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Campus Conversations About Sex, Alcohol, and Choice

Recap of the Day: October 29, 2009

Brett Sokolow at Univesity of the Pacific

12:00 noon - 1:30 p.m

Opening Panel: Sexual Assault and Consent

Dan Esparza, Program Manager, DOJ/OVW Campus Program, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), Joelle Gomez, Executive Director, Women’s Center of San Joaquin County, Brett. A. Sokolow, Esq., President of NCHERM (National Center for Higher Education Risk Management)

Brett Sokolow emphasized that just because someone gives consent to one form of sexual activity does not mean they have given consent to other forms of sexual activity. He added that verbal consent is not fool proof either. “We still have to deal with the Clinton question,” he said. If a student has experienced a sexual assault, he recommends that who ever the student tells should fill out the reports with the student. By doing so, it facilitates conversation and makes students feel more comfortable. He also recommended that all college employees discuss what their reporting duties are to be prepared in case a victim comes to them.

Joelle Gomez said the first priority for a university should be to create an atmosphere where students feel they can talk confidentially to anyone. She also pointed out that shortly after the incident victims sometimes have not defined in their minds what has taken place quite yet. During the panel discussion Gomez read aloud powerful messages from sexual assault victims that were written on red t-shirts. She noted that 90 percent of rape victims know their perpetrator.

Dan Esparza encouraged the crowd to act if they witness someone being assaulted. “If you see something happening, don’t just stand by. Do what needs to be done to get that person out of that situation.”

Student Skit for Keep It Consensual


Ruth Jones on Rape Law

2:30 noon - 3:30 p.m

Rape Law and Colleges: Choices and Consequences of Student Behavior

Ruth Jones, Professor of Law

Ruth Jones explained that when students are on a college campus living in residence halls, she said, they are surrounded by people who do not seem like strangers but actually are and they bring their guard down. She also noted that there is this common expectation that we can just gaze into each others eyes and automatically know what the other person wants. Under the law, Jones said, simply saying “No” is enough for the victim to be considered resisting. She also pointed out that rape is one of the only laws where the focus of the case can be shifted from the defendant to what the victim was doing at the time of the incident.

When involving alcohol, she said, if your partner is too drunk to drive they are too drunk to legally give consent to have sex. If both the man and the woman are heavily intoxicated, theoretically both could be charged with rape, but 99 percent of the time it is the men who are charged. In criminal law, the intoxication of the victim is what is important while the intoxication of the defendant is irrelevant, Jones said.


Pacific Staff and Faculty session

4-5:00 p.m.
Panel: Best Practices for Responding to Campus Sexual Violence
(Session for Pacific Faculty, Staff, and Administrators)

Sally Coleman, Associate Director of Human Resources
Diane Borden, PhD, Professor of English and Film Studies
Heather Dunn Carlton, Director of Judicial Affairs

Sally Coleman pointed out employees were required to report all incidents of harassment once they are told about them, despite any request for confidentiality by the student/employee who originally reported the incident.

Heather Dunn Carlton noted sexual misconduct is an umbrella term for non-consensual sexual activity that encompasses a range of behaviors, including rape, sexual touching, sexual harassment and even “sexting.” Employees are expected to fill out an online form 24 hours after an incident is reported. If a student is reluctant to report an incident, she suggested explaining the University’s judicial process to them, which is private, relatively fast, and does not require victims to testify face-to-face before the alleged perpetrator. She pointed out that only the Student Victim Advocate and counselors with Student Health Services are not mandated to report incidents of sexual misconduct. Both the advocate and counselors would be good sources to direct students to if they insist on a confidential conversation, she said. Carlton said the university offers counseling and support to both the victim and the accused.

Diane Borden, who works as a consultant for sexual misconduct cases at various universities, pointed out that social and cultural backgrounds affect what people consider sexual harassment. She offered an example of a case at another university involving a misunderstanding between two professors from different countries and cultures.


Student participation at Keep It Consensual

7-8:30 p.m. Drunk Sex or Date Rape
Brett. A. Sokolow, Esq., President of NCHERM (National Center for Higher Education Risk Management)

Brett Sokolow, a nationally recognized campus safety expert, presented nearly 700 students with a sexual assault case he was involved in 12 years ago that involved two college students who met at a party involving heavy drinking. The female student involved was intoxicated while the male student was not, though he also had been drinking. A vote by the audience, which was balanced between men and women, was split roughly 50-50. The result underscored the different perspectives that people have about what is consensual sex and what is not, he said.

The case prompted a heated discussion from the crowd. Some women argued on the side of the accuser while some men argued on the side of the victim. The question of whether the male student should have known whether the victim was too intoxicated to have sex was raised. Sokolow noted that when someone blacks out due to heavy intoxication – as the victim in this case did – they have a loss of short-term memory but can still perform common tasks such as tying their shoes, engaging in casual conversations and even driving home. Sokolow also pointed out that when someone who is intoxicated vomits they experience a spike in their blood-alcohol content, not a drop.

Sokolow said the victim struggled with depression after the incident and had dropped out of school for two years before returning and graduating. The accuser went to prison and had to register for life as a sex offender. Sokolow left the audience with two questions: (1) Is there any type of sex in the world worth that cost for any of you? (2) Will you take responsibility and ownership for the lessons from tonight?