? Yes. You have to be responsible for yourself and look out for yourself no matter how much you think the world, society, or Amherst College has to change. The program described here was designed to educate incoming students about the potential dangers they face at college, not describe to them a utopia where no bad people exist and we can all get along peacefully. I don’t want to be combative, but grow up, take responsibility for yourself, and stop blaming Amherst’s administration-especially here when they took action to help students avoid potential dangerous situations and life changing mistakes.”

      Again, the truth or falsity of the claims made in the survey is not what’s at stake here; it’s the way in which those claims are presented/interpreted. So yes, drinking makes you more likely to become a victim, but only to the extent that rapists actively target intoxicated persons. Rapists also target sober people, and sober people can still become victims of rape.The only common denominator between all forms of rape and sexual assault is the fact that rape is always the conscious decision of the rapist and the never the fault of the victim. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to be safe and minimize risks, but the focus of rape prevention should be on stopping rapists from raping, not on stopping victims from being raped.

      “You also harp on the consent issue, of course, which actually goes against your entire argument. If a woman is intoxicated, she is intrinsically unable to give consent. Thus, every time a woman has a few drinks and has sex she is inherently a ‘victim of sexual misconduct.’ Disregarding the fact that that principle is incredibly gender biased and borderline insane, it clearly defends the point that people are more likely to be victims of sexual assault when intoxicated than when sober.”

      Umm…I don’t think you understood my argument. The fact that being drunk (not just having “a few drinks”) makes you unable to legally give consent does not somehow make it your fault if you are raped while intoxicated.

      “I’m sure you will simply peg me as a supporter of rape and sexual assault in any and all forms, and that is a shame. I am firmly against anything of the sort, and believe our society needs to change. However, this belief does not lead to the that people should wear whatever the want to wear, go wherever they want to go, drink as much as they want to drink, and expect no consequences because they believe the world should be better and it is not their fault. Take responsibility.”

      I’m not sure why you think I would peg you as “a supporter of rape and sexual assault in any and all forms,” but your claim that victims of sexual assault need to “take responsibility” for being raped is more than a little victim-blaming. Being raped or not is *by its very nature* something that you cannot control. The only way to stop rape is to stop rapists.

      “Accept that this program teaches kids, most of whom are inexperienced with alcohol, to be careful and avoid dangerous situations. It is not out to blame the female race for rape or rationalize the actions of rapists. It is a good program that teaches valuable lessons. Don’t feel the need to immediately inspect it for single phrases and even words that you can twist to deem it as victim blaming and rape encouraging propaganda.”

      Did you take the program? Because this is just silly.

      “If we direct all programs at the criminals who commit crimes, we avoid informing the innocent public how to protect themselves from such crimes. Do you lock your car door when you park it on the street? Why? Because the risk of someone stealing from your car is higher when it is unlocked compared to locked.”

      And there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to be safe and informing people of the risks. However, when that is almost exclusively what we as a society do to prevent a crime, it’s not only ineffective, but it ends up placing the responsibility of not becoming a victim on the victims themselves and shifting blame away from the perpetrators.

      • Anonymous
        August 8, 2013

        I’m only going to reply to the first part of your reply because I can’t really stomach much more than that.

        “[telling people not to drink because they might rape someone] removes the responsibility from the perpetrator and blames alcohol for something that the perpetrator deliberately chose to do.”

        I have no doubt that you’ll continue to see this issue in black and white, but just let me try and address this one illogical idea. Your solution is presumably to tell potential perpetrators not to rape, right. That seems like the way much of the recent third-wave feminist discussion has gone lately, exemplified by the phrase I simply can’t stop hearing: “teach men not to rape”.

        This idea is backwards because nearly all men already know that rape is wrong. Probably 99% of men already know that rape is one of the most serious crimes anyone can commit. Men have been told basically from birth that rape is unforgivable and that rapists it are monsters. There’s nothing to teach.

        Instead, we can focus on stopping men from drinking to the point of impairing their judgment/morality. The deep negative association with rape is already there.

      • Ethan Corey
        August 8, 2013

        “Probably 99% of men already know that rape is one of the most serious crimes anyone can commit. Men have been told basically from birth that rape is unforgivable and that rapists it are monsters. There’s nothing to teach.”

        This just isn’t true. Yes, men are told that rape is bad, but when most people hear rape, they think of a creepy guy in an alley attacking strangers. The fact of the matter is that most rape is nothing like the popular image of rape, and many men don’t know that sexual assault includes any form of nonconsensual sex. Check out this article on the subject: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2009/11/12/rapists-who-dont-think-theyre-rapists/

        “Instead, we can focus on stopping men from drinking to the point of impairing their judgment/morality.”

        To everyone who thinks that all rapists rape when drunk, PLEASE READ THE MONTANA STUDY I CITED. Only a quarter of men who commit sexual assault report being intoxicated at the time. Most rapists are either sober or mildly buzzed.

        The idea that men already know that rape is bad and only commit sexual assault when they’re intoxicated or impaired by alcohol is a dangerous and misleading falsehood. If you’re going to attack me for my “illogical ideas” about alcohol and sexual assault, please do some actual research on the subject instead of just repeating commonsensical misconceptions before you comment.

  6. Amherst '14
    August 8, 2013

    “If an individual is intoxicated, he or she cannot give consent. Someone having “unwanted sexual experience(s) while under the influence of alcohol” very likely cannot give consent. So if they have sex with a partner who isn’t wearing a condom or someone they “would not have otherwise chosen,” it is very likely still an instance of sexual misconduct or assault.”

    False. An intoxicated individual can easily give consent. Someone having an “unwanted sexual experience while under the influence of alcohol” can also easily give consent. It’s not only about whether or not consent was verbally given. If it were that simple, in fact, most cases would never go to a hearing because consent is almost always given. The question surrounding consent is under what circumstances it was given, particularly the complainant’s level of incapacitation. These cases involving alcohol are not as black and white as you’d like them to be, they come down to whether or not the accused could reasonably know/tell whether or not the person consenting was incapacitated and thus incapable of giving consent.

    For example, if the accused sees someone vomiting in the bushes (i.e. witnesses affirm that the accused was present when the victim was vomiting) and later “receives” consent from him/her, the accused has committed sexual misconduct because he/she should have known that one could not possibly receive legal consent from the victim. If, however, the accused could not reasonably know that the consenting party was incapacitated (i.e. at no point in the night did the consenting party exhibit signs to the accused that should lead a reasonable person to believe the consenting party was incapacitated), and then the accused proceeds to receive consent, that consent – albeit granted while incapacitated – is valid.

    This is a very well researched and written piece of journalism, and I think you’ve done a great job seeking out comments from all potential parties. I agree with much of what you say – particularly about the poor wording of the survey and the victim-blaming undertone – and I also think you deserve a big hand for convincing the authors to revise the survey (albeit not to the extent you wanted). Kudos for all that.

    But please understand that this is not as black and white as we’d like it to be. There is a lot of gray area in these situations, particularly when alcohol is involved. One can feel as if they are the victim of sexual misconduct (and, based on their recollection of the night’s events, that is an honest, legitimate feeling with no reason to believe otherwise) but that doesn’t mean the accused violated the honor code. That’s the hardest thing to tell a victim and, as much as it sucks, it’s a gray area caused by alcohol.

    • Ethan Corey
      August 8, 2013

      Thank you for your insights on the issue of consent and intoxication. Obviously it’s a complex issue, and I appreciate your discussion of some of the trickier details. Nevertheless, the e-CHUG program does not mention the word “consent” even once, when consent is ultimately what’s at stake in every case of sexual assault, whether alcohol is involved or not.

    • Anonymous
      August 8, 2013

      If this is an issue you’re interested in I highly suggest this article (http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/) because, though, alcohol creates a grey area, it’s a grey area that is exploited by those who serially commit sexual misconduct: the average rapist in the two independent studies cited in the article has raped six times. The “bad hookup” exists, but it is important to acknowledge how often it is exploited by the small fraction of the population (4%-8%) who perpetrate the vast majority of sexual misconduct.

      • Ethan Corey
        August 8, 2013

        This is great! Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Anon
    August 8, 2013

    Very well written and persuasively argued. Blaming the victim is the wrong approach to preventing sexual assault. However, I believe that your solution of focusing exclusively on the criminals who engage in sexual assault is pragmatically infeasible. While being inebriated is not a justification for a crime it is also a behavior that inhibits one’s ability to prevent or react to an attempted crime. The guilt lies with the criminal, obviously, but the real goal should be preventing the crime from ever occurring in the first place – not trying to determine where the blame is placed. The influence of alcohol makes one less capable of noticing signs of a potential sexual assault, less capable of defending against it and less willing to seek help before (and probably also after) the crime.

    It is analogous to locking the front door of one’s house. In an ideal world where crimes were prevented, locking your door would lack purpose. If someone were to break into your house and rob you while your door was unlocked – they would still have committed a crime. That is, the victim is not to “blame” for the burgling. However, if one wishes to not be burgled by criminals who have no regards for the law in the first place, it is advisable to adequately defend your home from entry. Obviously, there are times when you may elect unlock your door and risk vulnerability in exchange for convenience. In a good neighborhood or when you had several trusted friends with you at a party in the house or chatting on the front porch for example.

    To clarify the analogy: an inebriated individual has chosen to decrease their defenses in exchange for the added convenience of social conformity, relaxed nerves and liquid confidence. In safe settings with trusted individuals this is (in moderation) a harmless and enjoyable experience. However if you are in a “bad neighborhood” getting drunk is no more intelligent than leaving your doors unlocked in San Pedro Sula. Choosing to lower one’s own natural ability to be aware of criminal intent is rarely wise, although it does not justify that criminal intent in any way.

    I commend you for tackling a daunting issue but I wish that people would be willing to risk a little offense in order to actually observe the crime of sexual assault from a pragmatic rather than idealistic vantage point. By creating a taboo around the idea of advising the victim the risk of sexual assault occurring can only be increased. The best way to avoid offending victims of sexual assault is to reduce the number of victims of sexual assault – not skirt the issue in a way that does not discourage (and may even encourage) dangerous choices.

    Sexual assault is a crime but our focus should not be on what kind of technicalities concerning the word “consent” can be used in a courtroom after the fact but instead on what strategies can best prevent the crime from occurring. Keeping your mind operating at its full capacity when in an unfamiliar setting is as important as locking the door to your house every night. Drinking in an environment where you might be vulnerable to sexual assault *IS* a “risky choice” – failure to treat it as a calculated risk just decreases your ability to protect yourself against evil people seeking to do evil things. Despite her lack of tact, Dean Mitton Shannon is taking an approach that is more likely to actually prevent sexual assault as opposed to one that is less likely to offend people. Personally, I think that is the correct prioritization.

    • Ethan Corey
      August 8, 2013

      No one, myself included, is saying that we should not inform individuals of the risks and give them an accurate understanding of the issues surrounding drinking and sexual violence. Read Peggy Barrett’s analogy in the article again:

      “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with helping people understand that they’re at risk. If you have a child that you’re responsible for, you would teach them safety things like how to cross the street and so forth, but you would also assess the environment that they’re in, and if people were driving recklessly in order to hit children on the street, I don’t think we would put up with that for very long. That’s the situation we have with sexual assault; we have people out there looking for people with vulnerabilities in order to take advantage of them, and we’re allowing that to go on.”

      Society already does so much to inform potential victims of the risks, to the point that it excludes any discussion of stopping the rapists. The College has unfortunately succumbed to that trend. The best measures we have against sexual violence are bystander training, which is great, but bystander training still doesn’t focus on the real problem–rapists. So, yeah, we should be clear that rapists like to target intoxicated people, and so getting drunk may make you (more of) a target, but the primary focus should be on stopping rapists from committing rape, and that’s not the focus I’ve seen here.

    • Amherst '16
      August 8, 2013

      You are 100% correct: drinking is a risky choice. Drunk people (myself included) do stupid things all the time – we throw up, we are embarrassingly honest, and we fall down the stairs. However, advising people not to drink as a rape-avoidance technique isn’t “pragmatic” for two reasons: it normalizes rape culture and victim blaming and, most importantly, it just doesn’t work.

      When we train girls (because the VAST majority of this training is socially tailored for girls) to “be careful” we need to be very deliberate to insure that the message isn’t one that normalizes rape. Too often this education takes the form of “don’t get raped.” Advice like “don’t lead him on” or “don’t wear overly revealing clothing” or “don’t drink too much!” insinuates that if you’re a good girl who don’t dress like a “skank” who gets wasted and flirts with every guy in the room then you won’t get raped. The way our society typically teaches girls to avoid sexual assault carries the tacit implication that “bad girls” and “sluts” are the ones who are sexually assaulted. Without even addressing the issues at stake around the social idea of the “bad girl” let’s talk about what this means for a victim. When you are taught that you, the potential victim, can prevent your own rape by being a “good girl” how can you avoid blaming yourself at least subconsciously after the sexual assault? How can you not feel dirty if only girls who are asking for it are raped? Too often instead of teaching girls “pragmatic” ways to look out for themselves we are socially conditioning them to blame survivors.

      Do I think we education about the dangers of drinking and sexual assault? Of course! Unsafe drinking is a problem at Amherst College. However, this type of education cannot be considered a way that we, as a college community or as a society address the issue of sexual assault and, when creating these programs, we must be very sensitive to the message we are sending about the agency of victims in relation to drinking. (Though I’m all about female empowerment) by empowering girls prevent their own rape this doctrine has victim blaming insinuations and a central logical fallacy: if you acknowledge the presence of “evil people” telling a girl to be careful is essentially telling her not to be the chosen girl assaulted at the end of the night and, as you stated, “the real goal should be preventing the crime from ever occurring in the first place.” On an individual level, it is important for everyone to be careful when they’re drinking, however this is not the lens through which we can address the issue of sexual assault.

      To prevent sexual assault, we need to go after the rapists as well as the “be careful, girls” ideology that helps to legitimize and normalize sexual assault in our society. The average rapist has raped six times. Let that sink in. Six times (see the article below for more figures as well as citations). Though I am not denying the existence of the “bad hookup” in aggregate sexual assaults are committed by people who like to rape, have done it before, and will do it again. These people are socially licensed by institutions like e-CHUG that overtly condemn rape while espousing opinions that group sexual assault with drunk regrets – an unfortunate part of life. As unfeasible as it may initially seem, sexual assault prevention must be targeted at those who commit it because they do it again, and again, and again.

      If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, I highly suggest this article:
      http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/

      • Liya Rechtman
        August 8, 2013

        Well said

  8. Friend of the college
    August 8, 2013

    It’s great that issues regarding the language of victim-blaming are being discussed here.

    However, why pit an effort to reduce student drinking against the politics of liberation?

    Until the student culture at Amherst (and elsewhere) transforms its own relationship to drinking, there will indeed be more incidents of sexual assault than if students remained more sober more of the time. This is an established fact. Students need to ask themselves, and each other, why is it so important to them to be able to drink to excess on a regular basis?

    The discourse around sexual consent, sexual assault, triggering, and victim-blaming is evolving in a good way. But on the issue of alcohol, the discourse indicates that students are in deep denial about the risks of overconsumption.

    What is the goal? To be right or to be safe?

    • Ethan Corey
      August 8, 2013

      There’s no question that *some* people at Amherst College drink to excess. The problem, however, with this program and the administrative response to alcohol and sexual assault, is the idea that stopping drinking is somehow a panacea to sexual assault. It’s not. Dry campuses still face significant problems with sexual assault, which, in many cases, are made worse by the socially conservative cultural attitudes that pervade those campuses.

      So, I don’t have a problem with discussing whether or not Amherst College has a drinking problem, but I do have a problem blaming our sexual violence problem on our (perceived) drinking problem.

      • Friend of the college
        August 9, 2013

        I certainly do not believe — nor do I expect anyone believes — that drinking causes sexual assault. Both are cultural problems that also raise questions of individual responsibility and accountability (and no, I do not mean to imply victims of sexual assault here). I think the question of whether students in the aggregate have a “drinking problem” is not a question of perception, but rather something to be measured against the risks that individuals–and the community as a whole–are willing to tolerate. I do not think it is productive to pit the two issues against one another. Indeed, a reality-based discussion of both must include acknowledgement that incidents of sexual assault are associated with drinking alcohol.

  9. the saj
    August 9, 2013

    I feel that much of this article’s content would be underutilized if read solely by current AC students, and furthermore that a fraction of your intent in writing it, Ethan, was to educate incoming freshmen by describing the prevailing attitude at Amherst toward rape and what can be done to combat it. So, as a student in the Class of 2017, and one who has very limited experience with alcohol (one of my three instances of drinking actually took place at Amherst during pre-frosh weekend), let me provide you with my thoughts on the eCHUG survey.

    It was the first survey of its kind that I’ve ever taken–my previous health classes featured little in the way of education regarding the nature of consent and the ways in which alcohol can distort its interpretation. That said, I think eCHUG did a fair job of achieving its apparent goals: giving uninitiated kids like me a reminder that one CAN have fun at college without drinking to excess, and admonishing the incoming class that we need to be careful if/when we drink.

    Was the express purpose of eCHUG to educate students about sexual assault and its prevention, especially within the sphere of alcohol-related instances? As an average incoming freshman who took the survey, I don’t think so. It seemed tailored to give us general insights on the nature of alcohol use on college campuses and to promote greater consciousness of our recreational choices. This being the case, I think it is a little unfair to expect the survey to tackle the problem (and I don’t deny that it is a huge problem, having read Epifano’s op-ed and many, many other pieces on the rape culture at Amherst) of sexual assault as fully and single-mindedly as you would like it to.

    I feel that this survey is but a SINGLE conversation-starter, the first of many, that we will take part in come August 25 and the start of O Week. Let me be clear: I am glad that you are taking this stand.
    I am glad that there are voices verbalizing strong opinions that are not afraid to be critical of administration.
    But let’s not jump down anyone’s throat. Let’s not make grand accusations of “Blaming the Victim” based on a couple words in an e-mail that could be misconstrued, especially in the context of such a strongly opinionated articled.

    Your second-to-last paragraph here is redeeming. Your last paragraph, though, again, makes me feel as though you feel eCHUG should have been tailored to your desires. To me, the changes that have been made to the survey (and more have been since the time of your posting this article, and props to you for catalyzing that) are a boon for us, and they do augment the scope and breadth of the survey. However, the survey in its original wording, I feel, was still a good introduction to the can o’ worms that is drinking at college, and unworthy of such scathing criticism.

    • Ethan Corey
      August 9, 2013

      “I think eCHUG did a fair job of achieving its apparent goals: giving uninitiated kids like me a reminder that one CAN have fun at college without drinking to excess, and admonishing the incoming class that we need to be careful if/when we drink.”

      To be clear, I do think that alcohol education is extremely important for new students. The fall of your first year is I think pretty much universally among students who drink the time when you make a lot of alcohol-related mistakes, many of which you will regret the day after. That said, I think eCHUG does an awful job of addressing that problem (I may write a separate article discussing this point in more detail, so I’ll be brief here). Most of the reasons people drink too much at the College stem from broader structural or cultural phenomena, such as disparate enforcement policies (e.g. it’s easier to get away with ripping a bunch of shots in your room than it is to get away with drinking a few beers while watching a football game), hazing by some groups on campus (and it’s not just frats and sports teams), a work-hard/party-harder attitude, and an often atomized community that uses alcohol as a social lubricant and leveller. eCHUG is focused on getting individuals to reduce their alcohol consumption, which blinds it to understanding why people drink in the first place and impedes it from offering an alternative, more healthy model of alcohol consumption than “rip-eight-shots-of-Rubinoff-in-your-room-then-go-to-the-Socials-until-you-puke-and-or-hook-up-with-someone,” and healthier models definitely exist. I found a really great anthropological study on this issue if you’re interested in reading more: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dcare/pdfs/dartmouth-drinking.pdf

      “Was the express purpose of eCHUG to educate students about sexual assault and its prevention, especially within the sphere of alcohol-related instances? As an average incoming freshman who took the survey, I don’t think so. It seemed tailored to give us general insights on the nature of alcohol use on college campuses and to promote greater consciousness of our recreational choices. This being the case, I think it is a little unfair to expect the survey to tackle the problem (and I don’t deny that it is a huge problem, having read Epifano’s op-ed and many, many other pieces on the rape culture at Amherst) of sexual assault as fully and single-mindedly as you would like it to.”

      Of course it wasn’t, but that’s not the point. Some administrators (and others) at the College have consistently tried to argue that targeting alcohol consumption is the best way to handle the sexual assault problem, and people have consistently pointed out to them that this is a victim-blaming, distracting, and unhelpful approach. They apparently still have failed to get the message. Besides that, even though sexual assault was not the focus of e-CHUG, that does not excuse the choice of language by the survey’s authors–especially since they (according to Van Sickle) have collectively thirty years of experience working with survivors of sexual violence–or the College’s failure to identify the problematic language before sending it out to the Class of 2017. If eCHUG is going to discuss sexual violence, no matter how perfunctory the discussion may be, it should do so in a more productive and respectful manner, rather than propagating dangerous and victim-blaming misconceptions about the relationship between alcohol and sexual violence.

      “But let’s not jump down anyone’s throat. Let’s not make grand accusations of ‘Blaming the Victim’ based on a couple words in an e-mail that could be misconstrued, especially in the context of such a strongly opinionated articled.”

      I understand how from your perspective it may seem like I’m jumping down people’s throats, but I spoke with Doug Van Sickle for nearly an hour and Deans Larimore and Mitton Shannon for over two hours. I gave them plenty of chances to correct the mistakes and make this story more or less go away with a simple “we were wrong; the language in the program was problematic, and we are making the appropriate changes.” Instead of that, they continued to make more comments that indicated that they have not had any change of heart on this issue and continue to hold victim-blaming attitudes about alcohol and sexual violence. I’m not taking anything out of context; I have three hours of context for the statements I included in the article, and I have more statements that I chose not to publish. If it weren’t for the fact that all of the people I quoted deal with survivors of sexual assault on a regular basis and make major decisions affecting their well-being, I probably wouldn’t care as much. But Dean Mitton Shannon is a Deputy Title IX Coordinator who is the main person on an administrative level that people reporting sexual misconduct have to deal with, and the fact that she has these attitudes is deeply disturbing to say the least.

      “more [changes] have been since the time of your posting this article”

      I didn’t hear about that. Do you have more specific info?

      “makes me feel as though you feel eCHUG should have been tailored to your desires…the survey in its original wording, I feel, was still a good introduction to the can o’ worms that is drinking at college, and unworthy of such scathing criticism.”

      I mean, in one sense, you’re right. I would love everything in the world to be tailored to my desires (who wouldn’t?), but that wasn’t why I wrote this article. In many ways, this article wasn’t even really about eCHUG–eCHUG just kind of got caught in the crossfire. eCHUG isn’t my main target; it’s just one particular instance of a broader phenonena, not just at Amherst, but around the country that marginalizes, silences, and underserves victims of sexual violence.

      • the saj
        August 9, 2013

        I suppose I have grossly limited understanding of the motivations people commonly have for drinking. I don’t think any program such as eCHUG can really provide us with safer ways of indulging ourselves–that is the jurisdiction of the administration–but it could have taught us to find healthier methods of stress relief and socialization, which is a major shortcoming of the program, and you’re right in that regard.

        Now that I understand the extent of your research process for writing this article–which I must add was extremely thorough–I can accept that it is reasonable to find the segment of eCHUG that mentioned sexual assault to be unwise in its manner of exposure of incoming students to the issue, poorly worded, and easily interpreted as rapist apologetics.

        I especially appreciate this clarification:

        “If eCHUG is going to discuss sexual violence, no matter how perfunctory the discussion may be, it should do so in a more productive and respectful manner, rather than propagating dangerous and victim-blaming misconceptions about the relationship between alcohol and sexual violence.”

        I also look forward to meeting Deans Shannon and Larimore and forming my own judgments of their mindsets on the matter. For Shannon to make undeniably victim-blaming statements (“correlation between alcohol use and risky choices, right, and risky behavior”) is frightening to me, even as a male.

        The survey apparently now has additional phrasing: now it says in bold letters something along the lines of “ALCOHOL IS NEVER AN EXCUSE FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT. SEXUAL ASSAULT IS A CRIME.”

        I appreciate you spreading light on an issue that I can assure you, very few incoming college freshmen are aware of.

  10. Anonymous
    August 10, 2013

    Hey Ethan, sorry for being off-topic, but was this interview with Paul Elam by someone from the Amherst Student done by you? I don’t really know what your voice sounds like, but you seem to be one of the few male writers who like to write about feminism/rape culture/etc., so I’m guessing it might be you. I’m curious to see the article which comes out of the interview. It was quite surprising to see the Amherst Student interview a leading MHRM figure.

    • Ethan Corey
      August 11, 2013

      Holy shit, I didn’t know this video existed. Yes, this is me, and I have a lot to say about it, but I’ve been working all summer on getting a piece worth publishing together. It was not, however, for The Amherst Student; I’m not totally sure why Paul thought that (although, of course I do write for The Student).

      But yeah, it was an…interesting…experience; I didn’t do my homework coming into the interview, and it showed, but I hope that whatever article comes out of it does it justice. Look for something coming out on this in the next few weeks.

      • Anonymous
        August 12, 2013

        Great – I’ll look forward to reading it. I sincerely hope that the article will be more than a “hit piece” towards the MHRM, but instead something which at least attempts to look at the issues they advocate for (e.g., fathers’ rights, male suicide rates, etc.) from their point of view – something which treats the issue at more than just the level of a “but feminism cares about that too!”, which is a tired response I’ve been hearing so far.

  11. Pingback: Weekly Feminist Reader

  12. Richard
    August 12, 2013

    May be time for a federal complaint:
    http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/08/08/at-swarthmore-and-other-colleges-students-say-sexual-assault-is-a-persistent-and-often-mishandled-problem/

    As you point out, it’s great the Amherst is addressing its alcohol abuse problem but it needs to do so in a way that doesn’t exacerbate its rape problem. The sad thing is that you can address alcohol abuse without wading into sex(ual assault) territory. eChug needs to (genuinely) apologize and just wade the f*ck back out.

    • Liya Rechtman
      August 13, 2013

      Amherst student activists actually did consider filing a Title IX complaint against the school and then opted not to, instead choosing to appeal to media pressures, after we saw what happened with the Yale Title IX case, which students there found to be less than helpful as a response.

      See more about the Yale settlement in Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2012/06/18/education-department-and-yale-settle-title-ix-complaint

      That being said, Amherst student activists have played a hand in the new Know Your IX initiative and organization, which is doing amazing educational work about filing: http://knowyourix.org/

      In other words, I don’t think a federal complaint is in the immanent future, for better or for worse.

  13. Tori
    August 13, 2013

    Have you heard of San Diego State University’s similar program e-TOKE (it’s essentially the same thing as e-CHUG but centered around pot)? They have the same question in there implying that sexual assault is an unintended consequence of smoking marijuana, exactly the same if I remember right…I wonder if they changed the language in that program as well…

    • Ethan Corey
      August 13, 2013

      I have seen e-TOKE, but I only took it once, and I didn’t notice the same statements about sexual assault and marijuana, but if they’re there, that’s even more absurd.

  14. Pingback: Happy Birthday ACV! A year in numbers | AC VOICE

  15. Pingback: Typical Amherst: We got spirit, yes we do | AC VOICE

  16. Pingback: The Amherst College Drinking Fetish | AC VOICE

  17. Pingback: The Case for a Mandatory Sexual Respect Class | AC VOICE

  18. Pingback: Why I Wrote “Expelled Student Stays In House Associated With Off-Campus Fraternity” | AC VOICE

  19. Anonymous
    April 15, 2014

    You can’t drink and drive, its against the law. What do you think drinking and sexual assualt have in common with drunk driving. You think about that. Who’s the stupid one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,636 other followers

%d bloggers like this: