“If a judge finds me innocent, then there should be no reason why the university should take any unfair or unjust action against me,” he said.
A USC student who was arrested for sexual assault’s case was dismissed after a judge ruled video footage from earlier in the night as consent. The case was dismissed regardless of the fact that the victim was intoxicated and admitted to the hospital shortly after, where she was deemed “nearly unconscious when she arrived,” and her roommate described her as “passed out” when she saw his naked body on top of hers. It was dismissed regardless of the fact that consent can be withdrawn at any time (the video footage was taken long before any sexual contact began) and footage of individuals interacting with each other does not equal consent to sexual activity.
The judge in this case may have ruled this encounter consensual, but USC’s Title IX Coordinator and office are continuing their investigation for a reason. And regardless of their ultimate decision, let’s get one thing clear: innocence is not guaranteed by way of case dismissal. Far too many cases of domestic abuse and sexual assault are thrown out, dismissed, or result in a not-guilty verdict, but that does not mean the abuse or assault did not occur. Yes, some individuals are falsely accused and are hopefully -rightfully- expunged of their accusation when such a case goes to trial. And it’s terrible when this happens. But this is rare. Very rare. As rare as mostly every other crime where false accusations are made. About 2-8% of cases.
In opposition to the disturbing lyrics of Robin Thicke, consent cannot be blurred. Consent is actually very simple. If someone is impaired, unconscious, passed out, or any other variation of the sort: consent is not possible. The judge ruling consent from the footage makes a lot of sense for someone who does not understand how consent works. Because they see a person flirting, making sexual gestures, and inviting someone over. Therefore, they are obviously consenting to sex, right? Wrong.
She is completely 100% entitled to not consent at any time. Even if she flirted all night. Even if she suggested she wanted to do something previously. Even if she invited him over. None of that gives him the right to do something sexually to her; only her enthusiastic, willing, and sober consent in that moment does and not a moment sooner.
As victim blaming is rampant in our culture, some might say, “she was asking for it” or, “she deserves it” or, “she shouldn’t have gotten that drunk”. Our society loves to slut-shame individuals who choose to engage in partying behaviors on their own time. Yes, there is more risk involved when there is alcohol/drug consumption. But that in no way means that someone ever deserves or asks to be sexually assaulted. There is something seriously wrong if our mindset when we see a drunk person is ‘have sex with this person’ instead of ‘help this person’. I would like to believe, and statistics show, that most of us fall into the latter category.
Then why is so much of our focus on how the victim was behaving, but no one stopped to think about why the perpetrator chose to engage in sexual activity with her when she was too drunk to stand up? Why didn’t her friend say, ‘let me make you sure get home safe’ instead of watching her drunkenly walk off with someone she just met? As bystanders, we have a responsibility to help others when we know something is not quite right. There are many, many ways to help and we always want to assure we are not putting ourselves at risk of danger or harm by doing so, either. But in reality, the accountability should be on the perpetrator alone, not the bystanders and certainly not the victims.
All in all, there are systems in place that are sometimes flawed, sometimes broken and sometimes do not offer justice where it is needed. Whether you are convicted and found guilty or not, the courtroom is not the only place where justice lives. It’s on us to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and support survivors.