Actually, the Link Between Sexual Assault and Alcohol Isn’t as Clear as You Think
Toward the end of the USA Today article about alcohol’s function as a date rape drug, one of the experts who agreed to be quoted in the story noted, “People don’t get raped because they have been drinking, because they are passed out or because they are drunk. People get raped because there is a perpetrator there — someone who wants to take advantage of them.”
That gets to the heart of the complex issue: Even though alcohol is associated with sexual assault, it’s not actually a direct association. Getting intoxicated only leads to rape when there’s someone present to commit that rape. When you remove rapists from the equation, the risks of getting drunk — which, of course, do involve serious public health consequences — don’t include getting raped.
A 2001 research project into sexual assault and alcohol commissioned by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism puts it this way: “Although alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur, this phenomenon does not prove that alcohol use causes sexual assault.” In some cases, the researchers pointed out, it may actually be the other way around. The desire to commit a sexual assault may actually encourage alcohol consumption, as some men may drink before assaulting a woman in order to help justify their behavior.