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Alcohol and Drugs and Non-consensual Sex

CSUF is invested in keeping our students safe. One of the dangers college students face is sexual assault. Anyone, women and men, can be the victim of forced sex or sexual assault. Coercion and/or intimidation are often used to compel non-consensual sex. Acquaintance rape or date rape accounts for nearly 90% of sexual assault incidents as reported by our students.
The most common date rape drug is alcohol. “Drunk sex” from one person’s perspective might be “rape” from another person’s perspective. California Penal Code clearly states that having sex with a person who is intoxicated is illegal and may be punishable with a prison sentence.
        At CSUF prevention of sexual assault is a priority, serving to create a safe campus populated with an aware and responsible student body. As part of our prevention efforts, The Women’s Center created a video entitled “Step Up and Stop It.” This ten minute video features survivor interviews, men’s perspectives, prevention strategies, suggestions for survivors and services available on our campus.

Alcohol and Sexual Assault

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Although alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur, this phenomenon does not prove that alcohol use causes sexual assault. Thus, in some cases, the desire to commit a sexual assault may actually cause alcohol consumption (e.g., when a man drinks alcohol before committing a sexual assault in order to justify his behavior). Moreover, certain factors may lead to both alcohol consumption and sexual assault. For example, some fraternities encourage both heavy drinking and sexual exploitation of women (Abbey et al. 1996b). In fact, many pathways can prompt a man to commit sexual assault, and not all perpetrators are motivated by the same factors (Seto and Barbaree 1997). This article, therefore, describes several different ways in which alcohol consumption by the perpetrator and the victim can encourage sexual assault.

The Prevalence of Sexual Assault and Alcohol-Involved Sexual Assault

        The prevalence of sexual assault, both involving and not involving alcohol use, cannot be accurately determined, because it is usually unreported. Estimates of sexual assault prevalence have been based on a variety of sources, including police reports, national random samples of crime victims, interviews with incarcerated rapists, interviews with victims who seek hospital treatment, general population surveys of women, and surveys of male and female college students (Crowell and Burgess 1996). In such studies, the estimates' adequacy varies with the sources of information used. Most researchers agree that the most reliable estimates derive from studies using multi-item scales-that is, measures containing several questions describing behaviors which constitute sexual assault in simple, nonlegal language (Koss 1988).

        Based on such measures, conservative estimates suggest that at least 25 percent of American women have been sexually assaulted in adolescence or adulthood and that 18 percent have been raped. Furthermore, at least 20 percent of American men report having perpetrated sexual assault and 5 percent report having committed rape (Crowell and Burgess 1996; Spitzberg 1999; Tjaden and Thoennes 2000). Due to their accessibility, college student surveys tend to employ the most thorough measures of sexual assault by including the largest number of behaviorally specific questions. These studies suggest that approximately 50 percent of college women have been sexually assaulted, and 27 percent have experienced rape or attempted rape; in contrast, 25 percent of college men have committed sexual assault, and 8 percent have committed rape or attempted rape (Crowell and Burgess 1996; Koss 1988; Spitzberg 1999).

         At least one-half of all violent crimes involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim, or both (Collins and Messerschmidt 1993). Sexual assault fits this pattern. Thus, across the disparate populations studied, researchers consistently have found that approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol. Depending on the sample studied and the measures used, the estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators have ranged from 34 to 74 percent (Abbey et al. 1994; Crowell and Burgess 1996). Similarly, approximately one-half of all sexual assault victims report that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault, with estimates ranging from 30 to 79 percent (Abbey et al. 1994; Crowell and Burgess 1996). It is important to emphasize, however, that although a woman's alcohol consumption may place her at increased risk of sexual assault, she is in no way responsible for the assault. The perpetrators are legally and morally responsible for their behavior.

        Finally, alcohol consumption by perpetrators and victims tends to co-occur--that is, when one of them is drinking, the other one is generally drinking as well (Abbey et al. 1998; Harrington and Leitenberg 1994). Rarely is only the victim drinking alcohol. This finding is not surprising, because in social situations (e.g., in bars or at parties), drinking tends to be a shared activity. However, this finding complicates researchers' efforts to disentangle the unique effects of alcohol consumption on the perpetrators' versus the victims' behavior.

Antonia Abbey, PhD; Tina Zawacki, MA; Philip O. Buck, MA; A. Monique Clinton, MA; and Pam McAuslan, PhD Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Alcohol Health and Research World Volume 25, Number 1, 2001

M  ore About Alcohol and Sexual Assault

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Alcohol use by the victim and/or perpetrator is frequently associated with acquaintance rape. Alcohol use significantly increases your vulnerability to sexual assault.

  • One study found that 70% of women and 80% of men had been drinking when a sexual assault occurred.
  • Men often drink to feel less inhibited, more powerful, aroused, and aggressive. Peer pressure also tends to encourage rowdy and aggressive behavior.
  • Alcohol impairs judgment. Men are more likely to assume that a woman who drinks is a willing sex partner; they are more likely to interpret her behavior, dress or body language as evidence she wants to have sex.
  • Alcohol lowers inhibitions – it makes it easier to force sex on an unwilling partner and to ignore “No’s”.
  • Alcohol impairs the victim’s ability to recognize a potentially dangerous situation. When drinking, one may not notice someone’s persistent attempts to get them to an isolated location or to get them to consume more alcohol. Intoxication also makes it much more difficult to successfully resist a sexual assault – alcohol produces a slow and ineffective response to an attack.
  • Legally, an individual cannot consent to sex if they are drunk; having sex without consent is RAPE/sexual assault.
  • Individuals who are drunk when they are assaulted often feel responsible for the assault. Our society is more apt to excuse male drinking behavior, but when a woman drinks and is raped, we hold her responsible for everything – including the behavior of her assailant. Please know that the victim is NEVER to blame for an assault, the person who committed the assault is fully responsible.
  • The majority of sexual assaults are planned, and assailants take advantage of the fact that alcohol or other drugs increase vulnerability.

Alcohol and Risk Reduction If you choose to drink, know your limits and stick to them. Have one drink with alcohol and the next one without alcohol.

  • Avoid parties where “getting wasted” is the only reason for going
  • Go out with friends, and return home with friends. Do not leave friends behind.
  • Adopt a “sober buddy” system – designate one person who will remain sober and watch out for friends. Do not allow friends to wander off with someone they do not know well.
  • If someone has passed out, do not leave them alone. Turn them on their side and call 911, do not assume they will “just sleep it off”.
  • Educate yourself about date rape drugs:
    • do not leave your drink unattended
    • do not accept a drink in an open container
    • do not accept a drink from someone you do not know well
    • avoid taking drinks from a punch bowl / "Jungle Juice"
    • don’t drink anything that has an unusual taste or appearance

Alcohol as a date rape drug

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The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) 2002 report on college drinking estimates that more than 70,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 survive alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape each year.8
A national survey of more than 14,000 students found that 1.0 percent of students living in residence halls or fraternity/sorority houses survived alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape during 2001. This study found that 19.5 percent of students experienced an unwanted sexual advance where alcohol was involved.9
In a study of students who had been victims of some type of sexual aggression while in college—from intimidation and illegal restraint to rape—the women surveyed reported that 68 percent of their male assailants had been drinking at the time of the attack.10
Alcohol and other drug use exacerbate the problem of misinterpretation of sexual intent but are also used to justify assault.11 Most college men believe that alcohol increases sexual arousal and legitimates nonconsensual sexual aggression. Most also believe that women who have two or more drinks are more interested than other women in having sex.6
6. Abbey A. Acquaintance Rape and Alcohol Consumption on College Campuses: How Are They Linked? Journal of American College Health 1991; 39: 165–169.8. Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2002). A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges (NIH Publication No. 02-5010). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.9. Wechsler H, Eun Lee J, Kuo M, Seibring M, Nelson TF Lee, H. Trends in College Binge Drinking During a Period of Increased Prevention Efforts: Findings from 4 Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study Surveys: 1993–2001. Journal of American College Health 2002; 50 (5): 203-217.10. Frintner MP, Rubinson L. Acquaintance Rape: The Influence of Alcohol, Fraternity Membership, and Sports Team Membership. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy 1993; 19(4): 272–284.11. Finn P. Preventing Alcohol-Related Problems on Campus: Acquaintance Rape. A Guide for Program Coordinators. Washington, DC: The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, U.S. Department of Education, 19

Rape Facilitating Drugs Other Than Alcohol

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Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam)
  • Manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche Pharmaceutical Company
  • Used as a sleeping aid or pre-surgical sedative
  • Approximately 10 times the strength of Valium
  • Physically addictive
  • Has never been approved for medical use in the US
  • Small, white round tablet that dissolves quickly—resembles aspirin
  • Odorless, tasteless, and has no visible effect on a drink’s appearance ("safer", color-encapsulated and more slowly dissolving tablets are currently not available in the US)
  • Street names: Roachies, La Rocha, Rope, Rib, Roche, Roofies, Ruffies, Mexican Valium, Rophynol, R-2, Forget Me Pill
  • Can be lethal in combination with alcohol
  • Effects include: drowsiness, impaired motor skills, impaired judgment, dizziness, confusion, amnesia, nausea, disinhibition, and blackouts.
  • Rohypnol remains in the blood for 2 to 4 hours after ingestion and can be detected in the urine for up to 72 hours.

Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam)

  • Originally developed as an anesthetic
  • Widely manufactured in home labs or "kitchens"
  • Uses have included: treatment for narcolepsy, treatment for alcohol and opiate dependency, as a neurotransmitter, and as a performance enhancing additive to body building formulas
  • A central nervous system depressant that is abused for its intoxicating effects
  • Can cause severe, often uncontrollable side effects
  • Grainy, white to sandy-colored powder or clear liquid forms
  • Common street names include: Liquid E, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, Grievous Bodily Harm, Georgia Home Boy, Cherry Meth, and Easy Lay, G
  • With a street name like "liquid ecstasy," it is often misused as the drug Ecstasy
  • Can be fatal in large doses or over long-term use
  • Side effects include: nausea, dizziness, slow heart beat, decreased respiratory effort and blood pressure, lowered inhibitions, unconsciousness, amnesia, seizure-like activity, coma.
  • GHB remains in the blood for 4 hours and the urine for 12 hours.


  • Fast-acting general veterinary anesthetic
  • Made in liquid, tablet or powder form
  • Street names include: Special K, Ket, Vitamine K, Kit Kat, K, Keller, Green, Blind Squid, Cat Valium
For more information: http://www.promotetruth.org/drugs/index.htm