Letter to the Editor: Alcohol and relationship abuse

Oct. 10, 2012, 11:54 a.m.

We at the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE) were thrilled to see our educational initiatives discussed in the Sept. 27 article “OAPE to host freshman alcohol outreach talks.”

One aspect that we wanted to share that was not represented in the article is the new approach and collaboration we’ve initiated with the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education & Response (SARA). Our goal is to show how deeply related these two issues are and, at the same time, how fundamentally separate they are. To that end we have enhanced a number of our initiatives. We’ve added a module to AlcoholEdu, our online course that all incoming students are required to complete prior to arriving on to campus, which includes education and policy messaging about sexual assault.

We’ve partnered with the SARA Office to produce our freshman outreach presentation, “The Social Zone,” which now includes messaging about individual and collective responsibility with regards to alcohol, sexual violence and relationship abuse. During this talk we use activities, scenarios and discussion to get students to think critically about what it means to be an active part of a community that looks out for each and every one of its members and does not stand idly by when there is a potential threat.

Our offices are also working together to engage the campus through town hall meetings, guest speakers and events that look at each of these issues through a different lens in order to reach students in ways that make these issues relevant to them.

This partnership came out of feedback from students about the perception that alcohol and sexual violence often go hand in hand. Our goal is to show students how intricate that relationship is by dissecting it to show that there can be a relationship.

But correlation does not equal causation. We look at alcohol and sexual violence separately, and then we talk about the ways in which the two are related and how that is unnecessarily perpetuated through popular media. On average, at least 50% of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use (Abbey et al., 1996a, 1998; Copenhaver and Grauerholz, 1991; Harrington and Leitenberg, 1994; Koss, 1988). Within the study’s nationally represented sample of college students, the results found that 74% of perpetrators and 55% of rape victims had been drinking alcohol prior to the assault.

It is important to look at how these issues play out in our culture through television, movies, music and digital media, so that we can understand how expectations of the college experience are often influenced by various forms of media. These expectations often influence the behavior of college students, so this conversation sets the stage for deeper discussion on life at Stanford.

We hope to give our students tools to act when they see a peer in danger and to hold one another accountable for alcohol misuse, sexual violence and relationship abuse. We hope students come away equipped with the language to hold someone accountable for his or her behavior or to support a survivor of abuse or assault.

As part of a community, we often look around and hope that the person next to us has our best interests in mind. In order for that to be true, we all have to be willing to watch out for those around us too.


Jarreau Bowen, Assistant Director – Office of Alcohol Policy & Education (OAPE)

Sacchi Patel, Manager, Education & Emergency Response – Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response (SARA)

For more information about the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE), visit alcohol.stanford.edu. For more information about the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education and Response (SARA) visit studentaffairs.stanford.edu/sara.

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