Breakthrough: Military reclassifies alcohol as a ‘weapon’ in sexual assault cases
Military and civilian officials prosecuting sexual assault allegations against an Air Force cadet have said that they will consider alcohol a “weapon” in the case.
Boulder District Attorney’s Office sexual assault unit chief Katharina Booth told The Colorado Springs Gazette that attackers were more likely to use alcohol in sexual assaults than guns, physical forces or threats.
“It’s a weapon,” Booth said.
During a November party, Air Force Academy junior cadet Daniel Ryerson allegedly supplied a woman with alcohol until she was unconscious, and then “carried” her to a bathroom where he sexually assaulted her.
Ryerson was charged with sexual assault in January after DNA linked him to the attack.
A December report from the Pentagon defined alcohol as a “weapon,” following a directive from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last year.
“They include a department- wide review of institutional alcohol policies, which will be revised where necessary to address risks that alcohol poses to others, including the risk that alcohol is used as a weapon against victims in a predatory way,” Hagel said at the time.
The Pentagon estimated in 2013 that alcohol was involved in at least a third of sexual assault incidents. But experts believe that the number may be much higher, making it a factor in nearly half of the 6,000 sexual assaults reported to the Defense Department in 2014.
“For the same reason that a robber chooses a drunk victim (over a sober victim), a rapist will also choose a drunk victim,” victim advocate Anne Munch explained during a presentation to the Air Force Academy last week.