Within the last year, the Cal Poly community has experienced a vocal uproar to raise awareness about sexual assault. Due to three reported sexual assault incidents involving Cal Poly students last spring, and another one this year, the subject has been a tense topic of discussion that forces the community to address sexual assault in relation to the drinking habits of the students.
President Jeffrey Armstrong, in his letter to the campus community last May, emphasized the connection between alcohol consumption and sexual assault.
In his letter, he stated, “Fundamentally, rape stems from an utter disregard of another person’s dignity. And common sense requires us to re-examine our campus culture regarding alcohol and drug abuse.”
Despite Cal Poly’s high standing position as a prestigious state school, there is no denying that the social atmosphere is highly linked to alcohol use, or abuse rather.
Among the many student organizations that incorporate alcohol awareness, drinking safely and advocating sober fun is the educational resource group for students called Peers Understanding Listening Speaking Educating (PULSE).
PULSE consists of three teams that address a variety of issues that students deal with, including sexuality education and resources; nutritional analysis; dietary education; and alcohol, drug use and abuse support. I’m currently a team member of TLC — Thoughtful Life Choices — which means I partake in spreading awareness about alcohol, drug use and abuse to the student community. All of the members of TLC are specifically trained to work with students in a peer-to-peer client environment. We often deal with freshman clients who have been referred to us via the housing administration because of a drug and/or alcohol violation.
As peers, we don’t preach sobriety, rather we support safety if one chooses to partake in drinking. We have the opportunity to present information to students that is highly helpful and important, but not well known amongst all the entire college population at Cal Poly. We have students come in and learn what it means to binge drink, which is the most prominent way students at this campus as well as at many other colleges partake in consuming alcohol.
Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in one sitting for a female and five or more drinks in one sitting for a male. Given a typical night of partying on the many party streets surrounding the campus, students are binge drinking multiple times a month and accepting the habit as normal.
TLC has recently updated our peer counseling sessions to include sexual assault awareness and prevention because the binge drinking habits of the college community is linked to the “hook-up” culture in which drunk students engage in sexual acts while under the influence. The abundance of binge-drinking and the “hook-up” culture is blurring the lines of what constitutes sexual assault.
Sexual assault is not just unwanted sexual acts that a person is forced into. Sexual assault can occur when one is intoxicated by alcohol and judgement has been affected. Drunk sex is not consent. Unfortunately, the tendency to blame victims, along with “hooking up” becoming a social norm, sexual assault has become a very tricky event to understand, accept and report.
The Safer program on campus explains that, “The dating and party scenes experienced by many college students put them at higher risk for acquaintance rape. The college environment often includes peer pressure for sexual activity, alcohol consumption and other situations that makes it harder for potential victims to recognize dangerous situations and avoid them.”
As a team, under the guidance of advisers Rojean Dominguez and Cindy Perrin-Martinez, TLC works to spread awareness of alcohol and drug use and abuse. We are now acknowledging that sexual assault is something closely linked to the consumption of drugs such as alcohol. We work at providing ways to party smart if one choose to engage in drinking activities.
Among the tips TLC provides are: eating a full meal before consuming alcohol, sticking to a limit, not competing with alcohol consumption and always have a plan that includes a sober ride as well as a sober friend. We realize that sexual assault occurs and can be prevented with simple actions such as limiting drinking, watching out for one another and realizing that “hooking up” is not sober consent.
TLC hopes to highlight the issue of drinking and challenge students to be more aware of their alcohol and drug habits to prevent potential problems that come from drug use including addiction and sexual assault. We want to keep San Luis Obispo’s reputation as a community that facilitates healthy living, not binge drinking and the hook-up culture.