It's infuriating that we have to say this, yet again, but just to be 100% clear: Sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor.
Yes, that's true even if the person who was assaulted was drunk at the time. But even the people who create university anti-binge drinking campaigns sometimes still get this wrong. For example, BuzzFeed reports that York University was recently criticized for a poster put up in the university's buildings that shamed women for trying to "keep up with the guys" when it came to drinking.
That kind of gendered targeting (the poster is essentially saying that it's okay for guys to drink a lot because they can handle it, but you girls better not try to drink that much, too) is just the beginning of the problems with this poster. It also tells the women who are trying to "keep up with the guys" that "It's not just about keeping an eye on your drink, but how much you drink."
The unnamed "it" they're talking about here is sexual assault. Women are told to pay attention to where their drink is at all times to avoid being drugged and raped, and this poster is also telling them to avoid drinking too much for the same reason.
It's a sad reality that people of all genders are at a higher risk for being sexually assaulted when they're drunk. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about half of sexual assault incidents happen when the survivor, the perpetrator, or both have been drinking. But telling the women at York University that they better not drink too much or else they might be sexually assaulted puts the blame for sexual assault on them, and not on the perpetrator.
Which is why people at the university and on Twitter immediately called out the university for victim blaming.
This isn't York's first instance of victim blaming, either. In 2011, a police officer was quoted in the student newspaper, the Excalibur, saying that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." That sparked what is now known as the SlutWalk, an annual protest against victim blaming.
York University apologized soon after the school received complaints about the poster and suspended the campaign.
But the fact that multiple people must have looked over that poster before it was printed and pasted all over campus and thought that it was a good idea, that shaming young women into drinking less by claiming that their actions could lead to assault was the right thing to do, is disheartening. Apparently, we do still need to talk about consent and where the blame for sexual assault should lie.
So we'll say it again: Sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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