Alcohol & Sexual Assault

Victims of sexual assault who were under the influence of alcohol may not realize that they have been sexually assaulted. Even though they were unwilling to participate, the victims may not interpret this sexual encounter as rape, believing that it was their fault for being too drunk, and no one is held accountable for the crime.

Both males and females are equally susceptible to sexual abuse under the influence of alcohol. There is a common misunderstanding that "knockout" drugs are the most prevalent substances used by a person to inhibit sexual boundaries in another. The reality is that alcohol is used more than any other substance to induce someone to abandon sexual inhibitions.

Drunkenness does not influence just the victim; it changes the way a person will pursue a sexual contact with another. In other words, a person who normally stops sexual advances when refused while sober may not stop or pay attention to refusals while drunk, perhaps becoming violent in response.

Alcohol can cause sexual signals to be misread. For example, kissing or making out with someone may be as far as he or she is willing to go, and intoxication can mask the signals that would normally stop the situation from progressing. For victims, lack of awareness of the assault due to alcohol does not mean it did not happen. On the contrary, the perpetrator may be held legally responsible for that act.

For the aggressor, lacking awareness of the assault because of drunkenness does not mean lacking the intent. Having no memory of assaulting a person does not mean that it did not happen. Alcohol is not an excuse to cover up a violent sexual act.

Some Signs that May Lead to Sexual Assault When Alcohol is Involved

  • A social situation with alcohol and bystanders encouraging risky behavior
  • A person or group of persons actively creating a situation in which two or more people are isolated
  • A person is drunk or high and lacking the ability to make sound judgements
  • A person is putting pressure on another for a sexual encounter

For more information on alcohol and other drugs, please visit the Campus Alcohol & Drug Education Center