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Binge Drinking Hikes Sexual Assault Risk

Female college freshman are 33% more likely to become victims if they binge drink, say researchers.

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By May Wilkerson

05/15/12

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Sadly, sexual assault happens often—and alcohol is frequently involved. But new research suggests that young women who binge drink are at a much higher risk for sexual assault—in the future. A study recently published in the magazine Violence and Victims found that female college freshman who consumed at least four alcoholic drinks in one day at the start of the study were 33% more likely to be victims of a sexual assault in the following months. Study co-authors Emily Mouilso and Sarah Fischer of the Psychology Dept. at UGA followed 200 female students over the course of a school year, monitoring their drinking and meeting one-on-one with each participant throughout the study. It was discovered that 17% of those who binge drank early on experienced a sexual assault, compared to 6% of the non-binge-drinkers. "It's not just the amount you're drinking—it's the pattern," said Mouilso, "even if the volume of alcohol is the same, when you drink it all at once, you are putting yourself at the highest risk." Both researchers stressed that these results should not condone "victim blaming;" alcohol intake (by the victim or the aggressor) is never an excuse for sexual assault. "The main take-home point is that binge drinking at the start of the year increases risk for freshmen college women for later sexual assault during their first year of college," says Fischer. "Now future studies can test hypotheses to find out why drinking leads to risk with sexual assault."

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