Alcohol Use Increases the Risk of Sexual Assault

At least half of sexual assaults among college students occur after the perpetrator, the victim, or both consume alcohol. Alcohol use can increase the risk of sexual assault in several ways. Alcohol use by a potential assailant can lead to increased aggressive behavior and an inability to interpret another person’s sexual interest accurately. Research also shows that college students — both men and women — believe that dates are more likely to include sexual intercourse when both participants drink alcohol. A study of sexual assault victims — half of whom were college students — found that women who were drinking when an assault took place reported that their intoxication made them take risks that they would normally avoid. Alcohol consumption can also undermine a person’s ability to resist an assault or sexual advance.

One study surveyed 238 female undergraduate students about their experiences with alcohol, sexual activity and sexual assault. Severely victimized women had more consensual sex partners, less assertive behavior toward unwanted sexual advances, greater alcohol consumption and more positive views of alcohol than other women did.[1]

Social settings have an influence as well. People drink more than usual when participating in drinking games, which have become common on some campuses. Peer group norms in many sororities and fraternities accept getting drunk as part of college life. The norm for most fraternity parties is to drink heavily. In focus groups, female students talked about warning signs such as getting too drunk or getting attention from men who have a reputation for forcing sex. However, most of these women said they believed that they were protected by the social setting because other people were nearby.

Notes

[1] Corbin, W.; Bernat, J.; Calhoun, K; McNair, L.; Seals, K. "Role of Alcohol Expectancies and Alcohol Consumption Among Sexually Victimized and Nonvictimized College Women," Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 16, 297-311, 2001

Date Created: October 1, 2008