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Study finds drinking locations linked to sexual assault

Posted at 6:27 PM, Dec 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-13 18:27:28-05

A study out of the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions suggests the location of binge drinking, rather than binge drinking in general, might be key to understanding college sexual assaults.

Researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 men attending large, public colleges in the Northeast U.S. and 17.6 percent of the men admitted to sexually assaulting a woman at least once during the duration of the study.  That included forced or attempted sex and unwanted touching.

The research showed that men who binge drink in large social settings, like parties or bars, are more likely to commit sexual assaults.

The students were asked to complete periodic surveys over the course of five college semesters.

Dr. Sherri Darrow is the director of UB's Wellness Education Services.  She said the findings were eye-opening.

"It is startling to know how much sexual aggression does exist," she said.

Her department includes alcohol and drug harm reduction and sexual violence prevention on campus.  Darrow said only 20 percent of UB students participate in binge drinking (five or more drinks in one sitting), but thinks the study makes sense.

"We do know when [the students] do overdo it, it is most often at parties," she said.

Authors of the study suggest trying to make these locations safer for students.  One suggestion is encouraging bystanders to step in when they see something wrong.

Darrow said UB already educates students on bystander intervention in a mandatory online program they complete before arriving on campus Freshman year.

"The programs are shown to change people's attitudes and behaviors regarding drinking and sexual aggression," she said.  "It is something we do before people are here, but we don't stop then.  [Students are shown] how to refuse a drink when you don't want it and how to step in when something is going wrong."