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Sexual Assault Scenarios -- and How To Prevent Them -- Will be Studied by UB Researcher

Release Date: October 13, 2011

Buffalo, N.Y. -- "If a young woman is drinking with a man at a party or in a bar and starts to get that strange uncomfortable feeling she can't explain, it is time to extricate herself from the situation, not when the warning bells are going off full tilt."

So says Kathleen A. Parks, senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), who has made a career of studying women's substance use and associated victimization.

Parks recently received a $406,000 grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to continue her research on women's risks for sexual assault associated with heterosexual drinking situations.

"Previous research has provided evidence that greater intoxication as well as a previous sexual assault can increase women's risk for a subsequent sexual assault, says Parks"

The two-year project will include the development of videos that will allow the investigators to better understand the process through which women perceive risks for assault and eventually, will be used as tools in prevention programs to reduce sexual assault. Several small studies will be conducted within the larger project to develop and validate the videos. The studies will include focus groups and expert feedback about different levels of risk (ambiguous, low and high) for women who are sober or drinking moderately.

"When a woman meets a man in a bar for the first time and accepts a ride home 'alone,' there's a risk," Parks stated. "She has isolated herself from friends; she is no longer in control of whether she will end up at home or somewhere else. This is a situation that provides a real opportunity for a sexual predator."

Furthermore, Parks added, if a man touches a woman in a sexual way when first meeting, encroaches on her space, or speaks to her in a sexually intimate or suggestive way, it should raise red flags.

Parks cautions that young women especially need to be careful when drinking, particularly when drinking to the point of intoxication.

However, she emphasizes that women are never to blame for being sexually assaulted.

"No matter how aware or perceptive a woman is, there will be situations in which she cannot prevent an assault," Parks continues."These are not the situations that can be prevented with this type of research. The intent with this research project is to empower women to recognize risk factors, respond quickly or avoid these situations altogether."

The research team on this study includes co-investigators Ronda H. Dearing, Amy Hequembourg and Maria Testa, all senior research scientists at RIA.

The Research Institute on Addictions has been a national leader in the study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the University at Buffalo since 1999.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
News Content Manager, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @egoldbaum