Binge drinking increases risk of later sexual assault for first-year female college students

May 15, 2012 by Kathleen Raven, University of Georgia

(Medical Xpress) -- A new study by University of Georgia researchers demonstrates that several months before a female victim is sexually assaulted, her pattern of drinking alcohol influences her risk for unwanted sexual contact, ranging from unwanted kissing to rape.

The study, recently published in the journal and Victims, found that first-year female college students who drank four or more in one day at the start of the study were 33 percent more likely to be victims of a sexual assault in the following months. Women who drank four during two days or more were 17 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted later. In contrast, 6 percent of the non-drinkers experienced a sexual assault during the course of the study.

"It's not just the amount you're drinking—it's the pattern," said lead author Emily Mouilso, a doctoral candidate in the psychology department in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Even if the volume of alcohol is the same, when you drink it all at once, you are putting yourself at the highest risk."

Binge drinking among women on college campuses has become more commonplace in the past two decades. However, much research on this subject has been cross-sectional in design—focusing only on a victim's or perpetrator's drinking at the time of a sexual assault. Mouilso and co-author Sarah Fischer, assistant professor of psychology, gathered their data using a prospective design. Nearly 200 female participants were recruited at the beginning of their first fall semester on campus. The researchers monitored drinking patterns from August through May and met with each participant three times.

They used a method called timeline follow-back—a common procedure in behavior and alcohol research—to assist with calling up events from memory. To determine alcohol consumption, participants were given a blank calendar of the previous month and asked questions intended to trigger memories. For example, researchers asked participants if any birthday or other celebrations occurred during the previous month. The women self-reported how much alcohol they consumed each day during the selected time period. They also reported any sexual assaults.

"The main take-home point is that binge drinking at the start of the year increases risk for freshmen college women for later sexual assault during their first year of college," Fischer said.

Both researchers stressed the importance of avoiding a "victim blaming" mentality when considering the results of their study. Mouilso said sexual assaults are always the complete responsibility of the person who pressures or forces the other to engage in any unwanted sexual act.

The study could lead to additional research that may help untangle the conundrum of drinking and sexual assault. For example, Fischer said, could be a marker of a broader social context, such as hanging out with peers who drink heavily or a tendency to put oneself in high-risk situations.

"Now future studies can test hypotheses to find out why leads to risk with ," said Fischer.

Explore further: Binge drinking by freshman women tied to sexual assault risk, according to new research

Related Stories

Binge drinking by freshman women tied to sexual assault risk, according to new research

December 8, 2011
Many young women who steer clear of alcohol while they're in high school may change their ways once they go off to college. And those who take up binge drinking may be at relatively high risk of sexual assault, according ...

Sexually victimized girls with PTSD not more likely to binge drink later

July 27, 2011
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common outcome of sexual assault among many teenage girls, but they do not necessarily cope by binge drinking, a new study finds. When they occur in these girls, PTSD symptoms, such ...

Intoxication important in determining when some men commit sexual aggression

September 7, 2011
A new review article published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review assesses the extent to which alcohol plays a causal role in sexual assault perpetration. Results found that men who are already prone to anger, who have ...

Curbing college binge drinking: What role do 'alcohol expectancies' play?

April 18, 2012
Researchers at The Miriam Hospital say interventions targeting what college students often see as the pleasurable effects of alcohol – including loosened inhibitions and feeling more bold and outgoing – may be one ...

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.