Blog

Month: May 2015

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 29, 2015

More states are considering “Yes Means Yes” laws, and the five things you need to know about climate surveys.

More States Consider Affirmative Consent Bills

We’ve reported extensively on California’s “Yes Means Yes” law, which requires colleges and universities that participate in state student financial aid programs to adopt a definition of consent as an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” At the time, we described California as being “at the forefront of addressing a difficult societal problem with a controversial new law.” Now, as expected by our team of legal analysts, other states are following California’s lead with affirmative consent laws of their own. Connecticut’s Senate has passed a similar bill already—if the law is approved by the House and signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Connecticut will become the second state with an affirmative consent law. A movement in favor of such a law is under way in Pennsylvania as well, with some schools in that state having adopted an affirmative consent definition without a legislative mandate.

What You Need to Know About Climate Surveys

It is generally agreed that mandatory climate surveys are coming. What does your institution need to know to be prepared? This article from Inside Higher Ed provides a useful cheat sheet, listing five things you should know about mandatory climate surveys. They include the likelihood that such surveys will be required by law, the fact that surveys are already being designed and deployed at various campuses, the caveat that participation will pose unique challenges, what remains unknown about how the surveys will be utilized, and the possibility that climate surveys will reveal “blind spots” in a school’s prevention efforts. The notalone.gov website provides information about how to plan and conduct a climate survey, as well as a sample “empirically informed survey.”

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Think About It Updates
Posted by On Thursday, May 28, 2015

 

Changes are coming to Think About It! We’ve made a number of additions and amendments in response to new research, updated regulations, and of course feedback from our users and clients. These changes will ensure the course is compliant with new laws and maintain our commitment to training built for and with our users. Many of the changes are small – minor revisions or tightening up the design – but some are more substantial. Below is a list and explanations of the major changes in our 2015 Think About It update. We have organized them into two broad categories: compliance updates and content updates.

Compliance Updates

A lot has changed in the four years since we started developing Think About It, including new regulations and laws at the state and federal levels. When the Campus SaVE Act passed in 2013, we added new content, and we regularly update the state laws in our courses. For the current update we implemented a more comprehensive set of changes based on the Department of Educations’s Title IX FAQ document and the final Campus SaVE Act regulations. Below are the major changes:

Understanding a survivor’s reactions – We added an interaction illustrating the effects of trauma on survivors of sexual assault. This addition was something we included in our seven month follow up course, “The Way Forward,” because we felt it was important to help students understand the science behind survivors’ sometimes counterintuitive response to trauma. However, the page also helps satisfy new guidance on student training requirements for Title IX compliance.

SurvivorReaction

Title IX – It is important that students understand the range of protections against sexual violence available to them. We added a new tabbed page explaining that Title IX prohibits sex discrimination and harassment as well as retaliation against someone who complains about or participates in sexual misconduct proceedings. In addition, the page provides contact information for the school’s Title IX office and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Conduct Proceedings – We replaced the old “Disciplinary Hearings” page with a new “Conduct Proceedings” page, based on new Title IX guidance and Campus SaVE Act regulations. The page provides detailed information about how to report sexual misconduct or find confidential resources, and a school’s required disciplinary procedures.

Analyzing Unwelcome Sexual Conduct – We added two new pages explaining what constitutes sexual harassment. These pages explain quid pro quo sexual harassment and how to analyze whether unwelcome sexual conduct creates a hostile environment.

Interim Measures – A new page called “Interim Measures” explains the range of protective measures that may be available for victims of sexual misconduct.

Retaliation Case Study – In order to help consolidate the new information we’ve included around sexual harassment, we added a new interaction that asks students to apply their knowledge of retaliation to a realistic scenario. The scenario also illustrates how Title IX protects students against retaliation.

RetaliationScenario

Resources – Students must have access to information about local and campus resources as well as reporting procedures at their school. We have changed the organization of the resources and created new documentation to better guide schools on what information to provide for inclusion in their courses.

Content Updates

WCAG 2.0 Accessibility – Accessibility is one of our clients’ highest priorities, so naturally it’s one of our highest priorities too. The 2015 version of Think About It is fully accessible HTML5 technology (WCAG 2.0 AA) and tablet supported.

Course Reorganization ­– Talking to clients and reading student feedback, we decided to reorder the course in a way that seemed more natural and helped the sections to reinforce each other. In the new course we’ve moved “Healthy Relationships” right after “Sex in College.” Placing them next to each other will help students see the connections between these important topics. The new course order is 1.) Prologue, 2.) Sex in College, 3.) Healthy Relationships, 4.) Partying Smart, 5.) Sexual Violence, 6.) Epilogue. We rewrote the section introductions and summaries in order to reflect this new order.

Prologue – In the prologue, we updated content about the prevalence of sexual violence against female college students and added information about sexual violence against male college students. The new information was drawn from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ special report “Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013.”

Pressure & Expectations – Think About It encourages students to think critically about the cultural and social pressures that influence their behaviors and attitudes. This kind of critical reflection helps students become more self-aware, empowering them to make safer, more informed decisions. We strengthened this approach by replacing “Elements of the Hook Up,” which was an informational page, with a new page that pushes students to reflect on the institutional, societal, and individual pressures that shape beliefs and attitudes around intimate behavior.

Alcohol and Identity – We replaced “Drinking and College Culture” with a new “Alcohol & Identity” page. The two pages are similar in purpose: both help students reflect on the cultural and social factors that influence their attitudes towards alcohol. Since individual schools’ cultures vary greatly, we expanded to focus to a broader set of issues while achieving the same learning objective.

Systemic Problems – As part of a comprehensive approach to sexual violence prevention, Think About It begins by addressing the college culture around intimacy. We include a video of interviews with students about college hook-up culture. The video confronts student misperceptions about how much their peers are hooking up as well as gender stereotypes, such as double standards. To better reach these goals, we shortened the video to focus its message and rewrote the feedback to the follow-up Insights Question.

Cyberstalking – Research and client feedback revealed the growing role of social media in stalking and bullying cases. To better inform students of how perpetrators use social media to stalk victims, we replaced the real stalking cases in Think About It with cyberstalking cases.

Relationship Violence – When students think about abusive relationships, many of them only think of physical abuse. But there are other kinds of abuse. To help students recognize the range of abusive behavior, we replaced the “Cycle of Abuse” page with a new page covering different types of “Relationship Violence.”

The Drug Deal – We heard from students and clients that they wanted to learn more about prescription drug abuse, which they perceived to be a growing problem on many campuses. In order to help address this request, we reworked the “Drug Deal” interaction to include more information on prescription drug abuse. We also included a few social norming questions, asking students about their peers’ substance use. We based these questions on data from national surveys. These questions will help dispel students’ misconceptions about drug abuse on their campuses.

Stages of Acquaintance Assault – We expanded content on responding to acquaintance assault to include information from Dr. Rebecca Campbell’s research on the neurobiology of many victims of sexual assault. We have also added a new page on the effects of trauma on survivors of sexual assault (see Compliance Updates).

Sources & Citations – We updated our sources and citations page to provide a more comprehensive list of the sources we consulted when building and updating the course and to direct interested students to resources for further research.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 22, 2015

A new study reveals a sexual assault epidemic at one school in New York, Huffington Post publishes a list of schools under Title IX investigation for sexual harassment, and U.S. News looks at what’s working and what still needs to be done in the fight against campus sexual assault.

New Study Published on the Prevalence of Sexual Assault

We’ve written extensively about the debate over the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, and the need for more data about the rate at which college students are victimized by sexual violence. Now, a new study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests there is at least one upstate New York university where over 18% of women will become victims of rape or attempted rape by the end of their freshman year. Rape was defined as “vaginal, oral, or anal penetration using threats of violence or use of physical force, or using the tactic of victim incapacitation.” 15% of the women surveyed were victims of completed or attempted rape while they were incapacitated, and a further 9% were victims of completed or attempted rape by force. While the survey’s small sample size means that it will not be putting the debate over the nation-wide prevalence of sexual assault to rest, it serves as further evidence of the desperate need to address college campus rapes.

Schools under Title IX Investigation for Sexual Harassment Cases

The Department of Education’s OCR has been disclosing the names of schools under Title IX investigation for failing to properly adjudicate sexual assault cases for some time. What they haven’t done, until now, is release the names of schools under Title IX investigation for mishandling sexual harassment cases. Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Huffington Post, that list of schools is available—click the link above to see it on their website. The Huffington Post makes a strong argument for the relevance of this information to current and prospective students of the listed institutions, pointing out that besides the impact harassment itself has on a student’s well-being and learning environment, such behavior is “inextricably linked” to sexual assault.

Sexual Assault: What’s Working, What Work Still needs to be Done

This piece from US News and World Report takes a look back at some of the efforts to combat sexual assault we’ve seen over the past few years. While the article highlights impressive gains, especially in the arena of increased awareness, it also points out that there is much work that still needs to be done. The piece calls for ongoing training programs that make an actual effort to change campus culture, as opposed to brief sessions intended only to fulfill a legal requirement, and for colleges “to take a more comprehensive approach to addressing sexual assault, rather than a piece-by-piece approach.”

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Krakauer’s New Book Tells “Depressingly Typical” Tale of Sexual Assault
Posted by On Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jon Krakauer’s new book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, is an unsparing account of the criminal justice system’s handling of survivors of sexual violence. It reports on several sexual assault cases involving students at the University of Montana (UM) in Missoula, beginning with the assaults themselves and then following the victims through the legal system as they seek justice.

Krakauer sticks closely to the victims’ perspectives as they navigate an often hostile legal system and the social repercussions of coming forward with rape allegations, especially severe in several cases in which the accused are star players for UM’s football team, the Grizzlies. In doing so, Krakauer shows us, as Margaret Talbot wrote in her review for The New Yorker, “what a brave and risky thing it still is for a woman to report a rape.”

UM’s Office of Public Safety was the subject of a yearlong federal investigation conducted by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice (DOJ) into its handling of sexual assault complaints, and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office was investigated by the DOJ following allegations that the county mishandled the prosecution of sexual assaults. In addition, the Office for Civil Rights’ Title IX compliance review of UM produced “a blueprint ” for protecting students from sexual assault. As a result UM and the Missoula, perhaps unfairly, have become a poster child for what is wrong with the way our legal system, colleges, and universities are handling sexual assault cases.

Krakauer, the author of bestselling non-fiction like Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, takes an approach similar to his earlier work with Missoula, relying heavily on interviews with survivors and transcripts from the investigations and trials to flesh out the narrative. He tells many of the stories in vivid first-person detail, which allows him to explore the complex and often confusing feelings survivors face in the aftermath of an assault.

Again and again, Krakauer reveals in moving detail the emotional and psychological consequences of the assaults, from the trauma of the attack to more subtle long-term effects that still haunt these women years later. One survivor grapples with feelings of betrayal and loyalty after she is raped by a man she had been friends with since the first grade. “Even though he raped me,” she explains to Krakauer, “I couldn’t help still caring about him on some level” (46).

Indeed, betrayal is one of the book’s themes: betrayal by the perpetrators who take advantage of the trust and friendship of these women, and betrayal by the systems that fail to deliver justice.

In one depressing (though by now familiar) anecdote, a young woman tells Krakauer that the detective investigating her report of rape asked her if she had a boyfriend, explaining that “sometimes girls cheat on their boyfriends, and regret it, and then claim they were raped” (53-54). Later, when the police interview the accused, they reassure him: “We have a lot of cases where girls come in and report stuff they are not sure about, and then it becomes rape. And it’s not fair…I don’t think you did anything wrong. I think that it’s torturing you that you are accused of this. And that bothers me…This case, in my opinion, is closed” (59).

The power of Missoula lies in Krakauer’s ability to place the reader in these distressing situations. Experiencing first-hand the doubt, dismissive questioning, and social retaliation survivors of sexual violence experience helps the reader understand how certain attitudes and actions not only discourage survivors from reporting these crimes but also allow perpetrators to escape the consequences of their actions.

Krakauer is particularly critical of subjecting sexual assault victims to the adversarial nature of the legal system. He quotes extensively from the well-known psychiatrist Judith Lewis Herman’s article, “The Mental Health of Crime Victims”: “if one set out intentionally to design a system for provoking symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder,” Herman writes, “it might look very much like a court of law” (qtd. 243). Krakauer is no less pointed in his own comments:

In the adversarial system, it’s more important to follow legal procedure than to speak the truth. Due process trumps honest and ordinary justice. Trials degenerate into clashes that bring to mind cage fights, characterized by wildly exaggerated claims, highly selective presentation of the facts, and brutal interrogation of witnesses.

The excessive partisanship of the adversarial system becomes especially problematic when the offense being adjudicated is rape, which all but guarantees that lawyers for the accused party will attempt to turn the tables and put the victim on trial. (243)

Though Krakauer tries to make his target the criminal justice system writ large, some members of the Missoula community have felt singled out — in particular, prosecutor Kirsten Pabst. During the events chronicled in Missoula, Pabst was a prosecutor for the County Attorney and later served as a defense attorney for one of the accused men. Pabst is now the County Attorney for Missoula. In the book, she emerges as something of a villain: a cold, uncaring lawyer.

In a public statement released in response to Krakauer’s book, Pabst took issue with her portrayal, calling the book, “inaccurate, exaggerated and unnecessarily personal.” And though Pabst does not accuse Krakauer directly, she implies he does not fully grasp the complexities of the legal system, writing that “[m]any people commonly misunderstand the role of the prosecutor in the criminal justice system.” Indeed some reviewers have also taken issue with Krakauer’s analysis.

The book’s critique of the justice system provides valuable insight by allowing readers to see investigations and trials through the eyes of the victims, avoiding abstract legal discussions that often weigh down conversations around sexual assault. Unfortunately, Krakauer does not always achieve the right balance between the individual experiences of these young women and the larger social and cultural issues that enable rapists.

Some reviewers have already lamented Krakauer’s failure to address the larger culture of sexual assault. Emily Bazelon, for instance, in her review for The New York Times, described Missoula as “one-sided” and complained that it “lacks texture.” Indeed, Krakauer does not explore the psychology of the perpetrators, nor does he spend much time on the student culture at UM.

And it’s not just the causes and motives of assault where Bazelon feels Krakauer comes up short; she also worries that Krakauer’s focus on the women’s experience with the justice system risks “reducing them, however inadvertently, to victimhood,” concluding “‘Missoula’ ends up sounding only one cautionary note in a debate that’s becoming ever more layered and cacophonous.”

But it’s more than just missing nuance. Sometimes the bigger picture gets lost in the details. It often feels like we’re reading about the problems of one city, one police department, or one attorney, instead of a pervasive, deep-seated national issue. In a recent interview with NPR, Krakauer admits as much, “I don’t mean to single out Missoula: Its rape rate is a little less than the national average; I think its problems with dealing with rape are pretty depressingly typical.”

“Depressingly typical.” That’s something readers of Missoula should keep in mind.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 15, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have the results of three new studies of the causes, prevalence, and consequences of binge drinking.

Brain Protein Appears to Block Binge Drinking

A brain protein called GIRK3 (a member of the “G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium channel” (GIRK) family) may play an important role in moderating binge drinking in mice, according to researchers from The Scripps Research Institute. Based on evidence that the GIRK family can be directly activated by alcohol and the knowledge that the specific protein in question, GIRK3, modulates the effect of drugs such as GHB and cocaine, researchers removed GIRK3 in lab mice then exposed them to alcohol. They observed that the modified mice were more likely to drink to the point of intoxication when given access to ethanol for just two hours a day, a condition meant to mimic a human happy hour (or college party.) These results suggest one possible avenue for pharmaceutical research aimed at addressing binge drinking.

New Study Reveals where Binge Drinking is Most Prevalent

A new study published by the American Journal of Public Health reveals which American counties have the highest rates of binge drinking and heavy drinking amongst adults 21 and over. Heavy drinking, defined as more than two drinks a day for men and more than one a day for women, was most prevalent in Menominee County in Wisconsin, and least common in Madison County, Idaho. Binge  drinking, defined as more than 5 drinks for men and 4 for women in about 2 hours, was most common in Esmeralda County, Nevada, and least common in Hancock County, Tennessee, where just 2.4% of drinking-age adults partook in binge drinking. Overall, the areas with the highest rates of problem drinking and drinking in general were New England, the West coast, and northern parts of the West and Midwest. Click the link above to see maps of problem drinking by county.

Binge Drinking Permanently Damages Developing Brains

Finally, if anyone doubted the dangers binge drinking poses to college students, a new study confirms that the dangers of heavy drinking lie not just in reckless decisions and alcohol poisoning when a student is intoxicated, but also in damage done to the brain that will linger—permanently. Research conducted on lab rats suggests that binge drinking creates permanent, negative changes in the developing brain. Since brain development in humans continues into the mid-twenties, these findings have sobering implications for the consequences of college binge drinking. Rats given alcohol while still in rodent adolescence had impaired memory and learning ability.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 8, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have two different articles focusing on different aspects of the data released last Tuesday by the Department of Education and a list of seven things to know about CASA from the National Law Review.

Good News: The Number of Reported Sexual Assaults is Up

The data released by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Federal Student Aid office (FSA) last Tuesday in response to a request from Senators Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tim Kaine, confirmed a trend we’ve noted earlier —the number of reported sexual assaults on college campuses has been and continues to increase dramatically. In 2009, 3,300 assaults were reported. In 2013, there were over 6,000 reports. As we and others have covered extensively, this is a positive development in the fight against campus sexual violence, suggesting that increased awareness has made students feel more comfortable reporting incidents of sexual violence than they did in the past. However, as pointed out by this article from the Christian Science Monitor, the number of reported assaults still trails far behind the numbers reported in anonymous surveys, indicating there is still much work to do.

Bad News: The Length of OCR Investigations is Also Up

One unfortunate side effect of the federal government’s aggressive efforts to address campus sexual violence is a dramatic increase in the average length of Title IX investigations. The same report discussed in the above story reveals that the average OCR investigation now takes 1,469 days—around four years, meaning that even a student who filed a complaint as a freshman would graduate before the investigation was resolved. As this piece from Bloomberg Business points out, there are serious consequences of an investigation dragging on that long—solutions to the problems that led to the complaint are delayed, the facts of the pertinent cases become more difficult to ascertain, and victim/survivors are denied closure. However, as the renewed focus on sexual assault leads to more and more complaints and investigations, the OCR has seen its budget cut — reducing its full-time staff from 1,148 to 544 between 1980 and 2014 — contributing to delays and a backlog of cases.  The President’s budget proposal and Senators Kaine, Boxer, and Gillibrand have called for increased funding for the OCR.

The National Law Review Tells You What You Need to Know About CASA

If you follow this blog regularly you’ll have seen this analysis of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the proposed law with bipartisan support that would introduce new, more stringent regulations for how colleges and universities handle sexual harassment and violence. The article above, published by the National Law Review, highlights seven aspects of the proposed law you should be aware of, including increased fines, a Campus Climate Survey requirement, and broader reporting requirements.

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CampusClarity Partners with Kappa Delta Rho
Posted by On Thursday, May 7, 2015

CampusClarity today announced that it will be partnering with national fraternity Kappa Delta Rho to provide anti-sexual violence and substance abuse training to 40 Kappa Delta Rho chapters at colleges and universities across the country.

CampusClarity’s Think About It program is a three-part interactive online course that fulfills the training requirements of Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act. It has been used to meet these requirements and educate students, faculty and staff at over 300 institutions, including other national Greek organizations. Think About It’s cutting-edge design and interactivity has been recognized with a Gold Stevie business award for best online training and a NASPA Gold Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention for the University of San Francisco.

“The “Think About It” program will be fully implemented in this upcoming academic year as part of our Legion Program, which is a total member education program designed to provide leadership skills and knowledge to our Brothers that will allow them to lead successfully in their communities,” said Kappa Delta Rho Executive Director Joe Rosenberg.

Kappa Delta Rho was founded May 17, 1905 at Middlebury College. Since then it has initiated more than 29,000 members. “Kappa Delta Rho is an organization characterized by devotion to respect for others and honor above all,” Rosenberg said. “Our national leadership is committed to upholding the high standards our fraternity has always espoused.  One facet of this commitment is reinforcing our values of honor and respect in educating our undergraduate membership in the area of sexual violence and harassment prevention. The Think About It program represents a deepening of that commitment.”

“We are very proud to partner with Kappa Delta Rho. Through conversations with their leadership in the development of this partnership, it became clear to us that we shared a common commitment to sexual violence and substance abuse prevention education,” said LawRoom CRO, Preston Clark.

More About CampusClarity

LawRoom is the leading cloud-based compliance training provider for many of the fastest growing tech companies in the Bay Area, as well as many of the top universities across the country. LawRoom delivers award-winning employee and student training courses through its easy-to-use online platform to help corporations and universities meet federal and state compliance requirements.

In 2011, LawRoom partnered with the University of San Francisco to build an online harm-reduction course for students on alcohol, drugs, and sexual assault under a new brand, CampusClarity. In collaboration with USF’s Division of Student Life, LawRoom spent 18 months developing the course in consultation with various academic departments and with over 40 student focus groups. In early 2013, LawRoom launched Think About It, which is today used by over 300 colleges and universities across the country. Over 500,000 students, faculty, and staff will train with LawRoom in 2015.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 1, 2015

Why prevention efforts need to start as early as high school, the University of California’s response to the California State Auditor’s review and OCR investigations, and Bud Light retracts an ill-considered slogan.

Sexual Violence Starts in High School—Prevention Must Too

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 44% of sexual assaults are committed when the victim is not yet 18. This piece in the Huffington Post by writer and activist Soraya Chemaly makes an important point: Clearly sexual assault does not begin in college. Prevention efforts shouldn’t either. Chemaly goes on to outline other alarming statistics about the young ages of both victim/survivors and perpetrators and points to a number of horrific rape cases involving high school-aged victims and perpetrators to make her case that high schools can and must do more to address sexual violence. She also outlines some of the obstacles to that seemingly obvious step, including the lack of available resources and discomfort of having a conversation about these difficult topics with teenagers. Nevertheless, Chemaly stresses beginning prevention as early as possible is crucial not only to protect American high schoolers but also to provide them with the tools they need to protect themselves when they leave home for college.

How the UC System is Starting to Address It’s Sexual Violence Problem

This piece from USA Today follows up on the University of California in the midst of OCR investigations of several of the state’s largest campuses, including UCLA and UC Berkeley, and nearly a year after the California State Auditor released their report on the UC system’s sexual assault practices. The article covers the background of the report and investigations, focusing on the efforts of student activists in filing a Clery Act complaint and Title IX claims against UC Berkeley. It also reports on what the UC system has done to address the inadequacies which led to the investigations and were covered by the CSA report. These changes include mandatory sexual violence prevention training, the hiring of confidential survivor advocates, and a survivor resource specialist. However, university officials and activists alike stress how much more work remains if the UC system is to do all it can to prevent sexual violence and support its victim/survivors.

Bud Light Corrects a Thoughtless Slogan

According to a poorly thought-out slogan featured on new packaging, Bud Light is “the perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” It didn’t take long for Reddit and Twitter users to point out what apparently slipped past everyone at Anheuser-Busch: The ugly way that particular slogan recalls the connection between intoxication and sexual assault, and especially the way alcohol can and is used as a weapon by perpetrators against their victims. To the company’s credit, an apology was issued swiftly and the offending slogan won’t be printed again. Still, the whole episode is an important reminder of the need to consider language and how it affects culture and behavior.

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