Role of Alcohol and Other Drugs

While alcohol use is not the cause of sexual assault, it is often a major contributing factor in sexual assault incidents — 75% of men and 55% of women involved in sexual assaults report they had been drinking or taking drugs at the time of the incident.

Alcohol can be a contributing factor because

  • Alcohol affects judgment and increases risk taking.
  • One is less likely to perceive dangerous situations.
  • It increases likelihood of miscommunication.
  • People who are intoxicated may misinterpret nonsexual behaviors as sexual.
  • One is less likely to be able to talk her or his way out of or avoid conflict.
  • An alcohol-impaired person is less able to control or resist physically dangerous situations.
  • Stereotypically, men may think women who drink “are asking for sex.”
  • Perpetrators often get their victims drunk, believing (falsely) that if a woman is too impaired to agree to sex that this implies consent.
  • Alcohol is used as an excuse for behavior: a drunk perpetrator is viewed as less responsible, and women who are drunk falsely believe their drunkenness caused the attack and are less likely to report it.

Relationship of alcohol and other drugs with consent

  • Consent must be a free choice. A person cannot give consent if her ability to understand and give informed consent is impaired in any way.
  • Consent is not valid if the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is mentally impaired, is underage, or has experienced the explicit or implied use of force, coercion, threats, and/or intimidation.
  • Someone who is intoxicated is incapable of giving consent.
  • The use of alcohol or other drugs does not minimize a student’s responsibility for perpetrating sexual assault or sexual misconduct. Being under the influence of alcohol, or any other drug, does not excuse behavior. In particular, it does not mitigate or nullify a charge of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.