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Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Sexual Assault on Campus

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) 2002 report on college drinking estimates that more than 70,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 survive sexual assault or date rape involving alcohol each year. The relationship between alcohol, other drugs, and assault is complex. Alcohol and other drugs may be contributors to sexual assault, but do not cause sexual assault.  

Alcohol may exacerbate the misinterpretation of sexual intent. For instance, some college men believe that alcohol increases sexual arousal and legitimates nonconsensual sexual aggression. Many also believe that women who have two or more drinks are more interested than other women in having sex. Whether someone uses alcohol or drugs intentionally or unwittingly, intoxication is never an excuse or justification for sexual assault, and a person should never be considered at fault for being assaulted because he or shewas drinking.

While alcohol is the most frequently used drug in committing sexual assault, nonalcoholic drugs such as Rohypnol and gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), commonly known as date rape drugs, are also used in rapes for their incapacitating effects. Women or men may be unknowingly given date rape drugs before an assault, rendering them unable to resist an attack. Because these drugs may cause a victim to become unconscious or suffer amnesia, victims may not even realize they have been sexually assaulted, and are therefore unlikely to report the assault to legal authorities or receive medical care.

Comprehensive AOD prevention programming is an important complement to campus sexual assault prevention programs, strong policies that are consistently enforced, and victim services. Administrators should make efforts to coordinate the content of both the AOD and sexual assault programs so that they support and reinforce each other.

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