Column: Alcohol becoming more common in sexual assault among college students | column book

Mary B. kos conversation

One in three that’s the number of college women who said they experienced sexual assault either in high school or college. That’s according to my new peer-reviewed research in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, which is based on survey data from 2015.

This number is much higher than it was in the mid-1980s when I had the first such citizenship

Survey for college students

in 32 institutions. At the time, the number was one in four.

Of these incidents, 75% of the victims said they had been incapacitated by alcohol at the time of the assault. In the mid-1980s, this figure was 50%.

For the study, sexual assault was defined consistent with the federal definition of rape. This definition goes beyond forced rape. It includes oral, anal or vaginal penetration when the victim is too drunk to consent.

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Among college men, one in 19 during the first survey admitted to having committed sexual assault while in high school or college. This number increased to one in eight.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is that the vast majority of college men who responded to the survey who admitted to having committed sexual assault say they committed sexual assault while their victims were incapacitated by alcohol.

Back then and now, that number stood at about nine in 10 college students who admitted to having committed sexual assault. This means that the most common scenario of sexual assault on women in college involves men who exploit women when they are impotent.

For the first survey conducted in 1985, 6159 students answered the questions. For the second survey, which I ran in 2015 and was analyzing over the past several years, 2,471 students responded. Both surveys had response rates of over 90%.

These findings are important because colleges have been trying to implement programs and strategies to reduce irresponsible drinking and the role it plays in sexual abuse. If the prevalence of rape is rising rather than declining, the effectiveness of these programs is called into question.

Previous research—including that from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta—has demonstrated that these methods of preventing alcohol use and related sexual harm have been largely ineffective.

That is, it does not reduce drinking problems nor discourage perpetrators from exploiting victims when they are powerless.

The researchers suggested the need to take a closer look at trying a more comprehensive approach to preventing sexual violence. This includes modifying drinking environments.

Changing the drinking environment may entail efforts to change or regulate practices in bars and liquor stores on or near college campuses, such as “2 for 1” drink offerings, beer in pitchers, and “ladies’ nights” in which women pay less than men for alcohol or Cover fees, and sponsored drinking games, such as beer-pong or cup-flip.

Mary B. Koss is a professor of public health at the University of Arizona. This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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