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Substance Use, Risky Sex, and Peer Interactions Predict Sexual Assault Among College Women: An Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) Study

College women have previously been shown to be high risk for experiencing sexual assault with alcohol use typically associated. The current study is a prospective study looking at college freshman women using an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study for 42 days. The aim was to examine situational precipitants of sexual assault and to examine within- and between persons factors influencing this relationship.

103 freshman women were recruited that endorsed alcohol use, reported one occasion of three or more drinks on at least once, had a history of sexual intercourse, were a freshman, and a few other factors. Participants were asked if they had experienced any unwanted sexual experiences since their last report. They were also asked if they had participated in unprotected sex or had a sexual encounter with someone they were not in a relationship with that they felt bad about. Students were also asked how much alcohol they had consumed since the last report along with cannabis use. Finally, participants were asked about contextual predictors such as pregaming, drinking with peers, drinking with casual sexual partners, and whether they experienced peer pressure to engage in casual sex.

40 women reported sexual assault during the 40 days. Overall, participants reported 75 occasions of sexual assault (0.7%), 1,116 reports of cannabis use (10.2%), 230 reports of heavy drinking (2.2%), 518 reports of unprotected sex (4.7%), and 74 reports of regretted hookups (0.7%). Results showed odds of sexual assault were significantly greater during regretted hookups and unprotected sex. They also showed that drinking with peers and peer pressure to engage in casual sex were significantly associated with sexual assault. These findings show potential targets to help reduce sexual assault among undergraduate students on college campuses.

Take Away: The current study looks at college freshman women using an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study. The aim was to examine situational precipitants of sexual assault. 103 freshman women were recruited and Participants reported unwanted sexual experiences, unprotected sex, sexual encounters with someone they were not in a relationship with, alcohol and cannabis use, and contextual predictors. Overall, participants reported 75 occasions of sexual assault (0.7%), 1,116 reports of cannabis use (10.2%), and 230 reports of heavy drinking (2.2%). Results showed odds of sexual assault were significantly greater during regretted hookups and unprotected sex. Drinking with peers and peer pressure to engage in casual sex were significantly associated with sexual assault. These findings show potential targets to help reduce sexual assault among undergraduate students.

Yeater, E. A., Witkiewitz, K., Testa, M., & Bryan, A. D. (2020). Substance Use, Risky Sex, and Peer Interactions Predict Sexual Assault Among College Women: An Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) Study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 088626052095872. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260520958720

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