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Alcohol and Acquaintance Assault Risk Perception

Principal Investigator:
Jeanette Norris, PhD
Senior Scientist
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute

Date: February 3, 2000 to May 31, 2005
Sponsor: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01AA012219)
Categories: Sexual Behavior and HIV Risk

Other Investigators: Kristen Mariano - Research Coordinator; Kim Nomensen - Research Assistant; Margaret Thomas - Research Assistant

Description: Sexual assault by acquaintances is a serious problem for young women. Approximately one in four experiences either rape or attempted rape, the overwhelming majority of which are committed by acquaintances. Alcohol consumption by the victim, assailant, or both is involved in more than half of these assaults.

One key element of sexual assault prevention is early perception of risk, which enables a woman to respond effectively and extricate herself from the situation before it escalates. In assessing risk and responding to it, women make a series of primary and secondary cognitive appraisals. Primary appraisals are those directed specifically to acknowledging and assessing the level of risk in a particular situation. Secondary appraisals involve weighing the ability to respond effectively against psychological barriers. A woman's own alcohol consumption and her perception of the assailant's consumption can affect this cognitive appraisal process.

This project, funded by NIAAA, will investigate alcohol's physiological, psychological, and expectancy effects on cognitive appraisals and responses to sexual assault. It will employ theoretical models of cognitive appraisal and coping and response conflict related to alcohol consumption. Data collection for the project is now complete, and data analysis is proceeding.

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