Exploring the Link between Blacking out and Sexual Assault via a Social Network Analysis

Dana Nocera

Abstract


Regardless of prestige, size, and location, college campuses across today’s nation continue to be affected by alcohol consumption, despite intervention efforts. Alcohol consumption has several associated risky behaviors, such as hooking up. The current study defines hooking up as engaging in physically intimate behaviors, ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse, with no committed relationship or expectation of a future relationship1, 2. Another risky behavior associated with alcohol consumption is blacking out. Blacking out is defined as a period of time during a drinking event in which an individual cannot recall all or parts of the event3. Blacking out can lead to many consequences, such as sexual assault. Sexual assault is a broad term that includes not only completed rape, but also attempted rape, verbally coerced intercourse, and unwanted sexual contact4. To replicate previous literature, the current study sought to determine if hooking up and alcohol consumption is linked. To extend previous literature, the current study sought to perform a social network analysis to determine the extent to which college students’ behaviors and attitudes are influenced by their close friends and acquaintances. The current study went further to determine the relationship between alcohol-related blackouts and sexual assault experiences. Data for this study was collected on a sorority at a Midwestern university with 84 females participating. Data was collected via an online survey during the end of the fall 2015 semester. The number of days the participants reported drinking in a typical week and if they hooked up with someone in the past week were significantly positively correlated, r(75) = -.51, p < .001. The more drinking buddies that were reported, the more days the participant reported drinking, r(75) = .41, p < .001. The more drinking buddies that were reported, the more drinks the participant reporting having on a typical drinking day, r(75) = .38, p < .001. Furthermore, the more drinking buddies that were reported, the higher their peak drinking occasion, r(74) = .32, p = .005, and the more drinking buddies that were reported, the more problems they reported on the RAPI, r(76) = .25, p = .029. With regards to hooking up, there were no significant relationships between hooking up behaviors and the amount of drinking buddies. Furthermore, there were no significant relationships between victimization of sexual assault and the amount of drinking buddies. With regards to sexual assault experiences during an alcohol-related blackout, it was found that 39.3% of the participants were non-victims, 1.2% experienced unwanted sexual contact, 10.7% experienced attempted rape, and 7.1% experienced rape. Future intervention efforts could potentially use this information to tailor materials against having a high number of drinking buddies or against alcohol-related blackouts. Messages could address the relationship between the number of drinking buddies and the number of negative consequences from drinking as well as the relationship between alcohol-related blackouts and sexual assault experiences.


Keywords


Hooking up; Blackout; Sexual assault; Social Network Analysis

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