Alcohol-related sexual assault is a common problem among college students, according to a new joint study on how binge drinking correlates to rape. The study showed that colleges with a higher rate of binge drinkers also had more rapes.
“Binge drinking isn’t a harmless rite of passage but a risk factor in violence against women,” said George W. Dowdall, a co-author of the study and professor of sociology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. drinking in order to make colleges safer and healthier environments.”
The study used data collected from 119 schools that participated in three Harvard School of Health College Alcohol Surveys from 1997 to 2001.
Nearly 24,000 women were surveyed. The report found that one in 20 women reported being raped and nearly three-quarters of them were intoxicated during the rape.
Binge drinking is arguably the most important health issue among college students and is associated with several behavioral and health problems for both the binge drinker and those around them, said Henry Wechsler. Wechsler is a co-author of the study and director of College Alcohol Studies at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Wechsler said about 44 percent of college students in this study could be classified as binge drinkers.
Researchers for the college alcohol survey defined binge drinking as the consumption of five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks for men and four or more drinks in a row for women.
The researchers then used the percentage of binge drinkers at a school to determine its heavy episodic drinking rate.
A school’s episodic drinking rate can be placed into one of three categories: high-heavy episodic, medium-heavy episodic and low-heavy episodic.
A high-heavy episodic school has 50 percent binge drinkers, the medium-heavy category has 36 to 50 percent and the low-heavy category has zero to 35 percent. Students who are binge drinkers are 7.8 times more likely to experience rape than non-binge drinkers.
The biggest risk factor for a potential victim of rape while intoxicated is their school’s heavy episodic drinking level, according to the report. The researchers said colleges should tackle both the drinking and rape problem.
“This study points to an urgent need for more alcohol prevention programs on campuses, along with sexual assault education,” said Mary Koss, a co-author of the study and professor of public health at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Kathy Rose-Mockry is aware of this problem at the University of Kansas. As director of the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center, she administers the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Program, which offers victims a place to turn to for advice from a trained staff and is helping increase awareness and decrease these sexual assaults, Rose-Mockry said.
Rose-Mockry said the program helps between 30 to 40 victims a year but she thought the number was inaccurate because not every victim is able to speak out about the incident.
The center offers workshops to the campus community every semester and is available by request to living groups and student organizations. The workshops include topics on sexual aggression, dating attitudes and expectations, sexual consent and personal safety.