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

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How does alcohol affect memory for sexual assault, and memory for forensically relevant details in particular? This talk provides an overview of research on the topic.

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

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 8. Participants  78 women between the ages of 18 and 31 (M=20.52, SD=2.31)
  9. 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. 10. Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 7 days later Screening
  11. 11. Screening  Medical conditions  Medication  Problem drinking behaviours  Pregnancy
  12. 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
  13. 13. Method: Session 1, Encoding Phase
  14. 14. Method: Session 1, Encoding Phase
  15. 15. Method: Session 1, Encoding Phase
  16. 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. 17. Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 7 days later Screening Beverage Manipulation Rape Post- event Narrative Interview Recog Test
  18. 18. Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 7 days later Screening Beverage Manipulation Rape Post- event Narrative Interview Recog Test
  19. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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