A Longitudinal Event-Level Investigation of Alcohol Intoxication, Alcohol-Related Blackouts, Childhood Sexual Abuse, and Sexual Victimization Among College Students

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Sexual assault is a troubling epidemic that plagues college campuses across the United States, and is often proceeded by drinking by the perpetrator and/or victim. The goal of this study was to examine the effect of level of intoxication, history of alcohol-related blackouts, and childhood sexual abuse (CSA) on the likelihood of being a victim or perpetrator of coercive sexual activities. Participants (N = 2,244) were part of a 6-year longitudinal study which explored alcohol use and associated behavioral risks during college. A subsample (N = 1,423) completed 30 days of daily diary surveys across four years of college. Participants provided daily reports of their alcohol consumption, sexual coercion perpetration, and sexual coercion victimization. Using hierarchical linear models, results indicated that increases in daily estimated blood alcohol concentration (eBAC) were associated with a greater likelihood of being a victim and a perpetrator of sexual coercion. In addition, main effects of CSA and history of blackouts predicted a greater likelihood of being coerced into sexual activity, but blackouts were not associated with being a perpetrator. A significant interaction between blackouts and event-level eBAC indicated that individuals with a history of blackouts had a greater likelihood of sexual coercion victimization relative to those without prior blackouts. Finally, having a history of blackouts and CSA was predictive of a lower likelihood of being a perpetrator of sexual coercion at higher eBACs relative to those without a history of blackouts. Thus, prevention efforts should integrate the impact of blackouts and CSA on sexual coercion victimization and perpetration.

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