News & Opinion | May 2, 2019 10:28 am

Where College Students Binge-Drink Matters in Preventing Campus Sexual Assault

The mentality that "this is a hookup spot" comes into play

Frat party
Being at a frat party might be a factor in college sexual assaults. (Getty)
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While an individual is ultimately responsible for his actions, a new study on partying and hookup culture has discovered that where a college student drinks is a better predictor of whether he might ultimately sexually assault someone than if he were simply binge-drinking in general.

The report, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, saw that party locations — like the two fraternities on Swarthmore College’s campus that have disbanded in the wake of reports that one fraternity’s house had a “rape attic” — play a role in increasing the frequency of sexually aggressive behavior, according to The Atlantic.

“A lot of research has shown that once you account for personality differences or individual differences, then the link between alcohol use and sexual aggression or assault kind of disappears,” professor of human development at Washington State University and the study’s lead author, Michael Cleveland, says. But one aspect of sexual assault cases that has remained constant throughout this study and others is the alleged perpetrator’s attendance at a “drinking hot spot.”

“I think if you survey college women, [they] know that when you go to a frat house, you hopefully [think to yourself], Okay, I need to be on edge. This is a danger zone,” says Rory Newlands, a graduate student at the University of Nevada at Reno and the lead author of a critical review of  some sexual-violence-prevention programs on college campuses. “If you’re at home drinking alone, you’re probably not going to perpetrate against someone,” she says. “But [it’s different if] you’re going to this environment where you’re already primed to be thinking, like, This is a hookup hot spot, and I’m drinking, so I’m going to have sex.”