BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Disturbing news for women on college campuses:
a new study from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on
Addictions (RIA) indicates that female college students who are
victims of sexual assault are at a much higher risk of becoming
In fact, researchers found that college women who experienced
severe sexual victimization were three times more likely than their
peers to experience severe sexual victimization the following
RIA researchers followed nearly 1,000 college women, most age 18
to 21, over a five-year period, studying their drinking habits and
experiences of severe physical and sexual assault. Severe physical
victimization includes assaults with or without a weapon. Severe
sexual victimization includes rape and attempted rape, including
incapacitated rape, where a victim is too intoxicated from drugs or
alcohol to provide consent.
Kathleen A. Parks, PhD, senior research scientist, was the
study’s principal investigator.
“Initially, we were attempting to see if victimization
increased drinking, and if drinking then increased future
risk,” Parks says. “Instead, we found that the biggest
predictor of future victimization is not drinking, but past
The study provided some good news, however. “We found that
severe sexual victimization decreased across the years in
college,” Parks says.
In light of the recent report from the White House Task Force to
Protect Students from Sexual Assault, the study shows that campuses
need to be aware of the increased risk of future victimization for
women who have experienced sexual assault, the researchers say.
Colleges also must keep an eye out for long-term drinking
problems with trauma victims: women who were victims showed an
increase in drinking in the year following their assaults, perhaps
as a coping mechanism. “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 says.
Parks’ previous research has shown that freshmen college
women have a much higher likelihood of victimization if they
partake in binge drinking. (For more information on the role of
alcohol in college sexual assault, see RIA’s recent Expert
Summary on the subject at http://www.buffalo.edu/ria/news_events/es/es11.html.)
The current study appeared in the online edition of Psychology
of Addictive Behaviors in August and was coauthored by Clara M.
Bradizza, PhD, senior research scientist at RIA, Ya-Ping Hsieh,
PhD, former data analyst at RIA, and Caroline Taggart, MPH, former
project director at RIA. It was funded through a grant from the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
RIA is a research center of the University at Buffalo and a
national leader in the study of alcohol and substance abuse issues.
RIA’s research programs, most of which have multiple-year
funding, are supported by federal, state and private foundation
grants. Located on UB’s Downtown Campus, RIA is a member of
the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and a key contributor to
UB’s reputation for research excellence. To learn more, visit