If you’ve been anywhere on the internet lately, you’ve probably heard about Rick Ross’ newly released single U.O.E.N.O., during which he raps “Put molly in her champagne / She ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that / She ain’t even know it,” The song has sparked controversy and online petitions calling for companies like Reebok to drop Rick Ross as a spokesperson and radio stations to remove the song from their playlists. I gotta tell you- I’m pretty pumped about this. I’m pumped that the public is outraged with Ross’ lyrics and glorification of drugging a woman with ecstasy (a.k.a. “molly”) in order to have sex with her and that I haven’t found one article citing that the ambiguous woman Ross is referring to should have watched her drink.
Despite my elation about the public conversations being prompted by Ross’ lyrics, our conversations about drug facilitated sexual assault need to go beyond illicit drugs and drink spiking. If we’re going to talk about drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA), we need to be willing to engage in a conversation about alcohol. Alcohol is by far the most commonly used substance in drug facilitated sexual assaults, whether alcohol is forced upon the victim* or a perpetrator takes advantage of someone who has willingly consumed alcohol.
Up to 52% of a sample of men who reported committing a sexual assault since the age of 14 had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault(s) (Gidycz, 2007). High risk drinking has been linked to sexual perpetration among first year college students, with heavy drinkers being more likely to report that they have perpetuated a sexual assault (Neal & Fromme, 2007).
What theories are there to explain the frequent concurrence of alcohol and sexual violence perpetration? Researchers speculate that either:
(a) alcohol causes a causal role in sexual violence perpetration
(b) the desire to commit sexually violent acts prompts perpetrators to use alcohol heavily so that their actions are seen as more socially acceptable/excusable since they are intoxicated
(c) various other factors contribute and cause both high risk drinking and sexual violence perpetration (Abbey, 2008; George, Stoner, Norris, Lopez, & Lehman, 2000).
The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence explain the relationship between American culture, alcohol use, and sexual violence as one that includes multiple factors.
“American culture glamorizes alcohol consumption and links it to sexual desire, sexual performance, aggression, and other types of disinhibited behavior. This affects people in two ways. First, as noted above, people may decide to drink when they want to be sexual, aggressive, and/ or disinhibited. Alcohol provides them with the “liquid courage” to act in the way they wanted to act. Second, intoxicated individuals are likely to interpret other people’s behavior in a manner that conforms to their expectations. Thus, a smile is more likely to be viewed as a sign of sexual attraction and a mildly negative comment is more likely to be interpreted as grounds for an aggressive response” (Abbey, 2008).
Even with societal pressure and the cognitive effects of alcohol, no matter how drunk a person is it does not excuse committing a sexual assault.
If you’re worried about a friend’s high risk drinking and concerned that their own alcohol use may be influencing their sexual decision making, you can encourage them to make an appointment with an Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention Specialist at Student Wellness. Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention Specialists assist students in exploring the social, academic, and sexual consequences of their drinking and encourage positive changes in drinking behaviors through Tarheel BASICS. Remember, how drunk a person is does not excuse committing a sexual assault.
Look out for Raise the Bar, a Student Wellness initiative launching in April as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Raise the Bar is an outreach and training program for local bar establishments offering education on DFSA and training on bystander intervention, providing bar staff the information and tools to intervene and prevent drug facilitated sexual assault.
*The term victim is used because this post focuses on circumstances surrounding the victimizing experience of DFSA, not the recovery process
- Abbey, A. (2008, December). Alcohol and Sexual Violence Perpetration. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved month/day/year, from: http://www.vawnet.org
- George, W.H., Stoner, S.A., Norris, J., Lopez, P.A., & Lehman, G.L. (2000). Alcohol expectancies and sexuality: A self-fulfilling prophecy analysis of dyadic perceptions and behavior. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61, 168-176.
- Gidycz, C.A., Warkentin, J.B., Orchowski, L.M. (2007). Predictors of perpetration of verbal, physical, and sexual violence: A prospective analysis of college men. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 8, 79-94.
- Neal, D.J., & Fromme, K. (2007). Event-level covariation of alcohol intoxication and behavioral risks during the first year of college. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75 , 294-306.