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Taking Charge: Young Women, Alcohol & Sexual Assault

By Andrea Zeelie, Parent Action on Drugs

May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. Approximately 1 in 3 women experience sexual assault in their lifetime [1]. Ontario (and Canada) recognizes May as an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues surrounding sexual violence and to promote prevention.

Sexual assault is often underreported. In cases where sexual assault is reported, alcohol is often involved. Recent research reports that "conservative estimates of sexual assault prevalence suggest that 25 percent of women have experienced sexual assault, including rape. Approximately one-half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Alcohol contributes to sexual assault through multiple pathways, often exacerbating existing risk factors. Beliefs about alcohol's effects on sexual and aggressive behavior, stereotypes about drinking women, and alcohol's effects on cognitive and motor skills contribute to alcohol-involved sexual assault." [2]

Half the respondents in a survey of over 130 health and education professionals in Ontario who work with girls in secondary high schools, teen clinics and community health centres, indicated that a teenage girl had disclosed to them that she was sexually assaulted or thought she may have been date-raped by a partner or dating acquaintance. [3] Some young women are not even aware that they have been assaulted due to their lack of understanding of consent.

The role of alcohol in the assault was acknowledged by 80% of those who disclosed the incident. Professionals reported:
• " She couldn't stop the assault because she was too drunk."
• "Alcohol impaired her choice".
• "Some do not realize an assault had taken place till the next day" [3]

Alcohol-related sexual assault is often kept a secret, or is dismissed by young women, as they feel ashamed, or worry they might not be believed. Young women are concerned about what others think and fear humiliation from their peers, reprisals from the boy and consequences from their parents.

takingchargekitcover


PAD developed Taking Charge: Young Women, Alcohol & Sexual Assault, a tool kit to help professionals who work with women to support and inform young women to "take charge" and deal with sexual assault. The tool kit was developed with young women and a partnership of health and education professionals.

The tool kit is available in English and French, and is suitable for a variety of settings and curriculum programs. For more information, visit PAD's website

 

 

References
[1] National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Child Sexual Abuse, Ottawa, Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.
[2] Abbey et al, 2001, "Sexual Assault and Alcohol Consumption: What do we know about their relationship and what kinds of research are still needed," Aggression and Violent Behaviour, Vol. 9, No 3, May-June 2004
[3] Parent Action on Drugs "Taking Charge: Young Women. Alcohol and Sexual Assault" Project Report. 2008.

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