On Saturday, Feb. 6, a timely warning was delivered to Lock Haven University students and faculty regarding a sexual assault as required under the “Timely Notice” provisions of the Federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1998.
However, underneath the incident summary, there is a section of “Precautionary Steps,” which states, “Students should always keep in mind that consuming alcoholic beverages or other drugs could impair their abilities to make good decisions. If you choose to consume alcoholic beverages, do it responsibly.”
According to the Department of Justice website, sexual assault is defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”
Under the most recent definitions of consent, a person is unable to give consent if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Not only does the precautionary statement supplied by the university seemingly place the responsibility of the act on the victim rather than the perpetrator, it also clearly disregards the increasingly popular concept of “yes means yes,” which requires affirmative, conscious and voluntary consent; a concept LHU has still not adopted into their policies.
As a university that strives to ensure that the it maintains a safe and healthy environment on campus for students, LHU needs to be aware of the way their statements affect their student population. Statistically, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, with over 90% of sexual assaults remaining unreported. By promoting statements and policies that encourage victim-blaming, the university is effectively discouraging students from reporting cases of sexual assault at even higher rates than are currently occurring.
Not only does LHU have students who are survivors of sexual assault, but in the future there will undoubtedly be more sexual assault cases that occur involving students.
The university’s statements about sexual assault prevention are offensive, discouraging and insensitive to sexual assault survivors. In the case of sexual assault, the victim is never to blame.
Rather than warning students about the effect alcohol has on decision-making, the university should remind students that sexual assault is a crime and sexual assault offenders should be treated in accordance with their actions.