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Readers on Sexual Assault

I received several comments regarding this week’s focus on sexual assault, three of which were especially thoughtful:

I appreciated the guest columns from Alexandra Arnold ‘10. Thanks for running them. My one comment is that the presence of underage alcohol use and abuse facilitates — and in today’s libertine sexual climate, essentially guarantees — the dismaying and often tragic results Alexandra and you rightly decry.

How many sexual assaults and rapes would occur at Dartmouth apart from ready access to alcohol? If students are sober and in control of their faculties, my guess is that the answer would be “close to zero.”

Most bright, capable young women do not allow themselves to be sexually manipulated or abused. And when encountering such resistance, most young men are reticent to push their fellow students’ sexual interest too far before backing off.

As an upside, when sexual activity apart from alcohol did occur, there would be a lot less confusion about who agreed to what. Sober Ivy League students know that they alone are responsible for their “yes” and their “no.”

The problem is that many people want to actively or passively enable underage drinking on campus, while decrying the results it produces. In life, we get to make our choices but then must accept the consequences.

A central motivation for late-adolescent, on-campus drinking is to lower social and sexual inhibitions. That’s why fraternities host parties that provide free alcohol. It has virtually nothing to do with being thoughtful members of the campus community, practicing generous hospitality, or encouraging esprit d’corps. Rather, it’s the cheapest ticket to easy sex from female students who would otherwise be difficult if not impossible to bed.

If you doubt what I am saying is true, I can put you in touch with some upstanding Dartmouth fraternity guys to whom you could confidently entrust your own daughter, but who live amidst the debauchery every weekend. They suffer no illusions about what is occurring and why. It makes being part of a house difficult for them. They love the stability and depth of brotherly relationships, but often they have to bow out of house activities — either because the temptations become too great or they can no longer stomach what is occurring.

“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”

And:

I have read your two-part series by Alexandra Arnold and I have several thoughts. First of all, I am sure she is right. If there is ONE rapist at Dartmouth, that is shocking and way too many for me. However, all of the legal focus seems to be dealing with this issue AFTER the fact. To me, this is like saying that “we have the best possible first-responders” in the event of a nuclear attack. I don’t know about you (well, of course, yes I do), but I would rather prevent it from happening BEFORE the fact.

Is Alexandra open to or even inclined to a view on that sort of focus of attention? And, does she appreciate the huge problem with the new Dartmouth policy which throws due process out the window and says - no, you can’t cross-examine, and by the way, the preponderance of evidence seems to be against you, so, you are GUILTY. Is she, in other words, a useful resource in saying more than that we have a problem? Is she usefully oriented to a fair solution to the problem?

The College is on the wrong path right now and that path will be expensive, hurtful, and damaging.

And:

Feel that it is important to note that the “ill-advised drunken hookup” theory of alleged sexual assaults on campus and the theory that a a tiny minority of serial sexual predators are responsible for most of the transgressions are not mutually exclusive. I would suggest that college students everywhere stop drinking themselves into oblivion, thus rendering themselves vulnerable to sexual assault and a host of other very bad experiences - at the very least, excessive alcohol consumption makes the goal of the serial sexual predator much easier to achieve.

Before I am accused of victim blaming, I would like to say this: every single one of us take measures every single day to help insure our safety and well-being. We avoid walking alone late at night in high-crime neighborhoods, we lock our doors, we do not get into cars with people who are intoxicated, etc. - we exercise and take vitamins! - we don’t obsess, but we are aware. Awareness goes out the window when one chooses to drink to the point of being insensate. Does this excuse the perpetrators of sexual assault? Of course not.

I suppose that my fear is that sexual assault allegations on college campuses have now been awarded their own special category - no due process, etc. - for dubious political reasons. This approach does young people no favors - even the most idyllic college campus is still a part of the larger world - and any good college should seek to prepare its students for that larger world.

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