Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"The relevance of drugs and alcohol in sexual assault"

A recurring theme on this blog is the incidence of false rape accusations. While forced unconsented sex happens, so does seeming consented but later regretted sex. It worries me intensely that lives can be ruined by false rape accusations, prosecutions and imprisonments. So the following (brought to my attention by my dear other half) was most interesting and worth sharing I thought:

The relevance of drugs and alcohol in sexual assault


When I was in residency, sexual assault exams were part of our training.  We spent a lot of time learning how to ask the right questions, how to be gentle and empathetic, how to gather evidence appropriately and thoroughly.

While many hospitals now have SANE programs (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner), I have never enjoyed the privilege of working with one of them.  I have, for two decades, performed sexual assault exams on my own.

In 21 years of practice, I have been in court (as far as I can recall) no more than three times to testify in a sexual assault case.  That suggests to me that one of two things may have happened in the cases that involved me.  First, the case was never prosecuted for any number of reasons (the alleged victim recanted, law enforcement felt the case was too weak, the story was good but the evidence was inadequate, procedural problems, etc.).  Second, the case was prosecuted, and the evidence was so damning that my testimony (separate from the evidence gathered) was irrelevant.  Third, the case indeed went to court but the story and evidence were so poor that no prosecution resulted, and it was deemed unnecessary to involve me.  I am not of a particularly legal mind, so excuse me if I have missed other reasons.

I was recently thinking back to a patient I saw some years ago, who alleged that she had been sexually assaulted.  And then I thought back to residency.  And I remembered something that always troubled me.  In residency, I recall being told not to comment, in my chart, on whether or not the alleged victim had been using alcohol or drugs.  I seem to recall (and I may be wrong on this point) being discouraged from obtaining blood alcohol levels or urine drug screens.  (In like manner I was told to note in the chart whether I saw live sperm in samples, but not to remark on their absence.)

Back to the case at hand: The patient I saw had been drinking copious amounts of alcohol and was clearly very intoxicated.  While I saw her, and law enforcement officers spoke to her, her story changed wildly from assault by multiple men to assault by no men.

Now, I ask you wide and gentle reader, was her alcohol use relevant to the situation?  When asked, “Who assaulted you and describe what happened,” would her recollections be trustworthy?  Would they be sufficiently lucid to possibly put a man, or several men, or a woman for that matter, in prison for years for what could have been consensual sex? And before you accuse me of sexism, remember that in an era of equality, both men and women are capable of sexual adventure as well as being capable of deceit and vindictiveness.

I believe that an alcohol level and drug screen was relevant.  Not in order to punish someone for substance use, not to “slut-shame,” but because like sexual assault, arrest, and prison are serious, life altering things.  And because one’s ability to recollect what happens clearly can be influenced by drugs.

If I were intoxicated and said that I had seen young man commit a crime, and if my story varied wildly with each telling, it would be evident to all that my impairment was an issue in terms of the validity of my testimony.  I don’t see how it can be any less in sexual assault.

Sexual assault is a problem.  False accusations of sexual assault are also a very real problem. But covering up reality to attain a particular end, however gilded our intentions, is never the right thing to do.

Edwin Leap is an emergency physician who blogs at edwinleap.com and is the author of The Practice Test and Life in Emergistan.

from http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2015/02/relevance-drugs-alcohol-sexual-assault.html


JC said...

The US Justice Dept recently produced the facts on record of rape on college campuses around the Republic.. its 0.5%.

Yet Obama, all college administrators and feminists are still telling the country that 1 in 5 college women are being raped and have set up Kangaroo courts on instruction from the White House to counter this near non existent problem.

In most cases brought before these kangaroo courts alcohol has been a factor and almost universally dismissed as a mitigating defence because it is assumed that the young men are responsible for any female intoxication.

I've often wondered if young Maori males suffer more court consequences from their stronger or at least more prevalent male/female drink culture.


Lindsay Mitchell said...

"The US Justice Dept recently produced the facts on record of rape on college campuses around the Republic.. its 0.5%"

O.6% according to this article. Just 6 in 1,000:


Wendy McElroy exposes the shonky use of statistics.

"Fully 73% of the women identified as rape victims in the pivotal Koss study said they had not been raped. Koss deliberately dismissed them and categorized them according to her own perceptions and needs. Otherwise stated, only 27% agreed with Koss’s assessment of their experience.

How does a researcher justify the unmitigated arrogance and dishonesty of dismissing data in order to fit an agenda? By claiming the participant does not understand the meaning of their own words or feelings ... but the researcher does. In an unskeptical Newsweek article (09/01/15), Edwards claimed that "the No. 1 point [of the study] is there are people that will say they would force a woman to have sex but would deny they would rape a woman." This statement was meant to explain the extreme discrepancy between men who reported a willingness to use force but not to rape; 31.7%, on which 1 in 3 is based, as opposed to 13.6% or 1 in 14. Edwards stated the conclusion of the ’study’ as "when survey items describe behaviors ... instead of simply label[ling] them ... more men will admit to sexually coercive behaviors in the past and more women will self-report past victimization."

Footnote. I would be interested to know what definition of 'force' the 31.7% admitted to.

JC said...

Over a number of years I bookmarked many sites showing the prevalence of false rape statistics in NZ and the US. These ranged from the original myth of only 4% of false rape accusations to media reports on police stating how often false rape was reported to numbers of men incarcerated for years but exonerated by retrospective DNA analysis to surveys of women who admitted (after the fact) that they had lied.

I formed an impression that in both the US and here that false rape complaints amounted to something like 15-50% depending on the survey or police chief comments.. thats the sum total of formal or informal investigation.

For example a police chief comments in Christchurch was that something like 80% of rape complaints made over a weekend were withdrawn the following week or a Palmerston North chief saying there were occasional epidemics of false rape complaints to formal US military surveys where women freely admitted that 50% of their complaints were baseless.

Couple that with the more recent rape blaming epidemic in US colleges where the email trails show women happily arranged meets with their alleged rapists and continued with friendly emails and invitations till the day they made accusations.

I don't profess to fully understand what's going on here but it seems that in a good many instances sex is consensual until it is a social disadvantage.. eg, when Mum or friends find out or the boyfriend loses interest.

Whatever, the Sexual Revolution appears to have run slap bang into a continuing conservatism of friends and family and rape complaints are sometimes a way of regaining support.