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Link found between campus assault, drinking 'settings'

Study finds where men drink linked to increased likelihood of perpetrating sexual assaults.

By Amy Wallace
Link found between campus assault, drinking 'settings'
Researchers find link in where college students drink versus how much they drink and an increase in the prevalence of sexual assaults on campus. Photo by Piyato/Shutterstock

PISCATAWAY, N.J., Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The amount a college student drinks has less of an impact on whether or not they will commit sexual assault than where they drink, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions found that male students were more likely to commit sexual assault against a fellow student if they drank at a bar or party rather than drinking in their dorm.

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The findings, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, cited no link between binge drinking and the likelihood of perpetrating a sexual assault.

Researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 U.S. college men beginning when the men were freshmen and again at the end of each semester through college.

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Nearly 18 percent of the study participants admitted to sexually assaulting a woman during their college years. The definition of sexual assault included attempted and unwanted sexual contact, according to researchers.

The results of the study suggest that college men who stay in their dorms versus going out to bars or parties to drink were less likely to commit sexual assault. The study also found that an increase in the amount of times a student went to a bar or party correlated with an increase in the likelihood that they committed a sexual assault.

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"People drawn to these settings may be at higher risk," Maria Testa, Ph.D., lead researcher at the Research Institute on Addictions, said in a news release.

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The prevalence of binge drinking, consuming five or more drinks at a time, initially appeared to have a impact on the likelihood of sexual assaults but that link was dismissed after certain personality traits were taken into account. These traits included lack of self-control, antisocial behavior and "impersonal" attitudes toward sex.

It is important to point out that the men in the study were not asked any specifics of the sexual assaults, so it is unknown whether the assaults were directly related to the men attending a party or going to a bar prior to the assault.

Testa said that most of the students in the study were underage and if there was better enforcement of underage drinking in bars it may contribute to a lower incidence of sexual assaults.

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These findings may help colleges and universities in creating safer environments in and around campus, according to Testa.

She referenced bystander intervention programs, which train people to recognize and intervene in situations where it appears a possible perpetrator may be planning an assault. Many U.S.colleges and universities do already have programs like this in place.

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