On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Phil asked his Twitter followers this question: If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused
As a friend to many survivors and a former college sexual assault activist who taught about rape and consent, I am shocked and appalled by this question.
One in four women in the United States will be raped in their lifetime. Lesson 101 in my courses was that sexual contact without verbal, sober, conscious consent is rape. And yet, this respected television doctor is questioning whether sex with a person who is incapacitated is rape at all.
There is no question, Dr Phil: rape is rape.
Earlier this year I started a petition on change.org with a college football player, Connor Clancy, asking high school coaches to teach young athletes about rape and sexual assault. We launched this in the days after the Steubenville trial, in which two high school football players were charged with raping a fellow student who was drunk to the point of being unable to consent. Their defense attorneys argued that the young men charged didn’t know it was rape when they committed it. We won and hundreds of thousands of young athletes now have access to the education Dr. Phil appears to need himself.
The key to ending the plague of rape and sexual assault in this country is educating young people about the difference between consensual sex and rape and having Dr. Phil approach that topic on national television would be a huge step forward. Unfortunately, the use of the hashtag #teensaccused implies that the story around the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the United States, from Steubenville to Notre Dame, should be centered around the young men who raped as “victims” rather than the other way around. It’s the opposite. Survivors of rape deserve, and our nation needs them to have, a national platform like the Dr. Phil Show in which to discuss their experiences. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be his plan.
Even though he took the tweet down, of course Dr. Phil should admit his error in judgement and apologize. But he needs to go a step further. I am asking Dr. Phil to produce a show that shines a light on survivors of rape and sexual assault and begin a national conversation about the specifics of consent – which includes not raping people while they are drunk or otherwise unable to consent.
The many people who have survived rape -- not committed it -- are the ones who should have a national platform to discuss how we as a society can make sure tragedies like Steubenville never happen again.
Please sign my petition asking Dr. Phil to publicly announce that he will produce and air a show that centers survivors’ voices and educates the public about the true definition of rape and sexual assault, as well as how to prevent it.