Alcohol alters perception, affects mood, and impairs decision making. The correlation between alcohol abuse and sexual assault not only shows the dangers of drinking, but also shows the impact of one decision on another.
Facts and Figures
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that:
- Two-thirds of all crimes are considered assault, which includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault.
- 36% of all people being detained for an assault crime, totaling 5.3 million adults, were drinking at the time of the offense.
- 40% of convicted murderers were abusing alcohol before and/or during the alleged homicide.
- 1.4 million incidents of alcohol-related violence are committed against strangers every year.
- 70% of alcohol-related violent incidents occur in the home, most frequently after 11:00pm.
- Alcohol is involved in 30% of all sexual assaults.
While it seems undeniable that alcohol abuse and sexual assault are connected, what is the true relationship between the two? Can alcohol be blamed for violence, or is alcohol used to make desired behaviors easier to perform?
Understanding the Connection
Alcohol does not cause sexual assault. An analogy proving this point is alcohol compared to gasoline. If you fill your car’s gas tank up with gas, does that cause your car to drive into a telephone pole, off of a cliff, or into a store front?
The same is true for alcohol consumption. Drinking too much does not lead a person to sexually assault another person any more than gas leads a driver off the road. Instead, alcohol can serve as a permission slip. A person many want to have sex with someone, but does not know how to approach the process sober.
Alcohol is abused to excess and then courage seems to be gained that allows the same individual to seek sex when drunk. The idea of sex in this person’s head was there before alcohol entered the body, so choices, once intoxicated, were the manifestation of those pre-existing thoughts.
A female student at Southern Methodist University (SMU) wrote an article for the school’s newspaper addressing alcohol and sexual assault on campus, taking a stance that female students should drink more responsibly to prevent being the victims of rape and other assaults.
Other members of the student body were outraged, leading Kirby Wiley, the article’s author, to release the statement, “All I wanted was to promote awareness of this issue because I want to help other women. I would have definitely reworded things because I don’t believe in blaming the victim at all. Hopefully, it will raise awareness to some extent in a positive way.”
Perps And Alcohol
The perpetrator’s choice to drink alcohol and then commit a sexual crime is his or her behavior to take responsibility for, regardless of the state of the victim. At the same time, being intoxicated is not an excuse to sexual assault another person.
Treatment for alcohol abuse is one way to help a perpetrator start to make different choices, but will not fully address the internal desire to perform sexual assault.
Kate Green is an addiction recovery speciliast helping people overcome their alcohol addiction at Balboa Horizons Treatment Services.
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- Could YOU have the binge drinking gene? Scientists discover some animals are wired to prefer the taste of alcohol to water (dailymail.co.uk)
- Screen employees for alcohol, campaigner says (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sexual violence in parts of UK ‘as bad as in warzones’ (theguardian.com)
- 5 ways sexual assault is really about entitlement (salon.com)