Link between Sexual Assault and Binge Drinking Found in Girls with PTSD

A recent study has discovered that although there is a link between binge drinking and sexual assault in adolescent girls, the drinking does not increase as a result of the assault. Additionally, researchers discovered that most girls who were victims of sexual assault as teens experience a decrease in the PTSD symptoms as time goes on. One of the risk factors for sexual assault is binge drinking, but the researchers wanted to determine if people who were sexually assaulted used binge drinking as a coping mechanism. They found that there was no increase in the amount of binge drinking in teenage girls after they experienced a sexual assault.

The researchers examined surveys conducted on over 1,800 girls between the ages of 12 and 17. The girls were interviewed over the telephone on three separate occasions over a four year period. The survey asked questions relating to forced sexual encounters and also asked if the teens had ever consumed more than five alcoholic beverages at one time. The survey also included questions designed to detect the presence of PTSD symptoms. In totality, 15 percent of the girls surveyed reported that they had been the victim of sexual abuse.

“Our study suggests that binge drinking may precede sexual victimization in a subset of adolescent sexual assault victims,” said lead author and a clinical intern at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, Kate Walsh. Because there is no clear evidence that shows who will use alcohol to cope with symptoms of stress, the belief that most people do is unfounded. Jennifer Livingston, Ph.D., a research scientist at the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions, said, “Binge drinking contributes to sexual vulnerability among adolescent girls in two ways: through incapacitation, whereby girls are taken advantage of sexually, and by occurring in illicit settings, such as sneaking out to a party, where girls don’t seek help because they are afraid of getting in trouble.”

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Luis Bernard

    Luis Bernard

    July 29th, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    It would be wrong to blame the girls all the time if they have been victimized.The wrong-doer is the one who commits the crime,the one who victimizes a girl in that way.If a girl wants to drink then she has all the rights to,it doesn’t mean she is entitled to being victimized!

  • Brent

    Brent

    July 29th, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    This very much hits home to me as the parent of two young girls. We need to teach them that these drinking situations are not ones that they need to allow themselves to be found in because it so much increases the likelihood that they will be victimized in a sexual manner at some point down the road. What is frightening about this is that so many girls find themselves here willingly and then they have no idea about the ways to get out of it. Communicate to them that no matter what time of day or the situation that they may find themselves in, that you are willing to be there for them at the drop of a hat. What security that this can give a kid, knowing that parents are going to be there for them no matter what.

  • Pat R.

    Pat R.

    July 30th, 2011 at 5:02 AM

    My wife and I are very concerned about this situation as our daughter moves towards her teen years. I can remember back to my school time and the party’s that would occur. Even though it was 20 years ago. The girls that liked to party were so much more in the club with all of the guys. Being in this club definitely puts girls at risk of assault as the decision making capability is impaired heavily while you are under the influence of alcohol.

    Once you are in a bad situation, by yourself with a guy, an assault is much more likely to occur. Especially if a guy is also in a similar situation with the alcohol is your comrade.

    My wife and I are doing our best to educate our daughter on the issues surrounding drinking and safe situations. But it is truly tough when they are not legally at the age where they should be drinking. So as our 13 year old goes forward our message about controlling her alcohol intake and maintaining control of herself is going to become louder. At the same time we are hoping to instill in her that keeping herself in a group if she is going that route is also key to her safety.

  • Eric.V

    Eric.V

    July 30th, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    “the drinking does not increase as a result of the assault.”

    ever heard of not repeating something that got you into trouble? well,I think its a given that someone who is sexually assaulted as a result of being drunk will become more careful after the horror episode!

  • Deanna

    Deanna

    July 30th, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Heartening to know that at least one thing does not have to lead to another, but good to also know that it can happen and that it is up to all of us to protect against that.

  • bernadette k.

    bernadette k.

    August 2nd, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    The ridiculous thing is-and what the perpetrators are counting on-is that the girls would not say a thing in case they get into trouble for drinking. Here’s a tip, girls: if you get raped, your parents won’t care that you were drinking nearly as much as they will that you were a victim of sexual assault. Be brave and speak up, if only to save another girl from being attacked by that person in the future.

  • Teach

    Teach

    August 17th, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Even though there are times when you perhaps feel you could have prevented being a victim by doing something small different, like avoiding a bad part of town, you should never blame yourself for being the victim of an attack. Many times it comes down to sheer bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • Frankie W.

    Frankie W.

    August 20th, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    @Teach: You hit the nail on the head right there. If a guy raped my teenage daughter while she was drunk, there would be a kicked-down door somewhere in my town and an ambulance not far from it. They shouldn’t be sneaking out of course but nobody should EVER say to their daughter “Why were you out drinking?” if they get raped after getting too drunk.

    Be very careful not to say anything that even hints you believe them to be at fault in some way because they are not- and you shouldn’t think they are! A rapist took advantage of their vulnerable state. As far as I know mine doesn’t drink but I remember being young and hiding stuff I did from my parents.

  • Tina Maine

    Tina Maine

    August 20th, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    They needed a study to know that drinking excessively can precede rape? Are these researchers living on a desert island with no newspapers or internet access? We are warned quite often to never take our eyes off our drink under any circumstances and to mind our alcohol levels at all times BECAUSE of the potential threat of being raped, robbed or sexually assaulted.

    It takes only seconds for a drink to be spiked. If you’re in a club especially, take it everywhere with you or get a trusted friend-not one you just met!- to watch it for a minute.

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