We're a little crazy, about science!

Women and sexual assault: Unfortunate news…


I was debating about this new study. On one hand it’s important to share all sorts of different findings. On the other hand, my faith in humanity was more than just a little shaken, but there is no point on sweeping it under the rug. So disturbing news for women on college campuses, a new study indicates that female college students who are victims of sexual assault are at a much higher risk of becoming victims again. Please hold your disgust till the end…

In fact, researchers found that college women who experienced severe sexual victimization were three times more likely than their peers to experience severe sexual victimization the following year.

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. They defined assault as severe physical victimization includes assaults with or without a weapon. Then they defined severe sexual victimization to include rape, attempted rape, and 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,” Kathleen A. Parks, PhD, senior research scientist and the study’s principal investigator says. “Instead, we found that the biggest predictor of future victimization is not drinking, but past victimization.”

The study provided some good news, however.

“We found that severe sexual victimization decreased across the years in college,”  Parks says.

In light of the recent report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, the study shows that campuses need to be aware of the increased risk of future victimization for women who have experienced sexual assault, the researchers say.

Colleges also must keep an eye out for long-term drinking problems with trauma victims: 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.

This isn’t the first research on the subject that Parks’ has done. Previous research has shown that freshmen college women have a much higher likelihood of victimization if they partake in binge drinking. For more information on the role of alcohol in college sexual assault, see the recent Research Institute on Addictions Expert Summary on the subject.

I hate that we live in a world where women (and to a lesser extent men) have to be afraid of assault, sexual or otherwise. Women need to protect themselves and more importantly men need to learn that what they are doing isn’t okay (yes you can replace either or both of the genders and it would still work, but I am being general here to the majority of assaults).

No way you word it will be pretty… maybe that’s because it’s such an ugly subject, but if we don’t teach others how to treat people with respect, who will?

Parks, K., Hsieh, Y., Taggart, C., & Bradizza, C. (2014). A Longitudinal Analysis of Drinking and Victimization in College Women: Is There a Reciprocal Relationship? Psychology of Addictive Behaviors DOI: 10.1037/a0036283

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