Young women's risk of sexual aggression in bars: The roles of intoxication and peer social status

Authors

  • Kathryn Graham,

    Corresponding author
    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, London, Canada
    2. Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
    3. Department of Psychology, Western University, London, Canada
    4. National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
    • Correspondence to Dr Kathryn Graham, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Suite 200, 100 Collip Circle, London, ON N6G 4X8, Canada. Tel: 1 519 858 5000; Fax: 1 519 858 5199; E-mail: kgraham@uwo.ca

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  • Sharon Bernards,

    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, London, Canada
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  • Antonia Abbey,

    1. Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA
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  • Tara Dumas,

    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, London, Canada
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  • Samantha Wells

    1. Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, London, Canada
    2. Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
    3. Department of Epidemiology, Western University, London, Canada
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  • Kathryn Graham PhD, Senior Scientist, Sharon Bernards MA, Research Coordinator, Antonia Abbey PhD, Professor, Tara Dumas PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Samantha Wells PhD, Scientist and Group Head.

Abstract

Introduction and Aims

Previous research suggests a link between women's drinking and sexual victimisation; however, little is known about other factors that influence risk and how risks are linked to drinking-in-the-event. We examined how amount of alcohol consumed and peer group factors were associated with whether young women were targeted for sexual aggression on a night out at a bar.

Design and Methods

One hundred and fourteen women recruited in small groups in the bar district reported how many drinks they had consumed and were breath-tested at recruitment and on their way home. At recruitment, they also ranked other members of their group in terms of status (e.g. popularity, group influence). In the exit survey, they reported any sexual aggression they experienced that night (i.e. persistence after refusal and unwanted sexual touching).

Results

Over a quarter (28.9%) of women reported persistence only, 5.3% unwanted touching only and 18.7% both. Sexual aggression was associated with consuming more alcohol on the survey night and whether other group members experienced sexual aggression that night. The relationship with amount consumed was stronger for touching than for persistence. Having a lower status position in the group was associated with increased risk of sexual aggression among women who had consumed five or more drinks.

Discussion and Conclusions

Prevention should address social norms and other factors that encourage men to target specific women for sexual aggression, including perceptions by staff and patrons that intoxicated women are ‘easy’ or more blameworthy targets and the possible role of women's social status in their peer groups. [Graham K, Bernards S, Abbey A, Dumas T, Wells S. Young women's risk of sexual aggression in bars: The roles of intoxication and peer social status. Drug Alcohol Rev 2014;33:393–400]

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