Alcohol use and victimization among college women

  • Roughly 10 percent of women have experienced an attempted or completed rape during their first year at an American college.
  • Alcohol is believed to have been involved at least 50 percent of the time.
  • New findings show a clear temporal relationship between days of alcohol consumption and risk of experiencing victimization, both sexual and nonsexual.

When parents send their daughters off to college, few think they may return home as victims. Yet roughly 10 percent of women have experienced an attempted or completed rape during their first year at an American college and, often, alcohol is involved. This association is reinforced by findings published in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, namely, that college women have a much greater chance of experiencing victimization both sexual and nonsexual on the days they drink.

"This is the first study to look at daily drinking and both sexual and nonsexual victimization experiences using a sample of college women during a number of weeks," said Kathleen A. Parks, senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions and first author of the study. "The methods we used allowed us to compare the likelihood of victimization on drinking days to the likelihood of victimization on nondrinking days. We found that on days when women drank, particularly when they consumed alcohol heavily, they were at a much greater likelihood of experiencing both sexual and nonsexual victimization."

R. Lorraine Collins, also a senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions, said that establishing an association between alcohol and assault is important, though not surprising. "And it's not just sexual assault," she said, "alcohol use is associated with lots of different types of aggression. For example, male-on-male aggression increases in bar settings, there is


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