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Sexual Assault and Rape

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Terms and Concepts in Sexual Assault continued...

As a rule, when either person is intoxicated, it is best to stop intimate behavior. If one person is more intoxicated than the other, the less intoxicated person may be held responsible for any sexual behaviors that occur. Remember that any compromise of the victim will be construed as nonconsent by law enforcement regardless of the circumstances.

Involuntary intoxication or the intentional drugging of people with alcohol or other drugs, classified as "date rape drugs" (drugs that alter mental consciousness), can lead to allegations of rape by intoxication, a much more serious form of sexual assault.

Even if one person is voluntarily intoxicated, however, complications can arise in many situations. For the recipient of sexual advances, the decrease in self-restraint and a more thoughtless and carefree attitude toward intimacy can lead to sexual intimacy that is not preplanned.

Intoxicated people may also appear to give consent by appearing to enjoy what they are doing and actively participating, even though ultimately they may not remember what happened (if they are in a blackout state). When they look back on the encounter, they may feel they have been violated, although at no time did they act as if they were being violated and in fact may have been actively and enthusiastically participating. For example, a person may be consenting to the sexual activity just because he or she is intoxicated. If that person were sober, he or she might not agree to have sex. In situations like these, the intoxication level of the victim can contribute to the accusation of sexual assault.

If the initiator of sexual intimacy is also intoxicated, the situation is further complicated. First, his or her ability to make valid decisions about consent or nonconsent is compromised. If both people are compromised, finding out exactly what happened during the sexual encounter is more difficult. If legal action is initiated and neither person has a clear idea of what happened, guilt or innocence becomes more difficult to determine. In any case, intoxication of the alleged assailant is a very weak legal defense against allegations of abuse.

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