Alcohol increases sexual assault

by Nicole Tsong | 10/31/97 6:00am

When one thinks of Homecoming, images of the bonfire, Freshmen Sweep and excessive drinking come to mind. But the image of sexual assault may not.

However prevention of sexual assault should be on the forefront of every student's mind whether or not they drink, according to Susan Marine, coordinator of the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program.

A nationwide survey of college students in the late eighties revealed that "about 75 percent of forced sexual experiences involve the use of alcohol of either the victim or the assailant, but both are generally involved," she said.

Alcohol's role in sexual assault is so significant "because people's boundaries become blurred with heavy drinking," Marine said.

Marine's experience as an advisor to assaulted women has given her much insight into the extra risk of sexual assault brought by a big party weekend such as Homecoming.

"I would say every party weekend here has resulted in a pretty significant crisis situation with a woman who was assaulted. Although some people say it was only one person that weekend, I can't say that a woman is regularly assaulted every weekend here," Marine said.

She also offered some startling national statistics. "About one-fourth of women in college have experienced or will experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault," she said.

Dartmouth is not exempt from these statistics.

"At Dartmouth, in the past year, there were 46 reported incidents of sexual abuse, assault, relationship violence, unwanted touching, etc.," Marine said.

However, Marine said she believes there are many more unreported cases, which she feels is "an unfortunate side effect of the work."

Prevention information about sexual assault is readily available for students from the moment they step on campus, and Marine had some basic suggestions all students can use.

"I encourage people to buddy-up, and more than anything I ask people to look out for their friends," she said.

Although students may object to taking responsibility for friends' drinking choices, Marine said, "the thing that is hardest for me is when people don't challenge their friends when they are making the wrong choices. It is unfortunate because a lot could be prevented if students looked out for each other."

She also cited student awareness, especially on the part of men, is especially important in preventing sexual assault.

"A lot of times I see women who take responsibility for alcohol consumption, but I don't see it as much on the men's side," she said. "Women do think that way, but I think it needs to be on both sides."

The resources for women who are assaulted are numerous, ranging from Sexual Assault Peer Advisors to Marine herself for those seeking on-campus resources.

For students who do not wish to contact anyone involved with the college, the 24-hour hotline called WISE at 448-5525 is another outlet for women. Information on all the sources is available on BlitzMail bulletins on Sexual Assault and Harrassment.

Education is the key for prevention, Marine said.

"I just encourage people to educate themselves about the issue. It is not something we can't change. If people are informed they can start making changes," she said.