Students judge ‘drunk sex’ case

Three Budweisers around midnight. Two Jell-O shots around 2 a.m. That was the last thing Amy remembered before she lost eight hours of her life.

Yesterday night, the attorney Brett Sokolow, president of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, told the story of Amy and Todd in a presentation titled “Drunk Sex or Date Rape: Can You Tell the Difference?” to a group of just over 40 students, whom he asked to double as a jury.

Sokolow related a case of date rape he worked on 11 years ago. It was a classic case of “he said, she said,” a story not unfamiliar at most schools.

The setup: At an off-campus house party, “Todd” gave “Amy” Jell-O shots that contained not gin or vodka but Everclear, a brand of 180-proof pure grain alcohol, as Sokolow explained it.

As a result, Amy thought she had consumed seven drinks, when she had in fact consumed the equivalent of 20. When Amy got sick, Todd took care of her, saying he intended to watch out for her until her roommate got back. But the night heated up, clothes came off and Todd and Amy had sex. Amy never explicitly said no.

When he left the next morning, Todd left a Post-It note on the bedside table with his name and number. And if he had not, Amy never would have known what happened that night — or been able to file a police report against him.

“Things like this happen at parties all the time,” said one audience member, Kristin McCall ’09. “It’s also very rare that a girl would actually come forward after something like that.”

The audience’s questions probed Amy’s prior drinking habits and whether Todd knew how much alcohol Amy had consumed.

Todd had not only helped to mix the Jell-O shots the night before, Sokolow responded, but he had also decided early in the night to cut himself off after three beers so that he would be clear-headed.

“I am a little confused as to why Todd was so desperate to get laid that night — after following her around for five hours, after she had puked,” one audience member said.

After a question and answer period, about 60 to 65 percent of the jury voted Todd guilty, by a show of hands, of date rape. There was no gender split, Sokolow said.

One audience member who had voted Todd not guilty said she felt Amy had put herself into the situation.

“She led him up to it,” she said. “She was conscious. She knew what was going on.”

“Wow, you are so frightening,” Sokolow replied.

That person was an outlier, however. The fact that Todd was practically sober and a licensed bartender, and that Amy couldn’t even walk straight, puts the blame in Todd’s court, another audience member retaliated.

That sentiment was consistent with what Sokolow said he has seen on other college campuses over the years. Eleven years ago, the jury who decided the case found Todd guilty, he said.

Sokolow stressed that he hoped audience members would leave the talk with a better understanding of consent when alcohol is involved. A “yes” given under the influence is not necessarily a yes, he said.

John Loge, the dean of Timothy Dwight College, said that he felt that it was important for everyone to consider the questions Sokolow raised.

“Very useful,” he said of the talk. “Moving. Poignant.”

The event marked Sokolow’s fifth trip to Yale and his second talk of the day. Sokolow gave the same talk at the Medical School earlier in the day.

He appeared to get his message across. As one student put it at his second talk, “Word to the wise: no drunk sex.”

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