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Correlates of Rape while Intoxicated in a National Sample of College Women

Meichun Mohler-Kuo, George W. Dowdall, Mary P. Koss, Henry Wechsler

Objective: Heavy alcohol use is widespread among college students, particularly in those social situations where the risk of rape rises. Few studies have provided information on rapes of college women that occur when they are intoxicated. The purpose of the present study was to present prevalence data for rape under the condition of intoxication when the victim is unable to consent and to identify college and individual-level risk factors associated with that condition. Method: The study utilizes data from 119 schools participating in three Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study surveys. The analytic sample of randomly selected students includes 8,567 women in the 1997 survey, 8,425 in the 1999 survey, and 6,988 in the 2001 survey. Results: Roughly one in 20 (4.7%) women reported being raped. Nearly three quarters (72%) of the victims experienced rape while intoxicated. Women who were under 21, were white, resided in sorority houses, used illicit drugs, drank heavily in high school and attended colleges with high rates of heavy episodic drinking were at higher risk of rape while intoxicated. Conclusions: The high proportion of rapes found to occur when women were intoxicated indicates the need for alcohol prevention programs on campuses that address sexual assault, both to educate men about what constitutes rape and to advise women of risky situations. The findings that some campus environments are associated with higher levels of both drinking and rape will help target rape prevention programs at colleges. (J. Stud. Alcohol 65: 37-45, 2004)