In an ideal world, we would be able to wear what we want and laugh the night away on dance floors, making brilliant memories with our friends. Memories to cherish, shimmying around in heels, head thrown back, lost in pure happiness.
In this ideal land, people would respect our rights and treat us the way they should. There would be no drink driving, no fraud and no opportunists; to be an opportunist you take more than your fair share at someone else’s expense, taking advantage as temptation arises.
Here you could leave your keys in your car with the engine running, bankcard in the ATM, and sleep with your door unlocked at night. That land would be heaven on earth – but it’s not reality.
Unfortunately, the world around us isn’t as shiny and pure as we the one we fight for, where everyone’s rights are respected.
Before you go out to make memories with your friends tonight, ask yourself this: Would you say to your daughter as she heads out of the door “drink as much as you want”, or “be careful”?
Women share experiences of sexual violence on Twitter. Post continues after video.
Would you tell her, “knock back all the drinks you can, make yourself vulnerable, go for it because no one has the right to rape you” or would you say, “drink sensibly, please take care of yourself”.
Of course, you would want her to be safe. You would tell her that getting drunk puts you at greater risk of danger, it reduces your ability to recognise risks and escape from harm. There are men out there who will take advantage of a drunk girl.
The connection between alcohol and sexual assault is crystal clear. There are ways we can try to reduce the risk of sexual assault and it’s important to remember that teaching prevention isn’t victim blaming. Do we want to be outraged – or try to keep people safe? There’s a distinction between an idealistic, theoretical fantasyland where rights are respected – and reality.
It’s estimated that 25 per cent of American women have experienced sexual assault, including rape. Approximately half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim or both.
Australian Bureau of National Statistics has reported that 62 per cent of people who experienced physical assault believed that alcohol contributed.
I’m passionate about educating women about the dangers of alcohol. I quit drinking over a year ago but I’m haunted by nights that started with laughing on a dance floor and ended in dark, heavy tears that last a lifetime.
When you have memories you’re stuck with them; you can’t un-see things anymore than you can un-feel. You can know your rights but if someone violates them, you are the one who has to live with that horror.
Brock Turner was a learning moment about alcohol and rape. A lesson that alcohol doesn’t rape people – people rape people. More specifically, unfortunately, men rape women. Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded crime 2013-14 found 93 per cent of offenders were male, also that “alcohol was believed to have contributed to a greater proportion of incidents occurring in licensed entertainment/recreation venues than in any other location”.
The walls are closing in around opportunists, like Brock Turner and Brandon Vandenburg. The pressure is on men to learn they can’t say, “alcohol made me do it”. It’s never okay to become an opportunist and commit sexual fraud.
In a brighter land, if a group of men open a bedroom door at a house party and a woman lay passed out on the bed, they would look at each other and shake their heads. They would pull a blanket over her and quietly close the door behind them as they walk away.
This brighter land isn’t reality today.
In therapy, experts talk about your ‘inner child’. It doesn’t matter how old you are, there’s a little child who needs love, nurturing and acceptance. It highlights how sometimes we have to step outside our own skin to give ourselves words of wisdom, as if we’re talking to someone else.
Before you head out tonight, ask yourself this: if you were hugging your daughter goodbye as she headed out in her new sparkly top, skinny jeans, clutching a clutch to collect happy memories in, would you tell her to be careful - or that no one has the right to hurt her?
And would you really tell her, “Drink as much as you want”?
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