Beth A. Lewis

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Research indicates that two factors, alcohol consumption and having a sexual assault history, increases a woman's risk of being sexually assaulted; however, the mechanism underlying this relationship is not yet fully understood. The majority of studies in this area of research have relied on self-report data or vignettes studies in which the effect of alcohol is examined by manipulating the content of the character's beverage. The purpose of present study was to better understand the effects of alcohol consumption and sexual assault history on perceptions of sexual assault by conducting a laboratory study in which 80 female participants consumed an alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverage and responded to an audiotaped date rape scenario. The audiotape scenario depicted a man and a woman engaging in a sexual interaction that began with consensual sexual contact and progressed to date rape. Participants were instructed to indicate when the male character should stop his sexual advances and answered a series of questions examining how likely they would be to use particular resistance strategies in response to the fictitious date rape. Contrary to our hypothesis, participants who drank alcohol did not wait significantly longer to indicate when the man should stop his sexual advances than participants not consuming alcohol. Nor were there response latency differences among victimized and non victimized participants. Results of the analyses examining resistance strategies indicated that of the participant reporting a sexual assault history, those who consumed alcohol were more likely to report that they would use unassertive resistance in response to a sexual assault than participants who did not consume alcohol. We also found that participants who consumed alcohol were more likely to report that they would feel overwhelmed if they were in the situation depicted in the scenario than participants who did not consume alcohol. Findings will be discussed in terms of implications for sexual assault awareness and prevention programs.

Included in

Psychology Commons