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Drinking and Sexual Assault: Who’s to Blame?

If you’re like many college students, you’re probably looking forward to celebrating the end of a stressful finals period with some sort of social interaction that involves more than sharing panicked looks with your friends from across library work desks—maybe something that involves binge drinking.
 
If you’re female, however, you probably should not binge drink.
 
At least that’s the conclusion many have drawn from a new study that will be published in the January issue of the “Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.” The study has linked binge drinking among women to an increased incidence of sexual assault. Specifically, it found that, of young women who reported drinking at least four to six drinks, 25 percent of them had been subjected to unwanted sexual contact of some sort during the fall semester of their freshman year.
 

What do these, pardon the pun, sobering statistics mean? Well, to the researchers, they suggest that women should be more cautious about the amounts of alcohol they consume. “Though young women are not to blame for being victimized—that fault lies squarely with the perpetrator—if colleges can make more headway in reducing heavy drinking, they may be able to prevent more sexual assaults in the process.”
 
So let me get this straight: Women should control their behavior so that their potential rapists can control their own behavior?
 
One of the first and most important lessons I learned during my Psychology Research Methods class last year was that correlation does not equal causation. Apparently, when looking at sexual assault and the behavior that “causes” it to happen, this logic goes out the window.
 
Let me be clear, binge drinking by women does not “cause” them to be sexual assaulted. The only cause of rape is the presence and behavior of a rapist. By telling women to police their own behavior, the real cause of sexual assault becomes invisible. In fact, other studies have shown that men who binge drink are much more likely to sexually assault than men who don’t binge drink. My question is: Why wasn’t that the focus of the study?!
 
Obviously, binge drinking is detrimental to people’s physical, and sometimes mental, health in a variety of ways and there are many reasons to limit or avoid it altogether. But a woman’s binge drinking is not, and never will be, the “cause” of her sexual assault.

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