Past Sexual Assault Victims Face Three-Fold Increased Risk of Future Assault

First Posted: Sep 06, 2014 05:25 AM EDT

A new study states that young women who are victims of sexual assault face an increased risk of becoming victims again.

The new study from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) found that female college students who are victims of severe sexual victimizations had a three-fold increased risk of experiencing severe sexual victimization the following year as compared to their peers.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, sexual assault was the sixth leading cause of non-fatal injury in the U.S. in 2007. There were a quarter of a million sexual assault victims in 2007.

The researchers monitored 1,000 college women aged between 18-21 years over a five-year period. They evaluated their drinking habits and experiences of severe physical and sexual assault. Severe physical victimization includes assaults with or without the use of a weapon. Severe sexual victimization included rape and attempt to rape including incapacitated rape where the victim is highly intoxicated from drugs or alcohol.

Kathleen A. Parks, PhD., senior research scientist and the study's principal investigator, said: "Initially, we were attempting to see if victimization increased drinking, and if drinking then increased future risk. Instead, we found that the biggest predictor of future victimization is not drinking, but past victimization."

The study reveals that campuses should be aware of the increased risk of future victimization for those who were victims of sexual assault. Also, college authorities should look at the long-term drinking problem with the victims of assault. Victims of sexual assault display increase in alcohol consumption in the following year.

"Our findings show that women who have been victims may need to be followed for many months to a year to see if their drinking increases," Parks said.

The finding was documented in edition of Psychology of Addictive Behavior.

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