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9 Facts About Alcohol and Sexual Assault

It is no secret that alcohol is often involved in sexual assault. In fact, we live in a culture where many consider it acceptable to use alcohol to guarantee access to sex. But alcohol should be seen as a risk factor for—not a cause of— sexual assault. We have nine facts to help you understand the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault.

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1. About half of sexual assaults on college campuses involve a situation in which the perpetrator, the victim, or both were consuming alcohol.

2. Sexual assaults are more likely to occur in settings where alcohol was consumed (e.g., parties, bars) and perpetrators go there to find people who are vulnerable.

3. Alcohol consumption is associated with aggression and loss of inhibition and when a relationship is potentially dangerous, alcohol can “add fuel to the fire”.

4. Perpetrators of sexual assault use alcohol as a means to justify their behavior or diminish their responsibility.

5. TV and Movies perpetuate ideas of a college experience with a party scene that is intense, constant, and involves a great deal of alcohol. And heavy drinking is among the most meaningful predictors of sexual assault in college.

6. Victims who were drinking at the time of a sexual assault report high levels of distress, self-blame, and negative reactions from others. They often fear they will not be believed or will be blamed.

7. Alcohol increases a person's focus on immediate events and reduces their awareness of future events leading to a focus on social cues rather than risk cues. So, no alarm that would motivate someone to leave a situation or step in to help.

8. Young adults say that when alcohol is not used before sexual activity, they feel increased levels of safety during that sexual activity and higher levels of sexual pleasure.

9. People who drink heavily are less likely to help when they see someone who is uncomfortable or unsafe.

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In each SAFE Bar Training, we have conversations about how alcohol is used as a tool to make someone vulnerable. We think about the use of alcohol as part of an equation and talk about the fact that what makes a bar unsafe isn’t alcohol it’s a perpetrator.

If you have a favorite bar, restaurant, or night club encourage them to join the SAFE Bar Network. They can learn more at

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault our partners can help. Visit MOCSA and RAINN

Interested in learning more about bystander intervention? Visit our friends at With Us Center for Bystander Intervention.

To learn more about the field of sexual violence response and prevention visit PreventConnect and NSVRC.

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