Rape

Blame Binge Drinking for Tulane University's 2-in-5 Female Sexual Assault Rate

A survey reveals an unbelievably high sexual assault rate at one university campus.

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Tulane
Tulane

Tulane University has a serious rape problem, if a recent survey can be believed: Nearly 2 in 5 female students reported being sexually assaulted. If that number is indeed real, the most likely culprit would be the university's binge-drinking problem.

Keep in mind that the infamous 1-in-5 statistic, which supposes that between a quarter and a fifth of female university students will become victims of sexual assault, is controversial; critics point out that the pollsters who arrived at this number often ask broad questions and count as victims people who never described themselves in such terms. Such high rates of sexual violence strike many people as self-evidently ludicrous.

But Tulane, a private university in New Orleans, appears to have an even more staggeringly high sexual assault rate. I've parsed the data and found no obvious flaws—sexual assault was defined fairly unambiguously as "unwanted sexual contact," "rape," or "attempted rape." Unwanted sexual contact was further defined as "fondling, kissing, or rubbing up against a person's private areas of their body (lips, breast/chest, crotch, or butt), or removing clothing without the person's consent by incapacitation or force." Without consent was further defined as "taking advantage of me when I was too drunk or out of it to stop what was happening."

What's more, the survey is extremely comprehensive: 47 percent of the school's students participated in it.

According to the survey, 41 percent of undergraduate female students experienced sexual assault while at Tulane. That includes off-campus violence, and it includes violence committed during breaks and holidays. Still, it's an incredibly high number.

For undergraduate men, the sexual assault rate was 18 percent. Sexual assault rates were significantly higher for LGBTQ men, 44 percent of whom experienced violence, compared with just 13 percent of straight men. Students of color were less likely to be victims than white students. In all cases, the perpetrators were overwhelmingly male students; the violence was just as likely to have occurred on campus as off.

What can explain these bafflingly high rates of sexual violence? The statistics relating to alcohol abuse on campus start to suggest an answer.

"Seventy-four percent (74%) of women and 87% of men who experienced any form of sexual assault reported they were incapacitated by alcohol at the time of the incident," according to the survey. Perpetrators were also more likely than not to be drinking alcohol, respondents said.

How many students were drinking, and how often? Quite a lot: 43 percent of undergraduate men and 39 percent of undergraduate women reported drinking alcohol three or more times each week. That's a whole lot of 18- to 20-year-olds drinking regularly.

Tulane
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Their consumption levels were also telling. For women, the most common number of drinks to have in one sitting was between three and six. A third of the men were consuming between seven and 11 drinks.

Tulane
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To my mind, these numbers indicate a significant drinking problem: Many students, both male and female, are regularly and illicitly consuming copious quantities of alcohol.

A few things are worth bearing in mind.

First, a 120-pound woman who consumes more than three drinks in two hours is typically going to be very drunk. The same goes for a 180-pound man who consumes five drinks.

Second, most of these students are under the age of 21, and thus are not allowed to drink at all. They can't drink at bars, and they are less likely to consume alcohol in the presence of authority figures. They may not know their limits very well. They might not have much experience taking care of themselves, or other people, while under the influence.

Third, people who frequently drink to excess are taking risks, even of a non-sexual kind. Very drunk people impose obligations on others to take care of them. As Emily Yoffe said in the December Reason:

You cannot do something to someone else's body without their permission. But when you get incapacitated, you give up that integrity, because other people must take care of you.

You can walk off a roof, which has happened. You can choke on your vomit, which happens all the time. So you're turning yourself over to other people, and let's hope they're all guardian angels, but they're not always going to be. They could be bad people, or they could be fellow drunk people whose inhibitions are lowered, and you end up together, and potentially he does something criminal to you.

Yoffe and others who have pointed out the link between binge drinking and sexual assault are often derided as victim-blamers, and even now there's a profound reticence to make the obvious connection. When asked to comment on the survey's alcohol figures, Tulane President Michael Fitts told Washington Post readers, "It's very, very important to note that in no way, shape or form is this blaming or holding victims responsible. Alcohol is a tool of perpetrators."

But what if the campus would have fewer perpetrators if it had fewer abusive drinkers? The vast majority of sexually victimized students became victims while in a state of alcohol-induced incapacitation.

The current strategy—prohibition—clearly doesn't work. It would be for the best if local decision-makers at Tulane and elsewhere could experiment with some other approach, but because of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, states must keep the drinking age at 21 if they want federal funds. But there's reason to believe that if teens could legally drink at an earlier age, they would encounter fewer alcohol-related campus pitfalls.

"If the drinking age were lower, it not only would move drinking out of unsupervised frat basements and into public, but might have a shot at changing our youth culture of excess, moving toward the European model of wine with dinner instead of crushing empty beer cans on one's head," Vanessa Grigoriadis writes in Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus. "Lower the drinking age so that the psychological rush of trespassing, of engaging in binge-drinking culture because illegality is exciting, is deflated."

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  1. ‘Here’s to you. Here’s to me. Hope we never disagree. If we do… Please dear god don’t rape me.’

  2. I’m thinking i might homeschool my kid for college.

  3. Since all sex is rape, the 2-in-5 stats check out.

    What ever happened to “No” means no? If the ladies don’t try and stop sex until after, its not rape.

    Buyer’s remorse maybe but sex is chore, ammirite ladies?

    1. I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not, but for the sake of discussion I’ll assume you are. So let’s say I allow someone in my house and they then become hostile. I demand they leave my property, but they refuse. Are they not guilty of trespassing?

      1. This survey wasn’t limited to hostility. It included waking up the next morning with regret and blaming the alcohol.

        1. My hypothetical was in regards to the statement “If the ladies don’t try to stop sex until after, it’s not rape.” I think that’s absurd.

          I do agree that the statistics in this study were inflated by the ambiguity of “unwanted sexual advances”.

          1. What system would you suggest then?

            The women get 10 minutes after to decide if it was rape or not?

            Rape is a clearly established crime of sexually gratifying oneself by force or threat of force.

            This is just more proof that colleges are not teaching kids well enough. Kids cannot even understand how our system of laws works and what rape actually is.

            1. I originally took your statement to mean ‘stop after initiating the sexual act’, because you can’t ‘stop’ something unless it’s still in progress.

              I see now that you meant ‘after the sexual act was completed’. I still don’t fully agree, as there could be circumstances such as incapacitation or intimidation at play.

              I do concede though, that morning-after regret should never qualify as a basis for rape or sexual assault. Personal accountability should apply to both parties involved.

              1. Personal accountability should apply to both parties involved.

                Of college kids theses days? You’re new around here aren’t you.

          2. I’m not sure I’m reading your point correctly. “After” is not synonymous with “during”. If she changes her mind during ( and tells me), and I keep on, it’s assault, but if she changes her mind after, wtf can I do about that?

            1. “If she changes her mind during (and tells me), and I keep on, it’s assault.”

              You omitted one word.

              “If she changes her mind during (and tells me AUDIBLY), and I keep on, it’s assault.”

        2. Presumably so. I wonder how many incidents happened while the person was blacked out? You can often tell if someone is blacked out if you know what to look for. But people can remain fairly lucid, but have no long term memory of what happened. If you are drinking heavily, not remembering giving consent doesn’t necessarily mean consent wasn’t given. And presumably in many cases, the other party was also very drunk. Pretty hard to have reliable information about what actually happened.

      2. These two situations are not at all analogous.

        The [alleged] victims didn’t invite someone into their “house” only to have the invitee refuse to leave when asked.

        They watched in silence as someone enterred their “house” (someone who, presumably, mistakenly believed their presence was wanted), then claimed to be the victim of “trespassing”.

  4. I feel like I am getting raped by the government every day.

    For some reason, that does not matter.

    1. I would love to see rape redefined as ‘Using force to surrender an asset you would not otherwise willingly surrender’.

      Speaking for myself personally, and not as a representative of whatever class or classes I might otherwise belong to, I’m not likely to be raped because I’m likely to consent to nearly any sexual encounter (hey, I’m easy), I’m not all that attractive, and what I’ve got to offer is available in great abundance.

      On the other hand, I highly value my income and savings. I value them enough that I’ve been working 60 hours per week for decades. I’ve sacrificed my health and relationships for that money, which is more than adequate to prove how much I value that.

      How is what I value less than what some other person values?

      Rape is wrong. Stop it government. No means no IRS.

      1. Completely unrelated topic…. I love your name, and I had thought that it represented what percentage of Earth’s population an individual was. Then I did the math… Earth = 0.00000000013%. US = 0.00000000306%. Unless your/my math is wrong, I can’t figure out what has a population of 76,923,076. Please help me solve this…it’s driving me crazy!
        ‘Goose

        1. I think you guessed right, and I think my math is correct.

          Earth has 7.6 billion people according to Wikipedia

          1/7,600,000,000 = 1.31578947368421E-010

          which is 0.00000000013

          divide that by 100 to get a percentage

          0.000000013%

          So, I am *way* better than the 1%!

    2. Non verbal consent counts because, if you didn’t want it, you should have just left the party. And probably not worn that tiny red dress, either.

      1. I heard that about you and you wearing tiny red dresses.

  5. Explaining to people that they need to look out for themselves is not “blaming the victim”. It’s just cluing them in to a basic fact of life as an adult. My father explained this to me, and I took that as an act of love, not “blaming”.

    Placing yourself at the mercy of strangers is a dumb idea. There ain’t no gettin’ around that.

  6. OK, so exactly how much faith am I supposed to give to a survey of people too drunk to consent?

    Not exactly scientific research level stuff here. “I know you were too drunk to remember, but when that other drunk passed out and fell past you, did he brush by your ass and commit rape, or just miss you? Oh, you can’t remember? Well, I will just put that down as assault to be on the safe side. Without a bunch of numbers, it is harder to get grant funding.”

    Maybe instead of lowering the drinking age, they should expel the drunk broads before they get imagine raped.

    1. OK, so exactly how much faith am I supposed to give to a survey of people too drunk to consent?

      Zero. This is complete BS like every other survey, with an extra helping of BS about drinking. To wit: what is “a drink”? What is “one sitting”?

      The conclusion is absolutely correct, though. The drinking age must be lowered.

  7. Blame Binge Drinking for Tulane University’s 2-in-5 Female Sexual Assault Rate

    Meaning researchers were drunk when they compiled their numbers?

    1. If I went to Tulane, I’d drink everyday too.

    2. Well played.

      I somehow missed that one.

  8. Colleges typically turn a blind eye to campus drinking on the theory that it is safer to drink on campus than off. And the data seems to support that.

    Interesting that gay men are the worst predators.

    That said, what happens if you remove drunken kisses and boob gropes from the equation? Or anything that happens on a dance floor?

  9. I might suggest that the coaching students receive that teaches them to be visiting and consider every unwanted glance and gesture to be “rape” might overinflate numbers. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see answers changed by overenthusiastic staffers behind the scenes. Or friends filling in data to make up for people they don’t think would report on their own. What do the police stats say there?

  10. most of these students are under the age of 21, and thus are not allowed to drink at all.

    Check the statute. Usu. that’s not true. There’s usu. just a prohib’n on someone’s giving them liquor, not on their drinking it. Even at that, there’s usu. an exception for members of the same household and/or family.

    1. Hey look, it’s the guy running Hihn. Why are you pretending you’re not obviously Hihn’s sock-puppeteer?

      1. The sock puppet paranoia is getting ridiculous. Robert is a regular, long term commenter and definitely not Hihn.

        1. You can tell by how much I abbr., esp. w the char limit here.

  11. point out that the pollsters who arrived at this number often ask broad questions and count as victims people who never described themselves in such terms.

    If the victim didn’t describe themselves as such, then they weren’t a victim.

  12. I spent time in the UK during college where kids can drink at 18. It did not, in my experience, result in less drunk sex or drunk behavior in general.

    In fact the students took all the old dorm mattresses that were being thrown out and replaced, and built a fort. That they didn’t set it on fire was mere happenstance. Campus security was like, ah Uni, another typical night.

    I even woke up next to a half-clothed female with neither of us having any idea what had happened. I tell myself that she was just trying to be comfortable.

  13. Without consent was further defined as “taking advantage of me when I was too drunk or out of it to stop what was happening.”

    Too drunk or out of it.

    That’s very subjective. What’s the ‘too drunk or out of it person saying or doing? Are they going to someones room, stripping and hopping into bed with a stranger–who’s not a stranger now, but will be when they wake up sober? Are they pulling down someone’s pants and going down on them in the middle of a bar?

    With just that extremely vague definition of ‘ without consent’ it’s possible to define almost anything as ‘without consent’. Even ‘enthusiastic and continuous affirmation of ones desire to perform the described act’ could be so defined.

    Because the ‘victim’ was too drunk or out of it.

    1. Look, If you get black out drunk, drive a car, and wipe out a family of six you’re responsible for it, so if you get black out drunk and get laid, you’re responsible for it. So simple even a college student can understand it.

  14. Since the definition of unwanted sexual contact is broad enough that it applies to just about anyone that goes to a dance club or frat party just how much of that 40% falls into this category?

    How much of this is simple multi-cultural misunderstandings of acceptable behavior for expressing sexual interest and how much is actually abusive or persistent in the face of rejection?

    How much of this problem can reasonably go away if people took responsibility for themselves and set firm boundaries for others?

    But rather than attempt to answer any of that lets just scream “rape culture” and go on from there.

  15. Tulane University has a serious rape problem, if a recent survey can be believed: Nearly 2 in 5 female students reported being sexually assaulted

    … given that later on, “rape” and “sexual assault” get broken out the way they always ought to be, why conflate them in the lede?

    We only see even a percentage for sexual assault later in the article.

    Did they publish an actual number for rape (or attempted rape, however defined)? How high is it, and why are we never told?

    Or is this just writing so sloppy it’s notable even for Reason these days?

  16. “I’ve parsed the data and found no obvious flaws?sexual assault was defined fairly unambiguously as ‘unwanted sexual contact,’ ‘rape,’ or ‘attempted rape.'”

    When Robbie Soave continues with “unwanted sexual contact,” things get very ambiguous, indeed. Thus, we are left with yet another case of pollaganda supporting a campus rape hoax culture.

  17. “I’ve parsed the data and found no obvious flaws . . .”

    Really ?

    So you didn’t find it troubling that an apparently large number of “victims” were too drunk to consent, yet sober enough to remember the entire incident – OR – that a person is MUCH more likely to respond to such a survey if they believe (rightly or otherwise) that they WERE the victim of whatever behavior the survey is in regard to ?

    *

    Unwanted sexual contact was further defined as “fondling, kissing, or rubbing up against a person’s private areas of their body (lips, breast/chest, crotch, or butt) . . .

    So if I’m dancing with someone with my hands on their waist (as is quite common), and I slide my hands down causing them to make brief contact with her buttocks, I’ve committed sexual assault ?

    Really ?

    I have a theory as to why 59% of the students surveyed didn’t respond.

    They were too busy laughing at the idea that the aforementioned “brief contact” (which might have been inadvertent; remember, many of these respondents were severely intoxicated) constitutes sexual assault.

  18. “But Tulane, a private university in New Orleans, appears to have an even *more* staggeringly high sexual assault rate. I’ve parsed the data and found no obvious flaws?sexual assault was defined fairly unambiguously as ‘unwanted sexual contact,’ ‘rape,’ or ‘attempted rape.’ Unwanted sexual contact was further defined as ‘fondling, kissing, or rubbing up against a person’s private areas of their body (lips, breast/chest, crotch, or butt), or removing clothing without the person’s consent by incapacitation or force.’ *Without consent* was further defined as ‘taking advantage of me when I was too drunk or out of it to stop what was happening.'”

    As the kids say, this is so gay!

    So, “researchers” took the standard campus rape hoax culture numbers and inflated them by 100%, yet everything smells like Tide to you, eh, Mr. Soave?

    There are mooks and mopes whom I’d expect to massage and support such naked fakestats, but you’re not one of them. What have you been drinking, man?!

    Blame Feminism for Tulane University’s 2-in-5 Female Sexual Assault Rate Hoax.

    There?fixed it for you.

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