Factors That Increase Sexual Assault Risk

Alcohol use is most commonly associated with sexual assault on campus, according to a number of studies, including NIJ’s Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study (pdf, 111 pages).

Other risk factors include:

Sorority membership. Almost a quarter of sexual assault victims were sorority members, whereas only 14 percent of nonvictims were sorority members.

Numerous sexual partners. Women who reported having more sexual partners since entering college were more likely to have reported forced sexual assault.

Freshman or sophomore status. The first two years of college are the highest risk years, and the first few months of the school year are the highest risk time of the year.

Day of the week. More than half of the sexual assaults took place on weekends. More than half occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.

Off-campus parties. More than half of sexual assaults against college women took place in off-campus settings. More than half of the women who reported incapacitated sexual assault said they were at a party when the incident took place.

Risk Groups for Forced and Incapacitated Assault

Physically forced sexual assault (no drugs or alcohol involved). Women on college campuses are more likely to be victims if they:

  • Experienced physically forced sexual assault before entering college.
  • Have experienced dating violence since entering college.
  • Are Hispanic (compared to white non-Hispanics).
  • Have had more dating partners since entering college.

Incapacitated sexual assault. For the survey, the researchers used a broad definition of “incapacitated” that included being drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out, asleep or otherwise incapacitated. Women on campuses are more likely to be victims of incapacitated sexual assault if they:

  • Experienced incapacitated sexual assault before entering college.
  • Have experienced dating violence since entering college.
  • Have ever been given a drug without their consent since entering college.
  • Got drunk more often since entering college.
  • Reported being often drunk or high during sex since entering college.
  • Often attended fraternity parties.

While identifying risk factors for sexual assault may assist in the development of prevention efforts, it should be noted that in no way do these risk factors imply that an "at-risk" victim is responsible for the assault.

Date Created: October 1, 2008