Shock and Awe

I saw some horrifying data yesterday.


AlcoholEdu. Ever heard of it? Unless you’re a senior, you did it. Here are some of the results:

In August of 2010, a full 8.65% of the incoming freshman Class of 2014 reported having been taken advantage of sexually, in one form or another, during the preceding two weeks while drinking. Fast forward two months into their first semester, that figure jumped to 13.48%, again during only the preceding two weeks. A similar jump occurred for the incoming freshman Class of 2015 a year later (going from 8.80% to 14.16%) and then again this year for the incoming freshman Class of 2016 (going from 4.49% to 10.49%). Even more chilling were the accompanying figures: 8.46% of the incoming Class of 2014 self-reported having taken advantage of someone sexually in the preceding two weeks, and this figure only dropped by 1.06% two months into school. For the freshman Class of 2015, the starting figure was only 4.28%, but then this number increased to 9.09% after two months, a similar trend reflected this year in the Class of 2016 (starting at 4.20% and increasing to 6.23%).

These self-reported, population-wide figures indicate that approximately 100 incidents of sexual misconduct occur during any two week period at Wesleyan for members of the freshman class alone, and only including those occasions when alcohol was involved.

I’ve written about the monstrosity of sexual assault before. It’s (sadly) been a frequent (and pressing) topic of conversation in the college blogosphere of late. I don’t need to re-hash everything — it’s in the links — but clearly the subject merits continued conversation (as if that was ever unclear). Let’s review some basic facts:

  1. Sexual assault is bad.
  2. Sexual assault should not be permitted or perpetrated.
  3. Sexual assault is both permitted (culturally) and perpetrated (constantly).

A fourth crucial fact is that you (yes, you) are responsible, just like everyone else, for the prevention of sexual assault. And boy-oh-boy is it preventable.

If you’re confused about any of that, click the links.

Moving on.

A few (more) words on where this data comes from: Starting with the Class of 2014, Wesleyan began requiring all incoming freshmen to complete AlcoholEdu, an educational online survey on alcohol use and associated behavior. This survey (Survey 1) was completed by all (well, almost — more than 95%) of the 2014 frosh before they arrived on campus. This survey asked about an individual’s prior drinking habits, knowledge, and the incidence of associated harms. Two months later, now in the midst of their first Wes semester, the same respondents completed a second mandatory survey (Survey 3) which asked the same questions. This whole process has been repeated twice now, once for last year’s incoming Class of 2015 and once for this year’s freshman Class of 2016.

Two of the questions (written out below) asked about the incidence of being taken advantage of sexually and taking advantage of others sexually while consuming alcohol. The results are alarming.

Here, take a look for yourself:AlcEduData

Not only are the rates tragically high, the rates hike up once frosh actually get to campus. This might not be surprising, necessarily, given that campus has large masses of scantily-clad adolescents adventuring to find their identity in a foreign world. But really, are we that bad at taking care of each other, treating one another with conscious physical (and mental and emotional) respect, subjugating our sexual wants to the realm of mutuality, and sustaining an environment in which sexual assault is fundamentally impermissible?

Again, links.

Let’s talk about alcohol for a minute.

Clearly, these things are related. But alcohol doesn’t cause sexual assault. People cause sexual assault. Alcohol is simply the instrument by which underlying segfaults in ratiocination react, propelling the witting and unwitting alike to commit unconscionable crimes.

This doesn’t make alcohol an innocent substance. Alcohol, like most things, is best used in moderation and accompanied with an extreme awareness of both human fallibility and individual responsibility. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to forget those things.

The rude reality is that, as much as the perpetration of sexual assault is tied to alcohol use, it is rooted most fundamentally in a worldview, a worldview that says (among many other terrors) want equals right. Alcohol is relevant only because alcohol lowers our inhibitions, dulls our senses, and encourages to act on impulse, on instinct, on want, and it allows our worldviews, not our higher functionings, to drive us like a car.

So Wes, please please please, for the love of your own jiggly bits, drink responsibly. But even more importantly, think responsibly.


Edit pyrotechnics: another Wesleying writer noted that the data shown above can be a little confusing, as it’s displayed on a 1 – 7 ranking scale rather than a simple yes or no. I decided to leave this data as is simply because I find it especially horrifying that some responded that they had always taken advantage of someone sexually while drinking in the preceding two weeks. However, I’ve done a bit of drawing on the data that may (or may not) be slightly clearer:


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7 thoughts on “Shock and Awe

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    1. pyrotechnics

      I requested special permission to publish this particular section of the data; I’ll ask about getting the rest published here (or somewhere) and get back to you soon.

      1. pyrotechnics

        The NCHIP team will work to verify all the data and will publish the Executive Summary next week. I’ll post the link here then.

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