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Location of drinking matters in evaluating sexual assault risk

December 12, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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In understanding the potential link between college-age binge drinking and sexual assault, the location where the drinking takes place might carry more importance than the actual drinking behavior.

According to a study published in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, a male student's binge drinking does not increase the likelihood of his becoming a perpetrator of sexual assault. But those students who frequently attend bars or parties are more likely to have sexually assaulted a woman at some point in the first five semesters of college, the study found.

“People drawn to these settings may be at higher risk,” said Maria Testa, PhD, lead researcher on the study with the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.

For purposes of this study, which involved surveys of nearly 1,000 male college students in the U.S., sexual assault was defined as forced intercourse, attempted intercourse or unwanted contact.

Study authors believe these findings could have implications for reducing the incidence of sexual assault in college communities. Potentially meaningful interventions could include training bystanders to intervene on potentially dangerous situations as they unfold, and more strictly enforcing underage drinking laws in establishments.