Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault


  • Approximately 50% of college women have been sexually assaulted and 27% have experienced rape or attempted rape
  • 25% of college men have committed sexual assault, and 8% have committed rape or attempted rape Alcohol is the most commonly used date-rape drug - approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol, with estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators ranging from 34 to 74%
  • Approximately one-half of all sexual assault victims report that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault, with estimates ranging from 30 to 79% - this is not to say that victims are to blame for the assault, as it is NEVER the victim’s fault.  Perpetrators are still legally and morally responsible for their behavior.
  • Alcohol consumption by perpetrators and victims tend to co-occur – studies show that in anywhere from 81% to 97% of alcohol-related sexual assaults, both the victim and perpetrator had consumed alcohol. 
  • Approximately 90% of sexual assaults reported by college women are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, with half occurring on a date

Relationship between alcohol use and sexual assault perpetration

  • Men who often drink heavily typically do so in social situations that frequently lead to sexual assault (parties, bars, etc.)
  • Perpetrators often use alcohol to excuse sexual assault perpetration
  • Date rapists frequently report getting a woman drunk in order to have sex with her
  • Certain personality characteristics, including impulsivity and antisocial behavior, as well as peer group norms (especially those that normalize the sexual exploitation of women) may increase men’s propensity both to drink heavily and to commit sexual assault
  • Studies have shown that college men who are drinking often misperceive their dates’ friendly behavior as sexual and are therefore more likely to commit sexual assault.
  • Men who are drinking are more likely to behave aggressively, especially if they believe they have been provoked, and once they respond to the provocation, it is difficult for intoxicated men to stop.  Therefore, men who are intoxicated and believe they have been ‘led on’ by a date are more likely to act out violently, which includes sexual assault, without thinking of the long-term consequences of their actions. 

Relationship between gender and social norms and sexual assault perpetration

  • Men are socialized to initiate dating and sex, with the first move being subtle in order to avoid embarrassment associated with rejection.  Because of the vagueness of these cues from both partners, miscommunication often occurs.  Add alcohol to the mix and as stated above, men may mistake their partners’ friendly cues as a desire to have sex. 
  • Women are socialized to be polite and indirect, especially regarding sexual communication, which often makes it difficult to directly confront a partner.
  • Sexual assault perpetrators are also more likely to:
    • endorse traditional gender stereotypes which include the belief that men are responsible for initiating sex and women are responsible for setting the limits
    • endorse statements that justify rape, for example, “’No’ means ‘yes’” and “women enjoy forced sex”
    • hold adversarial beliefs about relationships between men and women and to consider the use of force in interpersonal relationships acceptable
  • It is important to note that although literature on sexual assault and intimate partner violence frequently characterizes men as perpetrators and women as victims, we are aware that most men do not rape and that they are victims too.  We also recognize that these types of violence occur in same-sex relationships

This information was retrieved from Alcohol and Sexual Assault