Regretting it after? Focus group perspectives on alcohol consumption, nonconsensual sex and false allegations of rape
Recent social network responses to the conviction of the Welsh footballer Ched Evans for the rape of an extremely intoxicated woman, including the public ‘tweeting’ of the victim’s name, highlight the profound impact that alcohol consumption can have on third parties assessments of the legitimacy of alcohol-involved rapes. This article critically examines the findings of four focus groups which were based around an incident in which sex takes place between intoxicated individuals and consent is disputed. The study provides a timely examination of young peoples’ attitudes and understandings around alcohol consumption, nonconsensual sex and the role of alcohol in the false allegation process. Findings indicate a considerable consensus across participants’ perspectives regarding alcohol-involved rape. When members of a drinking dyad are presented as equally intoxicated, there was a reduced willingness to label the depiction of nonconsensual sex as rape. It is acknowledged that further research is needed to help categorically clarify rates of false rape reporting and the factors associated with these allegations.
Research indicates that individuals often endorse beliefs that false allegations in rape cases are commonplace and are also reluctant to believe a woman who states she was raped whilst drinking alcohol. On this basis, it can be hypothesised that people are increasingly likely to believe that false allegations occur more often when the complainant has been drinking. In order to examine the ways in which alcohol intoxication and false allegations of rape intertwine, this article critically examines the findings of four focus groups which were based around a vignette in which sex takes place between intoxicated individuals and consent is disputed. The article examines participants’ personal beliefs around three major themes: ‘not quite rape’; false allegations of rape; and voluntary intoxication and intercourse. Although participants acknowledged that sexual intercourse when drunk to the point of incapacity may amount to an unpleasant experience, it was held to constitute something distinctly different to rape. Participants also argued that it would be unfair to hold a defendant criminally liable for intercourse when parties were equally drunk and that alcohol-involved consensual sex may be reclassified as rape the next morning in order to rationalise regretted drunken behaviour.
Gunby, C., Carline, A., & Beynon, C. (2012). Regretting it After? Focus Group Perspectives on Alcohol Consumption, Nonconsensual Sex and False Allegations of Rape Social & Legal Studies, 22 (1), 87-106 DOI: 10.1177/0964663912459293