Quote of the Day: Dartmouth still doesn’t understand sexual violence

Dartmouth

High-risk alcohol use and sexual assault are issues that face educational institutions nationwide. Here at Dartmouth, President Hanlon has charged our community to work together to end high-risk and harmful behavior on campus.

–Dartmouth email to parents of incoming freshmen

Are you enraged yet? Dartmouth has been under fire for tolerating sexual violence on campus and failing to support survivors. Despite promises to shape up and a big PR stunt in the form of a campus sexual assault conference, it looks like Dartmouth hasn’t learned its lesson.

Great that you want to stops sexual violence, and great that you want to stop dangerous drinking habits. But conflating the two only perpetuates the myths that 1) all campus violence follows the “drunk girl at the party” narrative, which it absolutely doesn’t and 2) the key to stopping sexual violence is stopping binge drinking, not stopping rapists.

This email goes beyond the Emily Yoffe “debate” about whether alcohol education stops violence — a conversation I’m frankly sick of having. Here, Dartmouth not only connects the two problems but reduces them to one another, just two sides of the “high-risk and harmful” coin. As the school explains, they don’t see two separate problems but a unified set of efforts to “reduce dangerous alcohol use and prevent sexual assault.”

When we accept the comfortable but oversimplified narrative that sexual assault is a problem of college kids with stupid drinking habits, we put blinders on, willfully obscuring the range of forms violence takes and the complexity of its causes. We elide systemic roots and institutional responsibility. We elide reality. And students’ safety — in their dorms, in the lab, at the hands of their partners, and, yes, at parties — depend on us doing better than that.

AlexandraAlexandra Brodsky is a Feministing editor, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/freps/ fran Sepler

    Wait…the research is very clear that serial campus rapists use alcohol as a weapon to incapacitate their victims. Both Title IX and The Clery Act require education around alcohol use and sexual assault. Granted, some people will go to the stereotypical overindulgence space, but the initiative is not all that wrong minded…perhaps not a big enough step, and perhaps not the best way to communicate the role of alcohol in sexual assault, but they are at least doing something, and that something should be educating everyone about this weapon, how it is used, and how to not get set up to be victimized by it ( anticipating that it should not all be the woman’s responsibility, let’s be honest that the serial rapists won’t learn from education.)