BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A study looking at the prevalence of sexual
assault among 1,014 women between 18 and 30 found that 38 percent
had experienced sexual victimization and nearly half of that group
had been raped, according to researchers at the University at
Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.
Of the 383 women who reported sexual victimization, 174 reported
being raped. Thirty-six percent of the 383 -- or 138 women --
reported multiple incidents of sexual assault.
"Nearly half of the women reporting victimization reported that
they were raped, either due to physical force or because they were
too incapacitated to resist," said Maria Testa, Ph.D., lead
researcher on the study. "Other types of sexual victimization
reported included verbally coerced intercourse, attempted rape and
unwanted sexual contact."
Testa added, "We know that women who have experienced
victimization are at greater risk of it happening again. We are
examining how prior risky behaviors play a role in multiple
occurrences. We also want to know if women start drinking or
exhibit risky behaviors in response to the victimization."
Testa is a senior research scientist at RIA, as well as an
adjunct associate professor in the UB School of Social Work and a
research associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the
UB College of Arts and Sciences. Her colleague on the study was
Jennifer A. Livingston, Ph.D., RIA project staff associate.
A majority of the women in the study -- 609, or 60 percent --
reported experiencing no sexual aggression. Subjects, who were
chosen randomly, were asked to report on sexual aggression
experiences that occurred since age 14.
Women who reported one or more incidents of sexual aggression
were asked a series of questions about the most recent incident,
including how the incident came about, who perpetrated the
incident, how they responded, and how traumatic the incident was,
both at the time it occurred as well as at the present time.
Women were asked to respond on a six-point scale ranging from 1
for "not at all traumatic" to 6
for "the most traumatic thing possible." Trauma was higher
immediately after the incident (4.09) compared to present time
(2.84). At the time of the interview, rape incidents were rated as
more traumatic than other kinds of sexual aggression
The study, published in the September issue of Psychology of
Women Quarterly, was supported by an award of $1,585,322 from the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Women living in Buffalo and the immediate suburbs in Erie County
between 2000 and 2002 participated in this first part of a
three-part study examining alcohol and sexual behavior. The
characteristics of participants were representative of the
community -- 75 percent were white and 17 percent African-American.
Approximately 95 percent were high-school graduates.
Ongoing research by Testa and colleagues is testing the efficacy
of an intervention designed to prevent sexual assault among young
The Research Institute on Addictions has been a 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, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State
University of New York.