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Remembering rape:
A randomised controlled test
of the effects of acute alcohol
intoxication and alcohol
expectancies on women’s
memory
Heather D. Flowe1 and Lisa E. Smith2
1University of Birmingham, School of Psychology
2University of Leicester, Criminology
Alcohol and Sexual Violence
 473,000 adults in England and Wales are victims of sexual
offenses per year on average (Home Office, 2013)
 Estimates for rape and attempted rape have ranged up to an
annual high of 1.27 million persons in the U.S. (National
Research Council, 2014)
Alcohol and
Sexual Violence
 Alcohol is often antecedent to sexual assault, with up to
75% involving alcohol use on the part of the victim, the
perpetrator, or both (Stern, 2010)
 Prosecutors reject 65% of rape cases (Flowe et al.,
2011), most often citing victim considerations such as
alcohol use
 Alcohol:
 Prejudicial aspect
 Probative aspect
Alcohol and Sexual Assault
 “Advocates and SANEs [Sexual Assault Nurse
Examiners] get frustrated when we can’t move
forward with an investigation, but sometimes we
can’t because the victim doesn’t remember what
happened or there are inconsistencies [in her story].”
 From (Cole & Logan, 2010)
Alcohol and memory: blackouts
 Fragmentary blackout
 A person is able to remember
partial information; memory
formation is incomplete
 more common than en bloc
 En bloc blackout
 Alcohol blackout can occur at high
levels of intoxication (e.g., BAC =
.14 to .27%)
 A person will have no memory and
not be able to recall anything about
events that took place for a stretch
of time
 Sensory and short-term memory
are preserved
Alcohol’s Effects on Memory
• Alcohol expectancies affect
attention and memory, with women
demonstrating increased
hypervigilance in risky sexual
scenarios (Flowe et al., 2015;
Testa, 2006)
• Alcohol affects completeness but
not the accuracy of recall Hagsand, Roos af
Hjelmsäter, Granhag, Fahlke, & Söderpalm Gordh, 2012; Harvey, Kneller &
Campbell, 2013; Hildebrand Karlén, Roos af Hjelmsäter, Fahlke, Granhag, &
Söderpalm Gordh, 2014; Schreiber Compo et al., 2012; Schreiber Compo et al.,
2017; Van Oorsouw, & Merckelbach, 2012 )
Research Questions
 Does acute alcohol intoxication affect the victim’s
ability to remember details about the sexual activity
that took place during the rape?
 Can victims who were intoxicated accurately
remember the sequence of activities that occurred?
 Are women more likely to be accurate if they are
confident their memory is accurate?
Participants
 78 women between the ages of 18 and 31 (M=20.52, SD=2.31)
Design
 2 beverage (alcohol BAC .06% or tonic) x 2 expectancy (told
alcohol or told tonic) between subjects design
 Dependent variables:
 Number of correct and incorrect activities remembered
 Proportion correct
 Sequence accuracy
 Confidence
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
7 days later
Screening
Screening
 Medical conditions
 Medication
 Problem drinking behaviours
 Pregnancy
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
Screening
Beverage
Manipulation
Rape Scenario
Rape scenario presented via participant choice procedure: Flowe et al., 2007;
Flowe et al., 2011; Flowe et al., 2016; Flowe et al., 2017
Method: Session 1,
Encoding Phase
Method: Session 1,
Encoding Phase
Method: Session 1,
Encoding Phase
0 .0 0
0 .0 2
0 .0 4
0 .0 6
0 .0 8
0 .1 0
0 .1 2
0 .1 4
0 .0 0 0 .1 0 0 .2 0 0 .3 0 0 .4 0 0 .5 0 0 .6 0 0 .7 0 0 .8 0 0 .9 0 1 .0 0
Intimate E ncounte r S urv iv al T ime
OddsIntercourseProsecutedasRape
M oderate High
Consent Level, Sexual History,
and Prosecuting Rape
(Flowe & Ebbesen, 2007)
Flowe, H.D. & Ebbesen, E.B. (2007). Rape shield laws and sexual behavior evidence: Effects of consent level and women’s
sexual history on rape allegations. Law and Human Behavior, 1, 159-175.
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
7 days later
Screening
Beverage
Manipulation
Rape
Post-
event
Narrative
Interview
Recog
Test
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
7 days later
Screening
Beverage
Manipulation
Rape
Post-
event
Narrative
Interview
Recog
Test
Results
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
Told Alcohol Told Tonic
Consensual Activity Memory
Accuracy
Alcohol
Tonic
 Women accurately
remembered the sexual
activities to which they
had consented
 Alcohol consumption
and expectancy did not
affect consensual
memory accuracy
Results
 Women less accurately
remembered the
perpetrator’s behavior
during the rape
 Alcohol consumption
and expectancy were
not significantly
associated with
decreased accuracy
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
Told Alcohol Told Tonic
Rape Memory Accuracy
Alcohol
Tonic
Results
 Women who expected to
consume alcohol remembered
more accurately overall
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
ProportionCorrect
Memory Accuracy Overall
Expect
Alcohol
Expect
Tonic
Results
 Women’s memory for
sequence did not vary
in relation to alcohol
consumption or
expectancy
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Told Alcohol Told Tonic
Errors
Sequence Difference
Alcohol
Tonic
Results
 Women’s ability to
evaluate the likely
accuracy of their
memory did not vary
with alcohol
consumption
 There was an
association between
confidence and
accuracy: As confidence
in memory increased,
memory accuracy
increased
.00
.10
.20
.30
.40
.50
.60
.70
.80
.90
1.00
0 10-40% 50-70% 80-100%
Accuracy
Confidence
Beverage Results
Perfect
calibration
Consumed
Alcohol
Consumed
Placebo
Conclusion
 Does acute alcohol intoxication affect the victim’s ability to
remember details about the sexual activity that took place during
the rape?
 Women who believed they consumed alcohol had better memory
performance. Alcohol consumption itself did not affect performance.
 Can victims who were intoxicated accurately remember the
sequence of activities that occurred? Yes
 Are women more likely to be accurate if they are confident their
memory is accurate?
 Yes and alcohol consumption does not affect the association between
confidence and accuracy
Implications, Limitations and
Future Directions
 Alcohol does not necessarily affect the quality of memory reports
 Larger dose of alcohol necessary
 Field research may enable higher doses, but the trade-off is that
alcohol expectancy cannot be studied
FMEs wanted to participate in
study
 We are investigating how alcohol intoxication during rape affects
the accuracy of victim accounts during FMEs. Please contact me
if you or your SARC can participate.
 Heather Flowe, PhD
 h.flowe@bham.ac.uk
Presentation Title
Speaker’s name
Acknowledgement
http://www.le.ac.uk/pc/cap/hf49/
We would like to thank the
Alcohol Research UK, the Wellcome
Trust, and the ESRC for supporting
this research.

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Alcohol and Remembering Rape, St Mary's SARC Annual Conference Dr Flowe

  • 1. Remembering rape: A randomised controlled test of the effects of acute alcohol intoxication and alcohol expectancies on women’s memory Heather D. Flowe1 and Lisa E. Smith2 1University of Birmingham, School of Psychology 2University of Leicester, Criminology
  • 2. Alcohol and Sexual Violence  473,000 adults in England and Wales are victims of sexual offenses per year on average (Home Office, 2013)  Estimates for rape and attempted rape have ranged up to an annual high of 1.27 million persons in the U.S. (National Research Council, 2014)
  • 3. Alcohol and Sexual Violence  Alcohol is often antecedent to sexual assault, with up to 75% involving alcohol use on the part of the victim, the perpetrator, or both (Stern, 2010)  Prosecutors reject 65% of rape cases (Flowe et al., 2011), most often citing victim considerations such as alcohol use  Alcohol:  Prejudicial aspect  Probative aspect
  • 4. Alcohol and Sexual Assault  “Advocates and SANEs [Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners] get frustrated when we can’t move forward with an investigation, but sometimes we can’t because the victim doesn’t remember what happened or there are inconsistencies [in her story].”  From (Cole & Logan, 2010)
  • 5. Alcohol and memory: blackouts  Fragmentary blackout  A person is able to remember partial information; memory formation is incomplete  more common than en bloc  En bloc blackout  Alcohol blackout can occur at high levels of intoxication (e.g., BAC = .14 to .27%)  A person will have no memory and not be able to recall anything about events that took place for a stretch of time  Sensory and short-term memory are preserved
  • 6. Alcohol’s Effects on Memory • Alcohol expectancies affect attention and memory, with women demonstrating increased hypervigilance in risky sexual scenarios (Flowe et al., 2015; Testa, 2006) • Alcohol affects completeness but not the accuracy of recall Hagsand, Roos af Hjelmsäter, Granhag, Fahlke, & Söderpalm Gordh, 2012; Harvey, Kneller & Campbell, 2013; Hildebrand Karlén, Roos af Hjelmsäter, Fahlke, Granhag, & Söderpalm Gordh, 2014; Schreiber Compo et al., 2012; Schreiber Compo et al., 2017; Van Oorsouw, & Merckelbach, 2012 )
  • 7. Research Questions  Does acute alcohol intoxication affect the victim’s ability to remember details about the sexual activity that took place during the rape?  Can victims who were intoxicated accurately remember the sequence of activities that occurred?  Are women more likely to be accurate if they are confident their memory is accurate?
  • 8. Participants  78 women between the ages of 18 and 31 (M=20.52, SD=2.31)
  • 9. Design  2 beverage (alcohol BAC .06% or tonic) x 2 expectancy (told alcohol or told tonic) between subjects design  Dependent variables:  Number of correct and incorrect activities remembered  Proportion correct  Sequence accuracy  Confidence
  • 10. Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 7 days later Screening
  • 11. Screening  Medical conditions  Medication  Problem drinking behaviours  Pregnancy
  • 12. Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Screening Beverage Manipulation Rape Scenario Rape scenario presented via participant choice procedure: Flowe et al., 2007; Flowe et al., 2011; Flowe et al., 2016; Flowe et al., 2017
  • 16. 0 .0 0 0 .0 2 0 .0 4 0 .0 6 0 .0 8 0 .1 0 0 .1 2 0 .1 4 0 .0 0 0 .1 0 0 .2 0 0 .3 0 0 .4 0 0 .5 0 0 .6 0 0 .7 0 0 .8 0 0 .9 0 1 .0 0 Intimate E ncounte r S urv iv al T ime OddsIntercourseProsecutedasRape M oderate High Consent Level, Sexual History, and Prosecuting Rape (Flowe & Ebbesen, 2007) Flowe, H.D. & Ebbesen, E.B. (2007). Rape shield laws and sexual behavior evidence: Effects of consent level and women’s sexual history on rape allegations. Law and Human Behavior, 1, 159-175.
  • 17. Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 7 days later Screening Beverage Manipulation Rape Post- event Narrative Interview Recog Test
  • 18. Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 7 days later Screening Beverage Manipulation Rape Post- event Narrative Interview Recog Test
  • 19. Results 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1 Told Alcohol Told Tonic Consensual Activity Memory Accuracy Alcohol Tonic  Women accurately remembered the sexual activities to which they had consented  Alcohol consumption and expectancy did not affect consensual memory accuracy
  • 20. Results  Women less accurately remembered the perpetrator’s behavior during the rape  Alcohol consumption and expectancy were not significantly associated with decreased accuracy 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1 Told Alcohol Told Tonic Rape Memory Accuracy Alcohol Tonic
  • 21. Results  Women who expected to consume alcohol remembered more accurately overall 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 ProportionCorrect Memory Accuracy Overall Expect Alcohol Expect Tonic
  • 22. Results  Women’s memory for sequence did not vary in relation to alcohol consumption or expectancy 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Told Alcohol Told Tonic Errors Sequence Difference Alcohol Tonic
  • 23. Results  Women’s ability to evaluate the likely accuracy of their memory did not vary with alcohol consumption  There was an association between confidence and accuracy: As confidence in memory increased, memory accuracy increased .00 .10 .20 .30 .40 .50 .60 .70 .80 .90 1.00 0 10-40% 50-70% 80-100% Accuracy Confidence Beverage Results Perfect calibration Consumed Alcohol Consumed Placebo
  • 24. Conclusion  Does acute alcohol intoxication affect the victim’s ability to remember details about the sexual activity that took place during the rape?  Women who believed they consumed alcohol had better memory performance. Alcohol consumption itself did not affect performance.  Can victims who were intoxicated accurately remember the sequence of activities that occurred? Yes  Are women more likely to be accurate if they are confident their memory is accurate?  Yes and alcohol consumption does not affect the association between confidence and accuracy
  • 25. Implications, Limitations and Future Directions  Alcohol does not necessarily affect the quality of memory reports  Larger dose of alcohol necessary  Field research may enable higher doses, but the trade-off is that alcohol expectancy cannot be studied
  • 26. FMEs wanted to participate in study  We are investigating how alcohol intoxication during rape affects the accuracy of victim accounts during FMEs. Please contact me if you or your SARC can participate.  Heather Flowe, PhD  h.flowe@bham.ac.uk
  • 27. Presentation Title Speaker’s name Acknowledgement http://www.le.ac.uk/pc/cap/hf49/ We would like to thank the Alcohol Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, and the ESRC for supporting this research.