What Students Need to Know About Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the #1 Rape Weapon

A desk near the entrance of the Cayton Center holds flyers and pamphlets for students to take, a basket of condoms to promote safe sex, and whistles that contain compasses, with the SMC Emergency and Police phone number on the back. Organizers provide students with flyers and pamphlets, while a PowerPoint presentation above them displayed information on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and their ties to sexual assault.

New to Santa Monica College, Biology student Maryam Abbas studies at the Cayton Center Lounge, unaware that a workshop was taking place before her. "I found it kind of interesting learning about what alcoholism is," says Abbas. "I think most people see it not as a disease, they rather see it as 'they're a bad person'."

This perception among students was exactly what Speaker Paulla Elmore has tried to address for 15 years. A Licenced Marriage and Family Therapist of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, Elmore holds a workshop, "Beyond Sex Tool Box Series: Sex! What You Need to Know about Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the #1 Rape Weapon", before students on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 11:15 a.m.

Through these workshops, Elmore informs students about topics such as alcoholism, substance abuse, and consensual sex six times a year. Today, she hopes that students are a little more aware about alcohol and substance abuse, monitor their alcohol intake, and seek help when needed after attending the workshop.

"There is HOPE for recovery but there is no 'cure'," reads the PowerPoint behind Elmore. She says addiction is a progressive medical illness - like physical illnesses as diabetes, addiction is linked to family history and genetics.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states that symptoms of addiction include: loss of control of substance use, neglecting important activities, taking risks in order to obtain substance, having relationship issues, deterioration in hygiene and so on. Addiction is diagnosed as mild with a presence of 2-3 symptoms, moderate with a presence of 4-5 symptoms, and severe with a presence of 6 or more symptoms.

One of the slides Elmore shows students explains what defines binge drinking. For men it is five drinks in a matter of two hours and for women it is 4 drinks in a matter of two hours. Age, weight, and time also play a factor in the affects of binge drinking.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 90% of alcohol consumed by college aged drinkers is in the form of binge drinking. Their report states, "About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall."

Not only does having mental issues lead to alcohol and substance use, but alcohol and substance use can cause mental issues in people as well. Substances usually cause already existing symptoms to worsen. Elmore uses the example of alcohol as a depressant, causing the user to feel relaxed at first but after too much drinking can result in long term brain damage.

Another slide shows students that the Averse Childhood Experiences study, conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discovered a link between adults who were sexually and physically abused as children and their addiction to alcohol and drugs. Elmore encourages students that "it's okay to come talk to the health center," in order to learn better ways of coping with depression and anxiety due to abuse and alcoholism.

Elmore then presents the connection between alcohol and sexual abuse. The NIAAA reported that each year, an estimated 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 have unprotected sex, and more than 100,000 students report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex.

The report continues to claim that 85 percent of sexual assaults are caused by acquaintances of victims and nine out of 10 victims are women. Elmore advises students can work towards minimizing these risks by trusting their instincts if they feel unsafe, watching their drinks, helping their friends who are under the influence, intervening if something seems inappropriate, and reporting sexual assault immediately to stay safe while attending a party with alcohol.

The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault considers any forced, coerced, unwanted sexual contact as sexual assault. "Yes means yes" and a "yes can become a no at any time," is displayed on the screen before students.

If students have suffered sexual assault or suffer from alcoholism, substance abuse, or mental illness, they can seek help from the Center for Wellness and Wellbeing on the main campus in room 110 of the Liberal Arts building. The office is open on Mondays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Off campus support can be received from Didi Hirsch Health Services by contacting their office at (310) 390-8896 or from the Didi Hirsch Youth Substance Use Treatment by contacting their office at (310)751-1207.

The next workshop, "Beyond Sex Toolbox Series: Spectrum of Violence/Healthy Relationships", will be held at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12 in the Cayton Center, located above the cafeteria on the main campus.