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  • Writer's pictureWSDC

1 in 6 Female College Freshmen are Raped While Unable to Consent

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

According to a U.S. research study, more than one in six freshman women are sexually assaulted during their first year of college while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published the study in 2015.

According to the study, a similar percentage claim to have been raped before enrolling in college while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The researchers came to the conclusion that incoming freshmen with a history of "incapacitated rape" are the ones who are most at risk of experiencing another sexual attack during their first year of college.

According to senior researcher Kate Carey, freshman women who think that binge drinking can improve a person's sexual experience are also more likely to be raped when intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. In Providence, Rhode Island, Carey teaches behavioral and social sciences at Brown University School of Public Health.

Despite the fact that Carey and her coworkers identified risk variables that could raise the possibility of a young woman being raped while unconscious, they asserted that these reckless actions in no way justified such assaults.

"We would all agree that being intoxicated is not asking to be assaulted," Carey said.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asserts that incapacitated rape is unlawful. The DOJ claims that any form of sexual activity—oral, vaginal, or anal—with a person who is incapable of giving permission constitutes rape.

Carey and her coworkers are hoping that new initiatives developed in light of these findings would lessen sexual assaults on American college campuses.

"We should be talking about what people are expecting to get out of their drinking, and perhaps challenge that," Carey said. "Perhaps alcohol is not as essential to social activities as you may be thinking."

The experts added that these initiatives must begin in high school, when the danger of incapacitated rape initially rises when students start experimenting with sex, alcohol, and drugs.

In order to document the experiences the approximately 500 female students brought to college as well as any events that occurred throughout their first year, the researchers conducted multiple surveys of them at the same private university in New York state.

In the surveys, it was specifically questioned whether any of the women had been coerced into engaging in sexual activity while impaired by drink or drugs.

"That will include being passed out, but it also can include being semi-conscious and not being able to articulate your wishes or size up the situation well enough to be able to avoid or manage it," Carey said. "It does not mean just, 'I've been drinking.' "

According to the researchers, it is unknown if the incapacitation of women who were raped while unconscious resulted from drink or drugs that were deliberately consumed or from someone drugging them without their knowledge or agreement.

According to the surveys, about 18% of freshmen women claimed to have experienced "incapacitated rape" before enrolling in college.

The research discovered that following this, roughly 15% of young women reported having been raped during their first year of college when impaired by drink or drugs.

The researchers also discovered that a woman's probability of experiencing another rape during her freshman year was most significantly predicted by her history of incapacitated rape before enrolling in college.

In their first year of college, almost 41% of young women who had been raped in high school while under the influence of alcohol or drugs said they had also been assaulted while unconscious. The data revealed that 10% of young women without a history of incapacitated rape were subjected to such an assault in their first year.

According to Sean Clarkin, executive vice president of research and external affairs for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the study's findings highlight the need for improved sexual violence and intoxication treatment in high school.

Additionally, Clarkin said that freshmen are very likely to experience loneliness and isolation during their first year away from home, which may raise the likelihood of dangerous substance addiction. Teenagers should be better prepared for the social and emotional demands of their freshman year by their parents and teachers.

"A lot of kids come to college, and they may have been academically prepared for college, but they're not emotionally ready for college," he said.

Until the atmosphere of college campuses changes, Carey continued, everyone must "work together to try to reduce sexual assault."


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