Perpetrators of Alcohol-Involved Sexual Assaults: How do they differ from other sexual assault perpetrators and non-perpetrators?
The past three decades have seen an extensive research on sexual assault in which alcohol has prominently featured. Sexual assault is forced or non-consensual sex intercourse. Statistically, 95% of sexual assault victims are women while the perpetrators are men. Zawacki et al. (2003) cite a study by Koss et al., which revealed that 25% of men sample were involved in sexual acts considered assaultive and that the perpetrator was always someone known by the victim. Studies of sexual assault have further indicated that the perpetrator, the victim, or both are normally under the influence of alcohol (Zawacki et al., 2003). Furthermore, studies have compared alcohol-involved sexual assault situations to those that do not involve alcohol. However, scarce attention has been given to the differences between perpetrators of alcohol-involved sexual assaults to non alcohol-involved sexual assault perpetrators. The present study aims to examine the similarities and differences between male perpetrators of alcohol-involved sexual assaults to other sexual assault perpetrators.
Sexual perpetrators have been found to exhibit antisocial traits and behaviors. This group has also been found to have different characteristics from non-alcohol perpetrators in terms of alcohol-related behaviors and beliefs, and behavior and beliefs concerning sexual contact. For instance, in a self-report study by Rapaport et al. (1984), men who reported to have been involved in sexual assault scored significantly low in socialization and responsibility. In a similar vein, Kosson et al., as cited by Zawacki et al, revealed that college students who had engaged in sexual assault scored relatively lower in terms of socialization and higher in narcissism. Among incarcerated sexual assault perpetrators, Geer et al. determined that the group is characterized by lack of empathy (Zawacki et al., 2003). Other characteristics connected to perpetrators of sexual assault involve impulsive personality, a background of adolescent delinquent behavior, early, frequent involvement in sexual experiences, misperception of women’s sexual intent, and beliefs that women are sexual preys. A body of literature has also analyzed sexual assault situations in terms of alcohol. Sexual assaults involving alcohol indicate a higher probability that the perpetrator and the victim spent time together in a recreational setting (Zawacki et al., 2003). Alcohol-involved sexual assault is more likely to be committed by an individual who has casual ties with the victim. On the other hand, researchers have found no differences between the two sexual scenarios in terms of the role of alcohol of the sexual assault outcome severity.
The present study expands on the previous research on the role of alcohol in sexual assault events by focusing on the characteristics of the perpetrators rather than the situation. It aimed to compare characteristics of men who were involved in sexual assault, those who perpetrated alcohol-involved sexual assault, and those who did not commit sexual assault. Zawacki et al. (2003) hypothesized these three groups of men differed in social behavior and traits, alcohol consumption, and dating and sex beliefs and behaviors. Basing on the existing literature, the team also hypothesized that both alcohol-involved sexual assaulters and non-alcohol involved sexual assaulters would score highly on the measure of antisocial behaviors, stronger beliefs supporting violence against the females, and more frequent sexual encounters and dating. In comparison to men who have not engaged in sexual assault and the non-alcohol-involved sexual assault perpetrators, alcohol plays a major role in the lives of alcohol-involved sexual assaulters. It was therefore hypothesized that alcohol-involved perpetrators would score highly on usual alcohol consumption, stronger beliefs that consumption triggers sexual behavior, and greater drinking during sexual encounters (Zawacki at al., 2003).
The study utilized a self-administered questionnaire method. It involved 356 male students from a university college in Midwest. The sample ranged from 19 to 48 years old and 57% of the population was Caucasian. African-Americans constituted 30% of the sample while Arabic and Asian individuals were 6% and 3%. The remaining population was composed of Hispanic and others. Recruitment was done through circulation of flyers on campus, classroom announcements, and student newspaper advertisement. Potential correspondents were then telephoned and eligible ones were thereafter arranged for an appointment to fill a self-administered questionnaire. Using the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES) tool, the researchers determined sexual assault perpetration in adolescent and adulthood. The measure of this variable included forced sexual contact and verbal coercion. Antisocial behavior and traits, dating and sex-related beliefs and behaviors, and alcohol-related beliefs and behaviors were also measured.
58% of participants reported to have engaged in some form of sexual assault from the age of 14. Additionally, 9% reported forced sexual contact, 31% of them reported sexual coercion while attempted rape and completed rape was reported by 4% and 14% respectively. Among the 356 respondents, 111 were non-alcohol perpetrators while the rest were alcohol-involved perpetrators. Lastly, in most cases, the man or both the man and the woman had consumed alcohol (Zawacki et al., 2003).
58% of the college men reported to have committed some form of sexual assault. This rate was higher compared to other similar studies that focused of college men. This is because the study included multiple examples of sexual assault situations that may have drawn a larger number of respondents. 54% of the participants reported to have engaged in alcohol-involved sexual perpetration. This percentage was similar to the other studies that involved non-college samples (Zawacki et al., 2003). Consistent to the hypothesis, both alcohol-involved and non-alcohol perpetrators scored higher in aggressive personalities, history of delinquency, and frequent casual sex compared to non-perpetrators. Additionally, perpetrators strongly supported violence against women and demonstrated antisocial behaviors, as predicted. In the category of alcohol-involved sexual assault, the perpetrators reported to consume greater amounts of alcohol in sexual situations compared to their counterparts. The data also indicated that this group was more impulsive.
The purpose of the study was to examine the behavioral differences of alcohol-involved sexual assault perpetrators compared to non alcohol involved sexual assault perpetrators and non-perpetrators. Utilizing self-administered questionnaire method, the study featured male students from a Midwestern university. The variables measured were sexual assault perpetration, antisocial behavior, behavior regarding to beliefs pertaining dating and sex, and alcohol-related behavior and beliefs. As it was hypothesized, both perpetrators exhibited stronger antisocial and sexual behavior compared to non-perpetrators. They also indicated stronger support for violence against women. Alcohol-involved perpetrators further reported greater consumption of alcohol during sexual situations and demonstrated stronger impulsive behavior. These findings suggest that alcohol plays a major role in sexual assault situations and it is therefore important to determine the specific use of alcohol when studying sexual assault.
Zawacki, T., Abbey, A. Buck, P.O., McAuslan, P., & Monique, A. (2003). Perpetrators of Alcohol-Involved Sexual Assaults: How do they differ from other sexual assault perpetrators and non-perpetrators? Aggressive Behavior, 29, 366-80. (Source provided by client).
Rapaport, K. & Burkhart, B.R. (1984, May). Personality and Attitudinal Characteristics of Sexually Coercive College Males. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93(2), 216-221. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/buy/1984-23391-001