Mary Sanchez

Maryville’s consideration of alcohol crackdown needs to address rape

Updated: 2014-02-13T03:46:24Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

The news out of Maryville this week had Northwest Missouri State University president John Jasinski sounding like he was angling to host a kegger.

Jasinski spoke out in opposition to City Council proposals to crack down on public drinking. He won. The council tabled the matter for further discussion, always a good place to restart.

There’s a balance between accepting that college is a time when young people stretch boundaries and using that as an excuse to do nothing of any impact.

Jasinski wants input from student leaders before the council grants more power to police to shut down parties and public drinking. Keeping tension low between students and local police is a worthy goal. But only if the dangers of student drinking aren’t sidestepped.

Top on the list should be research that says the majority of college sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption. One of the most instructive studies, done by Wayne State University, explored deeply ingrained attitudes about sex, aggression, consent, peer influence and alcohol.

In one case cited, a female student had been throwing-up drunk. Her male date dragged her to a bedroom and raped her. She said later: “I had been a virgin and felt it was all my fault for going back to his room when no one else was home.”

A male student who admitted forcing sex on a female friend wrote: “Alcohol loosened us up, and the situation occurred by accident. If no alcohol was consumed, I would never have crossed that line.”

Similar patterns of blaming and excusing played out in the data. For men, consumption was entwined with how they viewed which women wanted sex and when they rationalized that “no” meant “convince me.” For women, it was a way to take on blame and disregard the man’s role. The study was nuanced and could go a long way toward combating why even reporting sexual assault is problematic, much less how universities react.

I graduated from Northwest. During my years there, it was wide open for liquor. A favorite bar refused to give me a free drink for my 21st birthday. “We’ve been serving you for years” was the accurate and laughing reply. And no, I never had a fake ID. Didn’t need it.

Northwest has changed dramatically since then. It is a stronger institution academically and a wiser one in how it guides students through young adulthood. Tackling college drinking is just another area where the campus can lead by example. Go Bearcats.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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