Women who are victims of sexual assault while in college are three times more likely than their peers to be assaulted again within a year, a new study reports.
Researchers followed nearly 1,000 college women, most age 18 to 21, over a five-year period, studying their drinking habits and experiences of severe physical and sexual assault.
Severe physical victimization includes assaults with or without a weapon. Severe sexual victimization includes rape and attempted rape, including incapacitated rape, where a victim is too intoxicated from drugs or alcohol to provide consent.
“Initially, we were attempting to see if victimization increased drinking, and if drinking then increased future risk,” says Kathleen Parks, senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo.
“Instead, we found that the biggest predictor of future victimization is not drinking, but past victimization.”
The study provided some good news, however, Parks says. “We found that severe sexual victimization decreased across the years in college.”
Drinking to cope
In light of the recent report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, the study suggests that campuses need to be aware of the increased risk of future victimization for women who have experienced sexual assault.
Women who were victims showed an increase in drinking in the year following their assaults, perhaps as a coping mechanism.
“Our findings show that women who have been victims may need to be followed for many months to a year to see if their drinking increases,” Parks says.
Parks’ previous research has shown that freshmen college women have a much higher likelihood of victimization if they engage in binge drinking.
The study was published online in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provided funding.
Source: University at Buffalo