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Alcohol and Consent: What Percentage of Sexual Assaults Involve Alcohol?

Alcohol and Consent What Percentage of Sexual Assaults Involve Alcohol

Alcohol is often referred to as the “number 1 date rape drug”. Sexual consent is an important and complex issue, which becomes even more complicated when alcohol is involved. The line between consensual sex and sexual assault is thin when the compliant is heavily intoxicated.

However, one thing is surely clear – when it comes to sexual assault and alcohol, context matters. Nature of the relationship between people involved, their gender and sexuality, and whether they became intoxicated willingly or unwillingly – all matter in judging the intoxicated consent.

What is sexual consent exactly?

Sexual consent is consent to engage in sexual activity. Without consent, sexual activity is considered rape or sexual assault. So, to make it a little clearer, consent means a voluntary agreement of the compliant to engage in sexual activity, without exploitation of trust, authority or power, without threats or coercion.

Consent is mandatory in every sexual or related activity, whether it’s with a long term partner or with a new one.

There have been many campaigns raising awareness, starting in the 1980s with academic Lois Pineau argued towards a more communicative model of consent, so that it becomes more clear and less prone to misinterpretations.

In the late 1990s, new models of consent were proposed, moving towards affirmative “yes means yes” models. Affirmative consent models demand that both parties agree to sexual interaction, either through clear verbal communication or through non-verbal cues.

There are three pillars in consent description:

  • knowing exactly what and how much I’m agreeing to
  • expressing my intent to participate
  • deciding freely and voluntary to participate

Verbal vs. nonverbal consent

Consent can be verbal or nonverbal, or a combination of the two. We are expected to be capable of picking up and understanding nonverbal indicators and behaviors every day.

Arizona consent laws

Arizona Revised Statutes Title 13. Criminal Code § 13-1401 states:

“Without consent” includes any of the following:

  1. The victim is coerced by the immediate use or threatened use of force against a person or property.
  2. The victim is incapable of consent by reason of mental disorder, mental defect, drugs, alcohol, sleep or any other similar impairment of cognition and such condition is known or should have reasonably been known to the defendant.  For the purposes of this subdivision, “mental defect” means the victim is unable to comprehend the distinctively sexual nature of the conduct or is incapable of understanding or exercising the right to refuse to engage in the conduct with another.
  3. The victim is intentionally deceived as to the nature of the act.
  4. The victim is intentionally deceived to erroneously believe that the person is the victim’s spouse”

Alcohol and sexual consent

As shown above, Arizona (and almost all other) laws determine that a person is incapable of consent if he or she is mentally incapable of comprehending the sexual nature of the conduct due to alcohol intoxication.

Mental incapability is a thing of each individual case; it depends on the previous context of the relationship between the alleged victim and the perpetrator. In addition, alleged victims’ previous life, behavior, resistance to alcohol, etc. are important issues that need to be evaluated when deciding in cases of sexual assaults and rape.

Alcohol and sexual consent

Alcohol and sexual assault: what percentage of sexual assaults involve alcohol?

Conservative sexual assault prevalence estimates show that 25% of women in the US have experienced sexual assault and/or rape. Furthermore, estimates show that one-half of those cases involve alcohol intoxication by the perpetrator, the victim, or both.

Characteristics of alcohol involved and non-alcohol involved sexual assault

There were several attempts to identify “typical” traits of sexual assaults. Studies found that sexual assaults happen most often to women in their late adolescence and early adulthood. Most sexual assaults occur between people who know each other.

Non-alcohol-involved and alcohol-involved assault and rape share many characteristics, but differences exist. Alcohol-involved sexual assault is more likely to happen between persons who do not know each other well, and they tend to occur in bars’ or at parties. Unlike non-alcohol-involved assault, which usually happens between people who know each other well, in either person’s home.

Why might alcohol increase the likelihood of sexual assaults?

Alcohol intoxication and sexual assault often co-occur. However, this does not mean that we can say with certainty that alcohol causes sexual assault. There are many factors involved. Sometimes perpetrators desire to commit sexual violence causes alcohol consumption (in order to justify his/her later behavior, the perpetrator drinks alcohol). Some situational factors contribute to both sexual violence and alcohol consumption (college fraternities, etc).

Scientists developed a model to explain the role alcohol consumption has in cases of sexual assault between acquaintances.

The model explains that alcohols increase the likelihood of sexual assault at two distinct points in the interaction between the perpetrator and the victim. The first point is in the early stage of the interaction when man evaluates the likelihood of other party wanting sexual relations with him.

During the first stages of the social interaction or the date, many points in which the man evaluates the potential sexual meaning of the companions verbal and non-verbal cues. That’s when alcohol comes into play, and contributes to the misconception of those cues, usually giving the man a wrong perception of women’s behavior as more encouraging than it really is.

If the party, a woman, also consumes alcohol, she experiences the same cognitive defects as her male companion. If she believes that she was clear about not wanting sex at this point, she is less likely to understand the cues indicating that the man misread her behavior.

A defense attorney for sexual assault charges in Arizona

Sex crimes charges are serious. In Arizona, sexual assault is a class 2 felony, and convicted offenders may face different charges, depending on the circumstances.

  • First felony conviction – five to 14 years in prison
  • Second felony conviction – seven to 21 years in prison
  • Third felony conviction – 14 to 28 years in prison
  • If a date rape drug was used – added three years to the sentence
  • If physical harm was inflicted, the defendant may face 25 years to life in prison

Defending the rights of the defendant against these serious charges is a serious task.

Here at Sonoran law group, we have the expertise and experience to guide you through the whole process and to seek and find the best possible outcome for your case.

Contact us, and get a free case evaluation, today!