When it comes to sexual assault on college campuses, Fox News host Lou Dobbs doesn't see “anything controversial” about telling women not to drink in order to avoid sexual assault.
In August, former George Washington University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg came under fire for comments he made on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, where Trachtenberg argued that women should be “trained not to drink in excess” so that they can fend off potential rapists.
During the September 3 edition of Outnumbered, Dobbs vocalized his support for Trachtenberg's comments, wondering “why there should be anything controversial” about advising college students to avoid alcohol to protect themselves from sexual assault. He went on to explain that the “vulnerability” of drinking is a “disastrous choice” to make, while co-host Harris Faulkner agreed, that “personal responsibility... is very important in all of this”:
But the implication that preventing sexual assault is as simple as telling women not to drink is faulty. Although excessive alcohol consumption may play a role in encouraging damaging behavior, "[t]he fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault," according to a literature review from the National Institutes of Health:
[M]en are legally and morally responsible for acts of sexual assault they commit, regardless of whether or not they were intoxicated or felt that the woman had led them on previously. The fact that a woman's alcohol consumption may increase their likelihood of experiencing sexual assault does not make them responsible for the man's behavior, although such information may empower women when used in prevention programs.
And as an expert explained to USA Today, “People don't get raped because they have been drinking, because they are passed out or because they are drunk. People get raped because there is a perpetrator there -- someone who wants to take advantage of them.”
Dobb's dismissal of sexual assault as a problem that can be mitigated by educating women not to drink places blame squarely on victims' shoulders instead of pointing the finger at perpetrators of sexual assault. Such willingness to shift responsibility away from perpetrators to the victims contributes to the dangerous culture of stigmatization that keeps many survivors from reporting the crimes in the first place.