Police chief recognizes drugs make consent impossible

Oh, wow. I’ve been reading a disturbing number of stories recently (and reported on one) about law enforcement failing to understand what constitutes consent any better than the average rape apologist. In that sad context, this is kind of exciting.

It’s a complicated case in which a kid invited some other kids to his parents’ cabin for a party, then the party mushroomed with uninvited guests, and somebody obviously spiked some alcohol with something [ETA: apparently, they were served an energy drink that, in its normal state, makes it frighteningly easy to get dangerously high levels of alcohol in one’s system without realizing it], because twelve people, eleven of them female, wound up in the hospital from overdoses. It won’t be easy to sort this out, because the witnesses and victims don’t even know precisely what happened. For example, authorities came across a young man sexually assaulting a semi-conscious young woman, but later found out she was his girlfriend, and she ended up in the hospital from the spiked drinks, and they’re still trying to sort out what happened there. Not surprisingly, CNN refers to it as sex:

One man at the party was taken into custody when an officer entered a room of the home and found him having sex with a semi-conscious young woman, Ferguson said. Police later found the woman was the young man’s girlfriend. Ferguson said she showed signs of having ingested a spiked drink and was treated and released at a hospital. The young man was detained and questioned but not booked, police said Saturday, but the investigation into the incident was ongoing.

But – and this is where I got excited:

“Whatever occurred up there wasn’t consensual,” Ferguson told CNN on Saturday.

YES. THANK YOU. Because when someone’s blitzed out of his or her mind, and someone else commits a sex act with his or her unconscious or semi-conscious body, consent isn’t possible. It is assault, pure and simple. And this police chief gets it.


  1. SunlessNick says

    I find this story equal parts exciting, to use your word, and depressing – the former for the reasons you state – and the latter too. The authorities making this realisation shouldn’t [i]be[/i] such a cause for celebration.

  2. scarlett says

    It’s the same reason I found the SMH article exciting – maybe authorities are finally saying ‘hey, we don’t care about the details, rape is rape’. Which is not to say the details shoudn’t count, I don’t believe a boy who raped his girlfriend while drunk should go in the same catagory as a ragig sex criminal, but I do believe that if there afre some hefty punishments for tthose that cross the line, we would, as a society, find ourselves witha line that isn’t crossed so much.

  3. sbg says

    They’re now saying the drinks weren’t drugged, but that doesn’t make the officers seeing that situation, given what info they had going in, as non-consensual any less cool. Good for them. They absolutely made the right call in questioning the man who thought it was a fine idea to have sex with his semi-conscious girlfriend.

    Alcohol in and of itself is a drug that fucks with your ability to reason, yo. I wish more people would remember this.

    • says

      Ah, thanks for that. It confused me at first, until:

      A 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko sells for about $2.50 and has an alcohol content of 12 percent, making it comparable to drinking five to six beers. The caffeine in the drink can also suspend the effects of alcohol consumption, allowing a person to consume more than usual, officials said.

      So, the drinks were not tampered with, but they were much higher proof than many of the kids probably realized they were getting, and that’s how so many of them got so sick. That’s scary.

      But am I missing something, or does this not really change anything? I mean, with the example of the semi-conscious girlfriend: no matter what she’s drugged with, if SHE says it was consensual, then so be it. But had she said she didn’t consent, then the fact that it was high alcohol rather than drugs wouldn’t matter. She could be semi-conscious from an undiagnosed medical condition, and it would still not be okay to assume she was capable of giving consent.

      • sbg says

        Nope, doesn’t change anything, except the rape apologists triumphantly claiming how overwrought people got when it was thought the drinks were spiked and this guy was found with a semiconscious woman. (I didn’t see any on the P-I, but I swear I saw comments like that – probably Times.)

        The cops did absolutely the right thing in that situation. Not only that, they understood inherently that level of unawareness (by alcohol or GHB or whatever) means dubious consent at best, and it’s kind of sad how awesome that is.

  4. Anne says

    So, uh, consent is important, and drunkenness prevents consent. I get it. But how should we react to a situation where both parties are too drunk to consent and they have sex anyway? It sounds like in this case the man was less drunk than the woman; I’m not trying to defend him here, I’m trying to understand the combination of consent, impairment, and guilt a little better.

    • sbg says

      I think a key difference is that both parties are on equal footing. Equal bad footing, but there isn’t that power imbalance that exists when one is absolutely hammered and the other … not so much.

      • says

        Yes, that. Plus, if one party says “Wait, I didn’t consent”, being drunk will not exonerate the other from that charge. Realistically, it probably would since juries and DA’s both crawl so far up the asses of rapists on a regular basis, but that’s another depressing story.

        Also, on a side note: I’ve heard a lot of men say they (the men) were raped by a woman while they were highly intoxicated. I find this plausible because most women would need a man to be incapacitated before they could overpower him enough to rape him. So this particular scenario stands out as one that should be of concern to men as *potential victims* as well as potential perpetrators.

        • DragonLord says

          Unfortunately people tend to bring up the “well known” fact that alcohol inhibits a mans ability to get an erection as a reason why they’re lying about that sort of rape.

        • Keely says

          Yeah, I’m a freshman in college and I’ve actually heard of a sickeningly high number of incidences in which relatively sober girls have taken advantage of largely incapacitated guys. Of course, there are even fewer people who take female-on-male assault seriously than there are people who take seriously the reverse: I was at a party a couple months ago when this guy started hitting on me, and since I was attracted to him I went with it–until he started telling me he was blackout drunk (I was sober), at which point I politely turned him down and left; when I recount this anecdote, however, my conscientiousness about not taking advantage of him is typically met with derisive laughter and cries of “Taking advantage of a guy? No such thing!”

          • Casey says

            This reminded me…some guy on /wooo/ said rape activists are full of shit because apparently they “don’t care about male rape victims”, I explained why he was wrong, wrong, WRONG, then everyone else in the thread started going “LOLMale Rape victims~?! That’s bullshit!”

            It’s gotten to the point where I can’t go to my favorite chan anymore. And Christ, don’t get me started on the misogyny.

          • says

            Oh, seriously, people. Everybody who owns a TV knows men get raped in prison and boys get raped by perverts. Anyone who forgets about these victims when they’re spouting about their anti-rape concerns is being completely stupid, and I’d rather not have them on my side.

          • Charles RB says

            “Everybody who owns a TV knows men get raped in prison”

            But that’s funny and deserves to happen, because they’re prisoners. That’ll teach them to commit crimes, eh folks?

        • Casey says

          Well the frame of reference this guy was coming from is that “not even anti-rape activists care about male rape victims/believe them if they’re raped by a woman”, I explained the scenario most female rapists utilize (the guy is intoxicated/date rape thing) and there was just a WAVE of posters with “humorous” image macros expressing disbelief/scorn and derision at the concept of a man being raped.

          • says

            Hands up – who hasn’t heard a story about a woman “having sex” with a guy while he was passed out or nearly so? A lot of times, the victims don’t recognize this as rape, yet they’re angry about having “had sex”, when they normally wouldn’t be. The clues are there – people just have to THINK to put them together.

  5. Charles RB says

    I find this mainly depressing, because Washington State Law says rape in the second agree is “when the victim is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated”, and defines mental incapacity as including “the influence of a substance or from some other cause”.

    We should not find it notable for police chiefs to enforce the law.

    • says

      It really, really says something about US policing culture that we do. And not just in rape cases. The law gets enforced unevenly depending on who in a case is connected to whom. Justice, my ass.

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