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Alcohol mediates the relationship between alcohol and reporting rape to the police


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This study experimentally examined within a hypothetical rape scenario the role of victim alcohol intoxication and self-blame in perceiving and reporting to the police non-consensual sexual intercourse as rape. Participants (N = 79) consumed alcohol (mean BAC = .075%) or tonic water, and alcohol expectancy was manipulated. Thereafter, they participated in an interactive hypothetical dating scenario that allowed them to control the level of intimacy occurring. Once they stopped consenting, an act of rape was depicted. Alcohol consumption and expectancy did not affect the likelihood that forced non-consensual intercourse was perceived as rape. However, women who believed they had consumed alcohol as opposed to tonic were less likely to indicate they would report the rape to the police. The association between rape reporting and alcohol expectancy was fully mediated by participant self-blame. The implications of the results are discussed.

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Alcohol mediates the relationship between alcohol and reporting rape to the police

  1. 1. Alcohol mediates the relationship between alcohol and reporting rape to the police Heather D. Flowe, PhD Loughborough University, UK Paper presented at: Integrating Research and Practice to Combat Violence and Interpersonal Aggression, June 2017, Coventry University.
  2. 2. CONTRIBUTORS Anna Carline, PhD Melissa Colloff, PhD Professor Graham Davies Lawrence English, Senior District Crown Prosecutor Julie Galagher Julie Gawrylowicz, PhD DI Reme Gibson Clare Gunby, PhD Robyn Holliday, PhD Joyce Humphries, PhD Nilda Karoğlu, MSc DI Michelle Keen College of Policing Mary Prior QC Hannah Ryder, PhD Dr Kevin Smith Melanie Takarangi, PhD
  3. 3. ALCOHOL AND SEXUAL ASSAULT • Sexual violence often occurs in and around drinking establishments (e.g., Anderson, Hughes, & Bellis, 2007) • Rape perpetrators seem to target people who are alcohol-intoxicated (Lisak & Miller, 2002)
  4. 4. ALCOHOL AND REPORTING RAPE • Survivors are more likely to be held responsible for rape if they had voluntarily consumed alcohol (Sims, Noel, & Maisto, 2007) • Alcohol can affect a survivor’s perception of rape, reducing the odds rape is reported to the authorities (Wolitzky-Taylor et al., 2011) • How might survivor’s alcohol-intoxication during rape impact whether the attack is reported?
  5. 5. ALCOHOL AND RAPE REPORTING • Women who were alcohol-intoxicated during the rape might be less likely to report it because they don’t think others will believe them • Community women (i.e., sex workers, those working as exotic dancers) just as likely to perceive nonconsensual sexual intercourse as rape but are far less likely to say they would report it to the police (Flowe, Ebbesen, & Putcha-Bhagavatula, 2007) • Women may blame the assault on their own character or behaviour (Finkelson & Oswalt, 1995; Janoff-Bulman, 1979)
  6. 6. ALCOHOL AND RAPE REPORTING • Women who were alcohol-intoxicated might be less likely to report rape because they are less likely to perceive the sexual contact as nonconsensual • People negatively judge the character of women who voluntary consume alcohol in potentially risky situations (Grubb & Turner, 2012) • Women’s alcohol consumption is stereotypically associated with sexual availability (e.g., Abbey, Zawacki, & McAuslan, 2000) – women may internalise this view • Alcohol impairs women’s ability to detect sexually aggressive cues (Loiselle & Fuqua, 2007; c.f. Pumphrey-Gordon & Gross, 2007)
  7. 7. ALCOHOL AND RAPE REPORTING • Women might be less likely to report rape because they are less likely to interpret and remember the sexual contact as nonconsensual • Her behaviour during the attack and the events leading up to it could lead her to conclude the sexual contact was consensual (Flowe et al., 2017)
  8. 8. BELIEFS ABOUT ALCOHOL AND BEHAVIOUR • Alcohol expectancies can bias evaluations of sexual situations: Women who expect to be more sexually responsive after consuming alcohol are: • More likely to have a history of severe sexual victimisation (Testa & Dermen, 1999) • Less likely to indicate they would resist when they evaluate a hypothetical rape (Pumphrey-Gordon & Gross, 2007)
  9. 9. PREDICTIONS Women who consumed or who expected to consume alcohol 1) will be less likely to perceive the non-consensual sexual intercourse depicted in the scenario as rape; 2) will be less likely to report it to the police as rape; and 3) will be more likely to blame the assault on their own behaviour. Further, it was hypothesized that self-blame would mediate any significant association found between alcohol consumption/expectancy and rape reporting.
  10. 10. PARTICIPANTS • 79 women between the ages of 18 and 32 (M = 20.38)
  11. 11. DESIGN • We ran a 2 beverage (alcohol or tonic) x 2 expectancy (told alcohol or told tonic) factorial design • Women were randomly assigned to a condition To control beverage: • In the alcohol group, women received vodka, tonic and limes, and they were dosed to achieve an average BAC of .075% • In the tonic group, women were given tonic water and limes that were soaked in vodka To control expectancy: • Half of the participants in each beverage group were told they had received vodka, and the other half were told they had received tonic.
  12. 12. DESIGN • Measures • Rape Attribution Questionnaire (RAQ) (Frazier, 2003) • Five-point Likert-type scale that is anchored from ‘Never’ to ‘Very Often’ • Characterological self-blame subscale measures the belief that one has contributed to the sexual assault (e.g., ‘I am just the victim type.’) • Behavioural self-blame subscale measures the belief that one’s behaviour led to the sexual assault (‘I just put myself into a vulnerable position.’) • Rape perception (7 point Likert-type scale) • Rape reporting (7 point Likert-type scale) • Full ethical approval • Followed BPS ethics requirements • Informed consent procedures utilised
  13. 13. SCREENING • Medical conditions • Medication • Problem drinking behaviours • Pregnancy
  14. 14. Stage 1 Stage 2 Experiment Stage 3 7 days later Screening Beverage And Expectancy Manipulation Interactive Scenario
  15. 15. Finally, all participants were fully debriefed regarding the aims of the study.
  16. 16. MEDIATION ANALYSIS Alcohol Belief Self Blame Reporting Rape β = -.21, p = .04 β = .29, p = .01 β = -.31, p = .005
  18. 18. MEDIATION ANALYSIS Alcohol Beliefs Self Blame Reporting Rape β = -.27, p = .03 β = -.14, p = .13 Thus, self-blame mediates the relationship between alcohol consumption beliefs and rape reporting.
  19. 19. CONCLUSION • Participants who believed that they had consumed alcohol rather than a non-alcoholic beverage engaged in more self-blame and, consequently, indicated that they would be less willing to report rape to the police in response to a hypothetical rape scenario
  20. 20. IMPLICATIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS • Self-blame is particularly common soon after victimization (Ullman, 2010), and therefore, education about the self-blame seems particularly important for first responders (e.g., police, medical and mental health professionals), who are likely to shape the victims’ perceptions of self-blame and whether legal remedy should be pursued. • Further research is also needed to understand how first responders and others can best support victims who disclose that they were raped while alcohol-intoxicated. Those who work with victims may also benefit from training on how to be supportive following rape disclosure, and the importance of being supportive rather than reacting negatively with respect to victim recovery.
  21. 21. IMPLICATIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS • The results could be used to develop educational programmes about the role of alcohol in rape victim self-blame. • The results of the current research imply that attributional retraining (see Murdock & Altamier, 1991) as a part of treatment and recovery programmes may be important for victims who were alcohol- intoxicated during rape, and research in this regard seems warranted.
  22. 22. NEW EVIDENCE FOR PRACTICE CONFERENCE Conference: • Interviewing Intoxicated Victims: New Evidence for Practice • July 17th @ Leicester Police HQ Get in touch if you would like further information about the paper: @hflowe Email me if you would like to attend the conference (Space is limited)