A recurring column exploring various statistics related to sexual wellness, mental health, and substance use at Colorado College, brought to you in collaboration with the Wellness Resource Center.
By SUSAANA PENFIELD
Of the students who reported experiences of sexual assault, this is the percentage who reported that the perpetrator used force against them.
While this number is significant — pertinent to one in three survivors at Colorado College — it is also substantially lower than the 45 percent of students nationwide who reported being physically coerced into sex. Similarly, the percentage of CC students who reported assaults in which they had been involuntarily drugged by the perpetrator, two percent, was lower than the national statistic of six percent.
These statistics appear optimistic when left standing alone, but they only tell one side of the story.
83 percent of survivors at CC reported alcohol use by their perpetrator, a number significantly higher than the 70 percent of college students nationwide who said the same. This trend is true for drugs as well, where 28 percent of CC survivors reported drug use by the perpetrator while the national average remains 19 percent. In addition to perpetrators, CC survivors were also more likely than college students in the U.S. at large to be either drinking or using drugs during the time of their assault.
So while we at CC are less likely to have a date rape drug slipped into our solo cups, these statistics uncover a culture that is just as dangerous as one in which perpetrators use physical force and discreet sedation.
Incidents that occur while both parties are inebriated are those most likely to fall into the notorious “gray area.” This is the term used for sexual encounters that seem to blur the line between consent and denial as neither party is sure what the other did or didn’t want. However, conceding to a gray area allows perpetrators to claim, with unfortunate credibility, “I didn’t realize,” and subsequently slip through the loophole provided by our cultural tendencies to complicate the boundaries of rape.
Yes, this sounds cynical. College students get drunk, hook up with each other, and go to class the next day. For the perpetrator, this may often be without “realizing” the implications of the previous night. For survivors, however, this realization is unavoidable; they wake up with the feeling of violation etched on their skin.
The prevalence of this kind of assault, the one that occurs in the “gray area,” may be obscured by lower rates of direct physical force; however, it is readily revealed through the statistical overlap of inebriation and rape. The last column pointed to the high rate of drug use exhibited by CC students at large, a practice that allows drinking culture to serve as a mask for dangerous behavior. The masking effect is important to grapple with. Drunken ignorance may camouflage assault, but it is never an excuse for it.