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.”


  • Chris

    Doesn't the question rather lie on what mental state the girl was in when the sexual act was beginning?

    If she was unconscious or otherwise unresponsive, then his going forward with sex was obviously rape.

    If she was wildly drunk and in a good mood and gladly engaging in the sexual act, then I don't think we can hold the male responsible for rape regardless of the difference in their sobriety level. If she said yes and actively went along with it, it is simply not rape. It is not the male's responsibility to actively track how many drinks his potential partner has had and how those particular drinks happen to be acting on that person during the night.

  • Anonymous

    I can't believe the sick perverted things that take place at Yale. No wonder islamic fundamentalists want to destroy us. We deserve it…

  • Anonymous

    How on earth did only 60% of the jury think this was rape? She couldn't walk and was vomiting. That's not a girl who can consent to anything, that's a girl who'd get thrown in the drunk tank for the night.

  • JAT

    Seriously, guys get shafted when it comes to this. Girls get to have no personal responsibility, get to do what they want, then even falsely accuse if they want (Umm…yeah I was therefore you raped me. Bet you regret using me for that one night stand don't you?)

    -If you get a girl drunk or high and then get together with her you have committed a sexual assault. If you do this and then have sex with her it is rape.
    -If you do not get a girl drunk or high but you know she is when you have sex you have committed rape.
    -If you are unaware (IMPORTANT, this is messed up) that a girl is drunk or high and you have sex with her you could be charged with rape.
    -Even if you too are drunk or high when you have sex with a girl who is drunk or high you could be charged with rape. It is not a sufficient defense to say, “I was wasted too!”

    This is great, drunk guy, drunk girl, guy comes out with sex offender status for the rest of his life and will have to tape pumpkins every halloween on his door so that people will not trick-or-treat at his house. Brilliant.

  • math genius

    Um, the story said that "Matt" gave "Amy" the equivalent of TWENTY "drinks". That's um…what…20 cans of beer?…20 shots of whiskey?

    This "rape awareness instructor" may as well have thrown in a bottle of chloroform and a dishrag. OF COURSE it's rape, it's rape by intoxication if nothing else.

    But this is an incredibly unrealistic example because of that massive quantity of alcohol and how Todd essentially "dosed" Amy with nearly enough of a central nervous system depressant to prepare her for major surgery. The response of the audience clearly says more about what they think of heavy alcohol use than what they think of male-female relationship and sexual assault – in fact most of the words in the article about the audience’s response talk about how she consumed alcohol rather than their sexual interaction.

    The story also has a very misleading phrase “the night heated up, clothes came off”. How does one (or two, as the phrase goes) “heat up the night” with one partner having roughly ten ounces of pure grain alcohol in them (or maybe twenty if the instructor meant she had TWENTY shots of Everclear)? Maybe set fire to her breath?

    A better example might have Amy drinking less alcohol which she sought out solely on her own volition, Todd drinking some alcohol, and the two of them engaging in some clearly consensual sexual activity and then either deciding to stop at some point before the guy wants to or acquesing to his actions to appease him and "get it over" sooner. That might be rape too, or at least it's not fully consensual, and one would hope that intellegent average college students would have the goal of understanding and maybe advocating fully consensual relationships, rather than just recognizing a few words thrown in -- like a trick question -- as a certain indication that rape was involved.

  • Revolting

    Attitudes like #1, #4 are why so many women get raped, including (maybe especially?) at Yale, and nothing ever happens …

  • math genius with a cup of coffee

    Sorry, I just noticed something…the speaker wasn't actually a "rape awareness instructor", it was "attorney Brett Sokolow, president of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management".

    I have to wonder if this speaker had more to do with Yale's (and other colleges, he seems to do this frequently) concern for civil liability in cases where students, usually below the legal drinking age, drink alcohol and have sex, and one party is unsure or denying consent afterward, and in the ensuing investigation the school involved is questioned or outright sued over their responsibility to prevent underage drinking.

    Because look what I found here, in an article from the Bowling Green (Western Kentucky University) news:

    Two different legal systems: College procedures vary from verdicts made at county level, by John Higgins, Akron Journal, Knight-Ridder Tribune, 3/28/06

    (begin quote)

    The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management consults with universities throughout the country on how to lower students' expectations of due process by removing words that evoke the criminal justice system.

    (end quote)

    That’s a quote from the article’s author, not from some “men’s rights” advocate. The entire Knight-Ridder/McClatchy wire article is worth reading, as well as other stories on this “risk management” group which can find through Google. Make up your own mind, ok?

    It would seem that this “risk management” expert – and that’s what he is, more an expert in corporate damage control than sexual assault or positive sexuality – it seems that what he’s really advocating is a double-edged sword which college administrations would wield to make it easier for say guys to be held responsible (like by disciplinary action) in cases like the one he described in his Yale talk … and maybe harder for women to hold colleges responsible through tort (civil liability) actions for their inaction in preventing alcohol abuse or inadequately educating men in how to conduct themselves in sexual relationships. I could cite many cases were colleges have done little more in cases like attorney Sokolow has described besides suspend or expel the guy involved – and sometimes discipline the woman involved as well, though not as severely – but I doubt Sokolow covered that in his talk to the students anyway, so I won’t go into that here.

    With that in mind, could we maybe find some common ground between commenter #6 above and maybe commenter #1? The case as described as Sokolow in his presentation here (and on other campuses) is clearly rape, but for reasons I described in my previous post this really isn’t a story which one is going to learn about sexual consent, communication, and refusal issues, it’s more a morality tale told to a captive audience of students under one campus' legal umbrella to “don’t drink and have sex”.

    Of course students should be told to not drink and have sex, but can’t we expect more than a message to students to avoid the most clearly compromising situations – which essentially was this presentation’s message, "don't drink and have sex"? Can’t we focus on educating them about positive sexual relationships in the process? Why not, college students are of legal age to have sex, at least? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on the grayer cases like I described above, and less on the concerns of a group which seem more concerned about relieving colleges of their civil liability than educating students about the more common situations they’d run into as barriers to positive sexual relationships?

  • JasonM

    Ah, the twenty-first century - girls get to be as slutty as they want, then cry "rape" (the feminist version of "cry wolf") when they wake up the next morning and decide they regret their awesomely irresponsible acts, and don't wish to take responsibility for their own stupendously ill-considered actions.

    Meanwhile men get all the blame and none of the credit. Hey, equal rights!

    Heather Mac Donald, "The Campus Rape Myth"

  • Matt

    One thing that I would like to have read about is the extent to which "Amy" was visibly drunk. That ought to be the important criterion (Though it does seem pretty implausible that "Todd" had no idea). At any rate, this presentation seems pretty light on nuance. Twenty shots is about a full glass of grain alcohol. Commenter #5 got it right. I'd be more interested in more ambiguous story.

  • Christopher Bieda '83

    Mr. Sokolow, if the woman who spoke frightened you, you're easily frightened. Besides, if there was only one acceptable choice for the jury, viz., guilty, then why bother asking? Was the sole purpose of the jurying exercise to marginalize the third of students who disagreed with your conclusion? I am reminded of mass movements in which the silent observer among the chanting, frenzied hordes are picked out as suspect by the authorities.

    As abolitionists once were.

    Freedom of thought requires that in all but the most absurdly one-sided cases (this one was not one of these) we respect, not attack or insult, those who dare disagree with us. To do otherwise is Rove-ian, is it not?

    I would've voted to convict myself, but I could not bring myself to find the acquiting third "frightening."

    It is worth noting that Mr. Sokolow is an advocate by profession, not a judge; his days are spent zealously advancing the interests of those who pay him. That he is unable to live comfortably among those who might disagree with everything he believes is more likely an occupational disease. I believe the correct response to him would've been pity.

  • Josh

    I thought it was only considered rape if one of the partners does not want to engage in sex - and makes that clear to the other partner.

    Being drunk and regretting your action later does not seem to qualify in the category of 'getting raped.'

    On the other hand: I do know that there's a lot of grey area between consent and rape, which is why this is such a complicated, touchy issue. I, too, have been in thee different situations where I really didn't want to continue in the sexual act I was in, but wasn't able to successfully end it. I guess I was too drunk, scared, lazy, awkward, weak, or something - but I couldn't bring myself to forcibly say no to something that I didn't really want but was being pushed on me. Was it rape? Or at least sexual assault? I don't know. I don't think so. I decided it was my own fault for not being forceful and clear about my not wanting to engage in the act. I do regret being such a wuss though to these pushy women who can't take a (strong) hint that I want them to stop.

  • Wow

    I am really disturbed by this attitude people have of putting the responsibility of not being raped on the woman. Can't men just be responsible for not raping people? It's not actually that hard.

    Also, people don't "cry rape." Saying that they do is actually deeply hurtful to anyone who has ever experienced it, especially to the large majority who have been afraid to tell anyone. Underreporting is more of a problem here than false reporting. Read over these comments and think good and hard about why that might be.

    Also, I was at this event, and Sokolow made it clear that the law states that if the person is "incapacitated" in such a way as to make him/her incapable of consent, then it is rape. The audience voted on whether or not that was the case, and they voted that, clearly, she was. I wouldn't advise forming an opinion based on this article, the reporting for which (in my opinion) is pretty bad. If you're really upset that the young man was found guilty in this case 11 years ago, then I would strongly urge you to attend this event next year. Even if you don't agree with the outcome, it's good to have all the facts.

  • "Wolf, Then"

    Crystal Mangum?

  • Anonymous

    The abortion artist Alivia Schwarz, drunk sex, free love parties etc..
    Are Yalees really so morally corrupt, or does the media just portray them in a negative light ? Are you aware of how the school looks in the eyes of the world ?