Guest commentary: Sex without consent is a crime

By Anthony Daykin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 22, 2005

The University of Arizona Police Department is committed to working with the campus community to ensure a safe environment for students, staff, faculty and visitors. We believe in proactive involvement and expending significant resources, providing educational presentations to students in many venues, and addressing a variety of topics.

None of these topics is more important than the crime of sexual assault. Although most students enjoy the opportunities to expand their social skills and enter healthy relationships while attending the university, there are significant numbers of students who unfortunately cause harm to others or are harmed by others. Too many students - an overwhelming majority of whom are female - are victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse or relationship violence. A disproportionate number of these crimes occur during the initial weeks of each fall semester, as students are away from home and experimenting with new behaviors associated with that freedom for the first time in their lives.

Alcohol is a significant factor in these crimes, and it is estimated that the vast majority of campus sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol by the man, the woman or both. Most students at the UA who drink are light-to-moderate drinkers, but high-risk behaviors, including sex without consent, are generally associated with those students in the minority who are heavy drinkers. It is very important to note that the legal definition of sexual assault addresses the fact that a person is not able to give consent if they are in an "impaired state," including an impaired state resulting from the use of alcohol.

It is a reality that, despite all the efforts of the police department and all the best avoidance techniques on the part of women, only men can absolutely stop sexual assault. Men are identified ­­­­­­as the offenders in 98 percent of all sexual assault cases. Men must understand that "no" means "no," and that unless explicit consent has been given, there is no consent. Without consent, any sexual contact is a criminal act.

Victims of sex crimes often endure lifelong psychological and emotional consequences as a result of the violation. Members of our community who have experienced this type of victimization are strongly encouraged to contact the UA Oasis Program for Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, 626-2051, which provides comprehensive services including confidential reporting of incidents, advocacy, counseling, and a review of legal and medical options. Another important 24-hour community resource is the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA), 327-7273, that offers crisis counseling and forensic medical exams. UAPD is another important 24-hour resource and is available at 621-8273 or by dialing 911 from anywhere on campus.

The consequences for offenders and alleged offenders are serious. Suspects must disclose arrests forever and will be listed in police records as suspects, even if never arrested or prosecuted. Those found guilty must disclose convictions for the rest of their lives and will be required to register as sex offenders.

The powerful truth about these crimes is that they are preventable. Women on campus can reduce the possibility of becoming a victim by supporting one another and by practicing the avoidance techniques suggested by UAPD and the Oasis Center. However, it is very clear that men are almost always the only ones who can make the decision to not be a sex offender. If there is the slightest doubt as to whether there is consent, stop! Don't take any chances with your future, or with hers. Let us all share the goal of ensuring a safe environment for all of our students and for all of our community.

- Anthony Daykin is chief of the University of Arizona Police Department.