Conservative estimates of the prevalence of sexual assault suggest that 25% of American women have experienced a sexual assault, including rape. Approximately half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both.
It is important to note that an intoxicated individual cannot legally consent to sexual activity. Forcing sex on someone who is too drunk to give consent is considered criminal activity. Furthermore, rape is a serious offence and perpetrators under the influence of alcohol or drugs are not considered free from guilt. Attitudes about women’s alcohol consumption can also influence a perpetrators actions and may be used to excuse sexual assaults of intoxicated women.
In March 2015, a Santa Clara jury found a former Stanford University swimmer guilty of three charges of sexual assault. Brock Turner, who admitted consuming nine alcoholic beverages at a fraternity party in January 2015, was accused of assaulting a victim who had three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system and was unable to give consent because she was unconscious.
Last week Turner was sentenced to 6 month in county jail. He could have received up to 14 years in prison. Following Judge Aaron Persky’s lenient sentencing, there has been an outpouring of outrage, including perspective jurors refusing to serve on a jury that would be presided over by Persky.
Turner has also been criticized for his letter to the judge which blamed the “drinking culture” at Stanford for his actions. Turner stated in the letter that he, “wants to show people that lives can be destroyed by drinking and poor decision making while doing so.” Although the statement that drinking leads to poor decisions and negative consequences is true, the concern is that Turner places the blame on something outside of himself.
The victim in the case has gained recognition and massive public respect for her powerful statement to the judge. Joe Biden has penned an open letter to the victim as a response and congress is set to read aloud her full statement, which has been called the bible for sexual assault.
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