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Friday 17 August 2018

One in six female students has suffered a sex assault while drunk or passed out

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

One in six female students either knows or suspects that someone had sexual contact with them without their consent when they were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep, according to a new study.

Male students reported similar events but the incidence was less than half of that reported by females, researchers from NUI Galway's School of Psychology found.

The findings emerged from the first comprehensive survey in Ireland of sexual behaviour and assault among 18-to 29-year-old college students, which also explored the role of alcohol.

The survey was conducted in 2014-15 and key findings include that over the course of a year:

  • 8pc of females and 3pc of males were certain someone had sexual contact with them where they were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because they were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep.
  • A further 8pc of females and 4pc of males were uncertain but suspected that something similar had happened to them.

The two sets of figures bring to 16pc - about one in six - female students who were either certain, or suspected, that someone had sexual contact with them without their consent.

The report's main author, PhD student Elaine Byrnes, said students were also invited to say what happened in situations where they were unable to give consent and there were a range of answers, including forced touching, attempted sexual intercourse or sexual intercourse.

Among the other insights gleaned were that 27pc of females and 35pc of males agreed with the statement that "guys don't usually intend to force sex on a girl, but sometimes they get too sexually carried away".

Meanwhile, 76pc of females and 69pc of males agreed that they were less nervous about sex after drinking and 35pc of females and 58pc of males said they had had sex with people with whom they wouldn't have done so if they had been sober.

Researchers found that 75pc of women and 56pc of men were extremely/very likely to confront a friend who planned to give someone alcohol to get sex.

Dr Byrnes said the results showed the incidence of sexual violence and assault were comparable to international studies of college students.

"Findings on alcohol-related sex consequences, particularly where students report being forced or pressured into sexual activity, highlight the importance of continuing consent education, how it [consent] is understood and communicated and the role of alcohol in sexual decision-making."

The survey involved students in NUI Galway and Ms Byrnes said it highlighted the need for a national study of third-level students on this issue.

Dr Pat Morgan, vice-president for the student experience at NUI Galway, said the university was committed to supporting and enhancing the holistic development of students, and that the data would contribute to the development of sexual-health policies and services on the campus.

Irish Independent

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