Victim Services holds workshop on sex under the influence

Originally published in the Central Florida Future:

In celebration of College Safety Awareness Month, UCF’s Victim Services sponsored a workshop Thursday in the Key West Ballroom that shed light on the dangers of having sex while under the influence.

Stephanie Spies and Michael Freeman of UCF’s Wellness and Health Promotion Services, which trains students on sexual violence prevention and offers workshops on healthy living strategies, informed students of rape myths and offered them useful tools. 

To Freeman, one of the most problematic rape myths is the thought that having sex with someone who is under the influence isn’t rape. But under Florida law, a person who is inebriated is unable to give consent. 

“For us, this issue of consent is absolutely at the center,” Freeman said, the coordinator for violence prevention, HIV testing and STI risk reduction. “One of these rape myths is that, ‘well she’s drinking a lot so let’s go ahead and let her keep drinking,’ but if that’s happening, there’s no way she can give consent.”

According to Freeman, 47 percent of sexual assaults, which includes rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse and other sexual activity that one does not agree to, can be prevented if bystanders intercede. 

“To our 18-year-old, 90-pound student who has never drunk a day in her life, one drink or Four Lokos or something is probably the end of any abilities to make decisions,” Freeman said. “What I want our young men to do is when they see that, the first thing they think of is ‘what if that were my sister, what would I do? What would I want for her?’ And what I want the young women to do is think, ‘what if that were my sister, or me? What would I want them to do?’ ”

Though Freeman has advocated for social justice since his teenage years, the notion of bystander intervention particularly hits home because of the rape of his daughter during her freshman year of college.

“She was date raped, and there were people standing over there that did nothing,” Freeman said. “That is what happens in our campuses and that is not acceptable.”

To Freeman, intervening isn’t exclusive to an individual physically stepping into a situation. He believes that just calling 911 and informing them of the circumstances is an effective bystander intervention. 

Victim services’ Senior Victim Advocate Coretta Cotton believed Freeman’s ideas on bystander intervention got students thinking.

“I think it got the students engaged and thinking and talking, and that’s what we want to do: make students aware of what’s out there and how to protect themselves,” Cotton said.

Junior psychology major Lauryn Golemme agreed. 

“He’s very inspirational, it’s good to see that someone has those ideals,” Golemme said. “This was very successful and it was good to see.”

Wellness and Health Promotion Services don’t subscribe to an abstinence-only approach to alcohol; they just want students to drink wisely. 

Spies, the coordinator of campus health promotion, provided students with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) card to help them monitor factors such as sex, weight and hours spent drinking, which all affect one’s BAC. 

To avoid driving or walking home while drunk, she also advised students to utilize KnightLYNX, UCF’s late night bus service that travels throughout the UCF community Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. The trips are free to all UCF students who show their UCF ID Card. If a student’s home is outside the UCF region, Spies suggest they obtain a Safe Ride voucher from the SGA Ticket Center, which provides students with one free cab ride every 61 days.

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