Government statistics and public service campaigns mainly focus on informing female students of the dangers of sexual assault. After a Yale Daily News investigative piece provided extensive details on a sexual assault case in which the male was found not guilty, a Washington Post opinions writer commented on the incident, using it an an example of how male college students need to be educated about the dangers of sexual assault as well.
“The Yale episode demonstrates: Parents of boys should be every bit as nervous as parents of girls about what can happen to the not-quite-adults they send off to college,” wrote Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post.
The “Yale episode” Marcus is referring to involves a male and a female student who had a sexual encounter a short time after they had ended a short-lived, exclusive relationship. The female in the case was under the influence of alcohol while she and the male were texting; she was still inebriated when they met in her suite later on that night.
The male was not inebriated and according to the Yale Daily News, “the male student still had strong feelings for the female student that were not reciprocated.”
After taking a year off from Yale, the female student was moved to report the alleged instance of sexual assault, which she did not initially constitute as rape, because she was worried of bumping into the male student on campus upon her return.
She took her case to the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Education at Yale University. Her claim centered on the fact that she deemed herself too inebriated to have specified consent.
The case went through the three major steps for all Yale University sexual assault cases: an independent fact-finder is hired and submits a report to a panel, a hearing for both parties is held and a verdict is reached, and finally, the “decision maker” (in this case Dean Holloway) is required to either accept, reject, or modify the given report.
The panel’s final verdict was in favor of the male student.
“Although the report acknowledged that the complainant had been intoxicated,” reports the Yale Daily News. “It found that she had not been incapacitated as defined by Yale’s sexual misconduct policy and thus did not lack the ability to make or act on considered decisions.”
The female student describes to the Yale Daily News that she was “floored” by the verdict.
“In the end, the message I got was, ‘If you’d had one more shot of vodka, it would’ve been rape,’” she told the Yale Daily News. “‘Sorry. Drink more next time.’”
The op-ed by Marcus in the Washington Post finds issue with how discussions and hearings on campus sexual assaults are held. She concludes that the incident and subsequent hearing would have been costly for both “a young woman who sincerely believes she has been raped but seems, at least from afar, to have been pushed by the prevailing culture into viewing a bad choice as a quasi-criminal event” and for “a young man who lived under the shadow of accusation and expulsion.”
This case highlights the often blurry lines that appear in cases of sexual assault. Colleges and universities nationwide are taking a second look at their investigation process and working to educate students on consent, bystander intervention, and rape culture.