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Alcohol and the Risk of Physical and Sexual Assault Victimization

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 42 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2004 Pages: 837-859
Richard B. Felson; Keri B. Burchfield
Date Published
November 2004
This study examined the effect of alcohol consumption on the risk of victimization for physical and sexual assault.
Previous research has established that victims of violence are often under the influence of alcohol. The current study focused on whether alcohol consumption plays a causal role in victimization, as well as whether alcohol acts as a greater risk factor for some types of violence than other types. The analysis also explored whether chronic drinking can predict victimization while sober. Data were drawn from the 1995 and 1996 waves of the National Violence Against Women Survey, which include self-reported information from 8,000 women and 8,000 men on their experiences with violence, including physical and sexual assaults. Results of regression analyses suggest that frequent and heavy drinkers are at a significantly higher risk of assault when they are drinking, but that drinking is not related to their victimization risk while sober. These finding indicate, then, that alcohol is a causal factor in victimization risk. Other results indicate that drinking is a greater risk factor for some types of victimization, particularly sexual assault victimization. Males who were assaulted by female partners were also more likely to have been drinking. In closing, the authors note that examining aspects of causality in relationship to victimization in no way assigns blame to the victim. Figure, tables, references