Attorney warns against alcohol abuse, date rape

Amanda Downs

Sokolow asks for responses during his lecture.

In response to growing numbers of alcohol policy violations and sexual misconduct, Brett Sokolow was invited to give a presentation as part of a campus-wide effort to curb alcohol abuse. Sokolow is known as a nationally renowned authority regarding such matters. The title of his discussion was “Is it drunk sex or is it date rape?”

Attendance at the event was voluntary, although the administration heavily encouraged the student body to go and participate. Members of athletic teams and Greek Life were mandated to attend by coaches and leaders.

Since October 31, there has been a rise in reports of problematic alcohol consumption and sexually transmitted infections. This semester, there have been 11 incidents of alcohol abuse resulting in a hospital visit or ambulance and nine confirmed cases of STIs, including chlamydia and herpes.

“This is, in my view, and I hope in yours as well, unacceptable on this campus,” said Dean of Students John Downey in his introduction speech.

Saray Smalls, executive president of the Student Government Association, introduced Sokolow, an attorney with 14 years of experience and the author of 12 books and 750 articles, who has provided prevention services at over 2,200 colleges.

Sokolow began by defining the issue of sexual assault as a sensitive and unclear topic.

“This issue divides people,” he said. “It will divide you.”

He continued to describe a case in which he played a role 14 years ago, featuring the drunken sexual encounter of two college students and the capacity to give and understand sexual consent.

The male student (named Todd to protect the anonymity of the defendant) provided alcoholic beverages to an already intoxicated female, Amy. After she became sick, Todd walked her back to her room, and she began exhibiting interest in sexual behavior. Amy, however, became sick and passed out, although the two did engage in intercourse after a few hours.

Sokolow had the audience play the role of jurors, voting to decide the case in either Todd or Amy’s favor. The result was mixed, with slightly more than half of those present voting to convict Todd. The defendant in the actual case was convicted of sexual assault in the second degree and sentenced to two years in a medium-security prison.

The attorney detailed the law regarding sexual assault, clarifying that a party is legally unable to give sexual consent if they are incapacitated in any manner, including intoxication. At the time sex begins, one must be able to fully understand the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why.

To conclude his presentation, he educated students about the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, which include slurred speech, loss of equilibrium, vomiting, pale and clammy skin and a slowed rate of respiration (fewer than 5-8 breaths per minute). He went on to urge students to take action when they see a possible case of alcohol poisoning.

“Each and every one of you can make this a community of safety and trust,” said Sokolow.

Critical reception of the event was mostly positive on the part of students. One freshman who had admitted to underage drinking said that she “learned a lot” from the presentation.

“I definitely plan on drinking a lot less,” she said. “I didn’t know such serious stuff could happen because of one drunk night.”

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.