Date-rape discussion draws diverse crowd

The end of Sex Week at Yale last Monday did not bring with it the conclusion of discussion about sex in college.

During a talk entitled “Drunk Sex or Date Rape?” in Linsley-Chittenden Hall on Tuesday, Brett Sokolow, a legal specialist in campus safety and sexual misconduct, talked to roughly 100 students and administrators about the legal nature of consent when alcohol is involved and delivered an interactive presentation on distinguishing the difference between drunk sex and date rape.

Brett Sokolow, a legal expert on sexual misconduct, speaks on the distinction between date rape and drunk sex Tuesday evening.
Emma Ledbetter
Brett Sokolow, a legal expert on sexual misconduct, speaks on the distinction between date rape and drunk sex Tuesday evening.

Sokolow, who has spoken on more than 1,400 college campuses, spoke at the invitation of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources & Education Center, the Yale Women’s Center and the Yale College Dean’s Office. This is his third appearance at Yale.

Sokolow’s presentation resembled a jury trial. He presented the facts of a sexual-assault case brought before a court 10 years ago — in which a male college student was charged with sexual assault against an allegedly incapacitated acquaintance — and then allowed for questions from the audience. Sokolow concluded the discussion by asking audience members to vote to determine the verdict in the case.

Sokolow invested himself in the case, he said, and has kept tabs on the man and woman involved.

“I watched from the frontlines as they both made decisions that affected the rest of their lives,” he said.

A majority of the near-capacity crowd gathered in LC 101 found the defendant guilty, but a number of audience members dissented. Sokolow said the vote is split every time he gives his presentation.

“My role is to create a forum for discussion,” he said.

The turnout for this presentation was larger and more diverse than in previous years, event organizers said. Many more men attended than in past years — the audience was roughly half male and half female — and many in the crowd were administrators and faculty .

Several members of Yale’s fraternities and athletic teams showed up to the event after receiving an invitation from event coordinators, who extended the offer after the appearance last monthof a photo showing students affiliated with the Zeta Psi fraternity holding a sign reading “We Love Yale Sluts” in front of the Women’s Center.

Given the outcry that followed the circulation of that photo, the presence of fraternity members was a positive sign, said Jason Kaufman ’09, who attended the talk.

SHARE Director Carole Goldberg, who helped organize Tuesday’s event, said she was also encouraged by the turnout.

“It’s encouraging to see the presence of men and the responsiveness of the crowd,” Goldberg said. “We need men to be involved to really make a difference.”

Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, who sat beside Yale College Dean Peter Salovey at the presentation, said he thinks the event has the potential to change attitudes on campus.

“It can change perceptions, but there needs to be on-going discussion and awareness,” Gentry said.

Peer health educator Dan Fine ’10, who attended the event, said he found the presentation enlightening.

“The combination of consent with alcohol and drugs is very complicated, and I don’t think anyone should be ignorant of that,” Fine said.

Goldberg said SHARE hopes to bring Sokolow back to campus in future years.

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