College women more likely to be drugged, raped

December 3rd, 2008 - 3:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 3 (IANS) College women are more likely to be drugged and raped if they fail to recognise certain risky behaviours like leaving drinks unattended.The statistics for sexual assault are unsettling. One in five college women will be the victim of attempted or actual rape during their college years, according to the department of Justice.

“Although college women appear to have knowledge about date-rape drugs, they often are not able to apply this knowledge in the appropriate context,” said Zachary Birchmeier, senior research analyst at the University of Missouri (UM) Truman School of Public Affairs, who conducted the study.

“Considering the high rates of sexual assault, it is clear there is an urgent need to better inform students about self-protection. Education and prevention efforts should focus on debunking rape myths and increasing awareness of drug-facilitated sexual assault.”

In the MU (Oxford) study, more than 400 female undergraduates rated their perceptions of risk after reading a short story about an acquaintance rape.

The researchers, including the study’s prime investigator Emily Crawford, evaluated the relationship among risk factors that may increase victims’ susceptibility to sexual assault, including prior victimisation, behavioural choices and risk perception in responding to the threat of drug-facilitated sexual assault.

They measured awareness of risk in accepting drinks from male acquaintances and leaving drinks unattended. Other researchers have not thoroughly investigated these issues.

The researchers found that college students identified the risk associated with having others pour their drinks; however, they did not recognise the risk of leaving their drinks unattended.

A significant number of study participants blamed the victim when sexual assault occurred. Additionally, the majority of participants who were victims of previous sexual assault reported that they would make risky choices, including accepting a male acquaintance’s offer to help them into their bedroom.

“The findings suggest that many incidents of drugging may be unreported or unsuspected,” said Crawford, postdoctoral resident in behavioural health at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital.

“College students are likely to associate symptoms of nausea, blurred vision and lack of coordination with drinking too much alcohol, rather than suspect that another drug was unknowingly consumed.”

The study was published in the Journal of American College Health.

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