Gender and Sexuality Column

Colleges should focus on sexual assault, not just alcohol

/ The Daily Orange

This column is part of a dual Gender and Sexuality series answering the question: “How can SU administrators improve response to sexual assault, in the face of Brock Turner?” It is a response to Turner, a student at Stanford University, being released from prison earlier this month after serving just three months of his six-month sentence on a rape charge. Turner got out early on “good behavior.”

The U.S. criminal justice system isn’t the only institution at fault with Brock Turner’s release: Turner has become the poster boy for campus leniency on sexual assault and alcohol policies.

During his trial, Brock Turner blamed his actions on Stanford University’s alcoholic policy and party culture. And instead of using the Turner case to confront rape on its campus, Stanford released a memo banning hard alcohol from undergraduate parties and limiting graduate students to beer and wine. As if that would single-handedly solve the problem.

It’s a cynical perspective, but people will always find a way to take advantage of others — with alcohol in the mix or not. But if universities are going to go after alcohol, they need to confront those who hide behind the cover of partying to justify instances of rape on college campuses.

Syracuse University’s own policy on alcohol provides a way for rapists to slip through the cracks with its broad terminology. SU’s handbook reads, “Secondhand effects of (alcohol and drug) abuse include incidents… criminal victimization including sexual and physical assault, theft, and vandalism.”

When our school tells us not to be victims, they are siding with the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. There are no rules that say to perpetrators, “Don’t rape.” There are few explicit consequences set in stone that they will face. We see this in action every day with cases like Brock Turner.

SU’s loophole-filled policy continues with the sentence, “Disruptive behavior that creates potential for harm or infringes on the rights of others is prohibited.” The sly scumbags of the earth like Brock Turner — and their lawyers — will work around SU’s vague language when outlining these sensitive policies. These unspecific policies fail to strike fear into the hearts of students that their actions have repercussions.

Despite SU checking in on registered fraternity parties and even with DPS stationed on every block, things still happen.

Rapists are rapists and rape will occur in any state of mind. Alcohol or any substance isn’t necessarily the deciding factor for something as black and white as sexual assault — it’s the rapist who needs to be held accountable for all of his actions. It is disappointing that the legal system as well as universities consider sexual assault as a gray area where concern is shown to assailants instead of victims.

Some victims may be discouraged to report their rape because of the precedent the Turner case set. Demonstrations like the social media outrage in Brock Turner should empower women to speak up and out instead of self-blaming. College communities have to take care of the victims, punish the criminals and change attitudes, minds and behaviors so someday this won’t be an issue anymore.

Stanford recently took an alcohol awareness guide down after receiving enormous backlash from its vulgar assumptions that women who consume alcohol are prone to risky sexual behavior. The school simply said, “We would like to apologize for an outdated and insensitive article on women and alcohol that was here.” Well, it’s still here. On paper or in practice, it’s still here.

Myelle Lansat is a junior magazine journalism major and policy studies minor. She can be reached at malansat@syr.edu.

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