One ACT: The True Tale of Interpersonal Violence Upon Our Campus

The true story

by: David Ortiz

One ACT is an officially recognized student organization on our campus that strives to prevent interpersonal violence – defined by the World Health Organization as “any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm to those in the relationship” – by equipping students with the tools necessary to detect and to act against such violence. The group runs multiple four-hour long training sessions throughout the academic year, one of which I was myself present at this fall.

The four hours of the training session were focused upon the detection and prevention of physical, emotional, and sexual interpersonal violence. We viewed PowerPoint slides and reacted to hypothetical situations; we expressed our anger and our frustration, and resolved to do more to combat such violence on UNC’s campus. We viewed statistics, and heard testimonies of survivors. So far as the actual training session is concerned, for the most part, I had little problems.

That is because, overall, One ACT is a noble organization dedicated to a noble purpose – the prevention of physical, psychological, or sexual harm to individuals. No one, except perhaps for those desiccated souls who perpetrate such actions, can disagree with this judgment. Surely these things are evils, and surely we must work to prevent them with all the resources we can.

Simultaneously, however, there are two grievous issues with the organization. The primary problem is the consequence of the understanding of human sexuality from which One ACT proceeds – a worldview directly descended from the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, one that holds consent to be the solitary arbiter of sexual morality. If we grant, however, such a view of human sexuality, then we arrive to a more superficial problem: by this understanding of consent, there occurs a vast amount of sexual violence each and every day that is not acted against sufficiently by this university.

We will begin with the second of our two charges. One ACT’s understanding of human sexuality holds mutual consent to be the chief criteria for moral action. Furthermore, mutual consent is destroyed if one of the two consenting parties – particularly the woman – has consumed quantities of alcohol sufficient to impair judgment.

Keeping in mind the above facts, the statistics of UNC’s alcohol and drug use, collected by OneACT, are chilling in their implications. 40.3% of UNC’s students had indulged in “binge drinking” – defined as five or more drinks in a single sitting – within two weeks previous to the study. 75.2% had used alcohol in the year previous to the study. Furthermore, 72.5% of incidents of “unwanted sexual touching or fondling” occurred following heavy drinking, and 90.0% of unwanted sexual intercourse, i.e. rape. Additionally, 45.1% of the students filling out the study reported sexual activity in the past year; of these, 23.3% had used alcohol during their last incident and 6.8% had used drugs. 69.3% of students filling out the study were women.

The above statistics, again, were taken from a self-reported study in 2010 available on One ACT’s website. The implications of such statistics should be chilling. A picture of the situation at UNC emerges, in which great numbers of UNC students consume alcohol to a point that would destroy the ability to give mutual consent on a regular basis. Can anyone doubt, sincerely doubt, that for a significant number of these students, some form of sexual activity followed such heavy drinking? According to One ACT’s understanding of human sexuality – as well as Federal law’s – none of these students can legally give consent. One ACT understands this implication, as indicated by their hypothetical scenarios of drinking at parties: and yet our university and our community do little to prevent underage drinking (roughly 25% of students in the study were freshmen), to crack down on the wild excesses of our binge-drinkers, or to end the rampant abuses of such substances that we all know occur.

The same study also shows, furthermore, that nearly half our students had indulged in sexual activity in the past year, and that nearly a quarter of these had used alcohol and a sizable percentage had used drugs. These statistics are shocking. Again, understanding the heavy use of alcohol and/or drugs to destroy the ability to give mutual consent, we must conclude that a large number of that quarter of sexual activity while using alcohol or drugs was, legally speaking, rape.

One ACT, to its credit, understands this situation and seeks to prevent it through its training. I question, however, if running, and only superficially analyzing, mock scenarios of parties and drunken seductions is the correct course of action. It would seem stronger action is required, perhaps cracking down on underage drinking as well as on the abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Yet, it is precisely here that we have arrived, once again, to our first problem. Everything that our university and that One ACT will do to prevent such interpersonal violence will, ultimately, fail – not because their methods are not enough, not because their hatred of sexual abuse is wrong, but because their understanding of human sexuality is wrong.

One ACT, and the larger liberal community, understands sexual activity as moral when following the giving of mutual consent. Once the green light is given, anything goes. And, indeed, morally speaking, rape is a much greater evil than premarital sex. Yet, we must ask ourselves, if we render the morality of human sexuality down to mere consent, if we use every device in the books to prevent conception, if we make our bodies into mere instruments for pleasure, what will we have done to ourselves? Sexuality is about more than mere physical pleasure, more than animalistic satisfaction. I will not consent to be an animal: because what is within me – and within all – is more, is greater, and so demands more than only half-recalled pleasure.

Until our culture realizes that the ideals of the sexual revolution are all nothing but justifications of bestial pleasure, we will never see that the only foolproof safeguards are within ourselves. What distinguishes a rapist from a lover is not how much alcohol the one has consumed: but the love for the other burning passionately within the latter’s heart. A love that exists for more than pleasure, that exists for more than any earthly fulfillment – a love that we all can feel, within ourselves, despite how much we may try to deny it.

We cannot have a wild culture of drinking, drugs, and casual sexual activity without the consequences. Such a culture reduces men and women into objects of each other’s desire to feel good physically, yet does nothing to fulfill the human yearning for love. One ACT, despite its correct conclusion of the intolerable level of sexual abuse on our beloved campus, despite all the hours and sweat and passion its members pour into it, despite the great good that it does indeed do, fails insofar as it buys into such an understanding of human sexuality.

Are we to settle for the desperate, half-remembered, dimly-lit memories of pleasures with nameless phantoms that slip off into the chaos of college and of life, or are we to aspire to what is greater: an embrace given for and in love? For, in the end, that is our choice and our fate.