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The Boston Globe

Opinion

Dante Ramos

Date rape ad: A crude but useful warning

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board went to an extreme with an ad meant to discourage binge drinking — the dirty bathroom floor, the panties around the ankles, the declaration that “SHE WANTED TO SAY NO, BUT SHE COULDN’T.” And yet the notion that this campaign, which has now been pulled, somehow blamed rape victims is deeply wrong-headed.

Let’s stipulate a few things up front: That the Pennsylvania ad was a crude scare tactic. That when a woman is raped (or a man, for that matter), only the rapist is at fault. That women (or men) should be able to drink socially, even to excess, even at frat parties, without being subjected to sexual assault.

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Still, the statistics connecting sexual aggression and binge drinking are beyond awful. While even stone-cold sober people can be victims of sexual violence, one recent study found that, “of women who’d ever consumed 10 or more drinks at a sitting since starting college, 59 percent said they were sexually victimized by the end of their first semester, which included anything from unwanted sexual contact to rape.”

Public-health campaigns have to deal with the world as it is, not as it should be. There’s a useful parallel between efforts to discourage date rape and efforts to combat HIV. As a legal matter, many states (although perhaps not Massachusetts, a quick Google search suggests) make it a crime to knowingly transmit HIV; at the least, it’s morally reprehensible to do so. Yet HIV educators have still cautioned gay men: For your own safety, don’t get so wasted that you can be cajoled — or pressured or forced — into doing something you don’t want to do. This isn’t blaming the victim; it’s enlisting people in their own protection.

The best way to remind men that date rape is a form of violence is to prosecute it aggressively. Asking would-be binge drinkers to keep their own interests in mind isn’t retrograde; it’s smart.

Twitter: @danteramos

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