It may seem like harmless fun to have a few drinks on St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, alcohol is a big factor in the incidence of date rape. Simply put, date rape is unwanted sex from a person you know. No one is “owed” sex, not even if they bought you a nice dinner. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex before. If you don’t want sex now, you have the right to say no. If your partner doesn’t honor that, it’s rape. That’s the law.
But what if you didn’t say no? What if you couldn’t say no? Alcohol is the most common date rape drug. If you’re drunk, you can be coerced into sex you may not have agreed to if you had been sober. By law, if you cannot say “yes,” you’ve essentially said “no”.
Most rape is caused by someone you know, not by a masked stranger. A study done with college students found that by senior year, 20% of all women will experience sexual assault. What’s worse, few will report it. Don’t forget, the blame belongs to the perpetrators. Although we do hear about women being blamed for being raped, women do not “deserve” to be raped because of their manner of dress or how much they’ve had to drink.
Until we live in a world where rape no longer exists, it’s in our best interest to take steps to avoid situations where we’re vulnerable. In particular, it’s smart to know what to look out for when you’re out drinking, both for yourself and for your friends.
- Keep an eye on your drink at all times.
- If someone offers to buy you a drink, watch it being made.
- If you can’t, ask them to take a sip before you do. If they refuse, do not accept that drink.
- If you start to feel lightheaded, dizzy or nauseous shortly after drinking, seek immediate help.
- Use the buddy system with a trusted friend—keep an eye out on each other and check in throughout the night.
- Have a code word with friends to indicate a situation gone awry.
- If you see something that looks suspicious—someone messing with your friend’s drink or that they appear to be receiving unwanted attention from an aggressive man—step in or engage an authority.
- If in doubt, pour it out.
Maybe it isn’t fair that men seem to be able to drink without these same cares as women, but the fact remains that women are largely the victims of sexual assault. Aside from teaching men better behavior—which absolutely needs to happen—we must look out for ourselves and each other.
With binge drinking on the rise among women, it’s important to take steps to protect yourselves. If you see something happening with a friend, you can help by creating a distraction (“Can I borrow a hairbrush?”) or if you feel like it’s safe, ask her directly if she’s okay or if she needs you to stay with her. If you’re somewhere near a person in authority such as a bouncer or police officer or campus administrator, bring it to their attention. It’s important to look out for each other, but don’t jeopardize your own safety to do it. And never hesitate to call 911 when you aren’t sure how to handle the situation. It’s also a good idea to create a backup plan if you’ve had too much to drink and don’t feel safe driving. You might have a ride-share app or taxi cab service saved to your phone, and keep cash on hand.
And remember: regardless of how much you had to drink or especially if you were slipped something and you were sexually assaulted, it’s not your fault. If you or a loved one have been sexually assaulted, there are trained professionals who can help you. Visit RAINN.org or call 1-800-656-HOPE to talk to someone.
Take steps to protect yourself and encourage your friends to do the same. Like any list of safety tips, these steps aren’t foolproof, but they can increase your sense of confidence in a situation and provide you with options to get to safety.