Monthly Archives March 2024

Someone’s Gotta Say It


Drunk Sex or Sexual Assault?

Challenging Perceptions: The Drunk Sex Defense Reconsidered

By Marina Sampanes Peed
Executive Director of Mosaic Georgia

How often have you said or heard “It’s 5:00 somewhere” as a signal to relax from work or studies? From moonshine, wine and beer to the latest spiked seltzers, alcohol has been a social lubricant for many millennia. But its effects on decision-making and behavior are far-reaching and complex.

It Has a Name: Alcohol Myopia

Alcohol myopia – a state where the drinker’s mental and emotional focus narrows. Alcohol decreases the number of social and environmental cues the drinker can focus on; it enhances their focus on immediate gratification and impulsive decision making. The combination of impaired judgment and lower inhibitions can lead to risky behaviors.

Alcohol affects several areas of brain function:

  • reduces activity in the frontal lobe, which governs attention, motivation, and learning.
  • reduces effectiveness of the pre-frontal cortex, which moderates behavior and aggression.
  • triggers the brain’s reward centers and increases feelings of euphoria.
  • enters the amygdala and makes the drinker less likely to feel threatened or afraid.
  • enters the cerebellum, which governs coordination and balance. That is why drunk people often stagger and stumble.

Alcohol myopia explains why someone under the influence may overlook the cues of rejection from another person. It’s like wearing blinders, where only the immediate experience matters, and everything else (including the other person’s wishes) fades into the background. Or the cues they do receive trigger an aggressive response.

To be clear: alcohol DOES NOT CAUSE sexual assault. Most people under the influence of alcohol are not aggressive and DO NOT assault other people.

Consider three common harms by intoxicated people:

Drunk Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37 people in the US die in drunk driving crashes each day. In 2021, 13,384 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths – a 14% increase from 2020. Society rightfully condemns this behavior, recognizing the immense danger posed to oneself and others. No one asks for it.

Fighting While Drunk

Alcohol consumption is associated with aggressive behavior, consistent with lower inhibitions and impulsivity. Now, picture a heated altercation erupting between two guys at a bar, both under the influence of alcohol. Despite their impaired judgment, society does not hesitate to assign blame and hold them accountable for their violent behavior.

Sexually Assaulting while Drunk

When a drunk person sexually assaults – whether groping, fondling or worse – the responsibility narrative shifts. The assaulter’s behavior is neutralized by victim-blaming and excuses such as questioning consent and their responsibility, with the perpetrator often escaping consequences under the guise of “drunk sex.” “She was drunk, too.”….“She’s just embarrassed”….minimizing the harm to neutralize accountability. “He made a mistake. One error in judgment shouldn’t cost him his future.”

It must be asked: Why do we hold drunk individuals accountable for some actions but excuse them in another?

Confronting Double Standards

While some harms, like robbery, are readily condemned, others are met with doubt or denial.

If a man is mugged on the street and robbed of his watch and wallet, would he be asked:

  • Why were you wearing expensive clothes or a flashy watch?
  • Why were you out late?
  • How much had you had to drink?
  • Haven’t you been generous with needy people on the street before?
  • Did you say “no”? The suspect said you consented and gave him the watch and wallet without a struggle.

No, because in cases of robbery, the focus is rightfully on the perpetrator, not the victim.

It must be asked: Why in cases of sexual assault do we immediately shift to questioning the victim’s behavior?

Consider the “drunk sex defense,” where intoxication is an excuse in cases of sexual assault.

In too many cases, she reports that he raped her and he says she consented. All too often, survivors are subjected to scrutiny and blame while his behaviors are neutralized by deflecting and raising doubts about her.

Even though false reports of rape are among the lowest of all crimes (2-8% based on several rigorous studies), many investigations end after a preliminary interview with the victim and suspect. Without an offender-focused investigation, what he said she said is believed more than her own words. It’s no wonder that reports to law enforcement have declined in recent years to just 21% of all rapes.

Who is Aggressive when Drunk?

Predictors of who sexually assaults while inebriated include hypermasculinity, impersonal sex orientation (preference for sexual satisfaction without emotional connection or relational bonding), antisocial behavior, and low self-control. Males with unhealthy attitudes regarding sexual violence are much more likely to perpetrate sexual assault, have higher rates of alcohol use, and are much more likely to experience long-term alcohol-related problems. Alcohol is weaponized for physical and sexual aggression.

To make our community safer for everyone, each of us must confront our biases and cognitive dissonance surrounding the varied perceptions of drunk driving and sexual assault while under the influence. Until there are real consequences for all interpersonal violence, the aggressors have no incentive to change their behavior. Let’s confront these disparities and insist on a more equitable and just approach to addressing sexual violence.

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A Day in the Life of a Counselor at a Child Advocacy Center

Kendall Circle Headshot

By Kendall Wolz
Mental Health and Wellness Manager at Mosaic Georgia

When I was in graduate school, I regularly heard my peers talk about their dreams of owning a private counseling practice, working in a school system with students, or working on a behavioral health unit of a hospital. I do not recall anyone talking about opportunities to work as a therapist/counselor at a Child Advocacy Center.

A Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is a child-friendly, safe and neutral location where law enforcement and other investigators conduct and observe forensic interviews with children who are victims of crimes. The center is also a place where children and non-offending caregivers receive support, crisis intervention, and referrals.

Working as a therapist/counselor at a Child Advocacy Center is a unique opportunity that requires dedication, patience, and a willingness to walk with people through their significant traumatic experiences. Some days are filled with sadness for the child who has been hurt, outrage at systems and policies that still fail children, and anger towards perpetrators that have grossly harmed little ones. Amid the hard days, there are many glimmers of hope and celebrations. Our “why” reignites when we hear how a child effectively managed a trauma trigger using coping skills practiced in session. Our hearts are filled with joy when a child completes their trauma narrative signifying, they are ready to graduate from therapy. Each time a child shows up to session, willing to do the work of therapy, we are reminded of the resilience and strength children possess.

So, what is a day like for a therapist/counselor at Mosaic Georgia?

We rarely have two days that look the same in a given week at Mosaic Georgia. Our therapists manage a caseload of individual clients and schedule weekly sessions with each of them. We also facilitate various support groups during the week for non-offending caregivers and adult survivors of sexual trauma.

We participate once a month in multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meetings which allow us to interact with our partner agencies to ensure the clients we serve are receiving the assistance they need. Child Advocacy Centers work within a multi-disciplinary team of law enforcement, child protection agencies, district attorney’s offices, and other organizations involved in cases where child maltreatment has been disclosed. Multidisciplinary teams are integral for trauma-informed responses to children and their families. One way the MDT serves children and their families is that the intergroup communication prevents a child from having to tell their story multiple times to each agency involved in the response.

Our team of therapists/counselors also provide crisis counseling intervention when a child or adult comes to the center and needs immediate mental health support. Between sessions with clients, leading support groups, and meeting with the rest of the Mosaic Georgia staff and partner organizations, our team is busy building treatment plans for clients, attending trainings to increase awareness of best practices, and building resources for clients and the community.

Did you know that there are 47 Child Advocacy Centers in Georgia?

Throughout the United States there are Children’s Advocacy Centers providing critical services to children and families after outcries of abuse. If you know someone pursuing a career in the mental health field, I encourage you to share with them and make sure they are aware of the opportunity to provide therapy/counseling to children at a Child Advocacy Center.

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