Sexual Assault Victims at High Risk of More Assaults

Sadly, new research discovers that female college students who are victims of sexual assault are at a much higher risk of becoming victims again.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions 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.

In the study, researchers followed nearly 1,000 college women, mostly between the ages 18 to 21, over a five-year period. Investigators studied 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,” said principal investigator, Kathleen A. Parks, Ph.D.

“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 said.

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 said.

The current research is published online in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Source: University of Buffalo