Using Substances to Facilitate Sexual Abuse
Perpetrators of sexual abuse use drugs and alcohol as tools to assault individuals. When mixed with drugs, alcohol may reduce a person’s decision-making ability or render them unconscious. At times, a perpetrator will slip drugs in an unsuspecting individual’s drink to prevent them from recognizing a dangerous situation or resisting an attack.
Alcohol is the predominant drug used to facilitate sexual assault, and roughly half of reported sexual assaults involve alcohol use by the perpetrator, victim or both. Studies among convicted rapists, sexual assault predators and survivors have consistently found that in about half the cases, the men were drinking alcohol.
Perpetrators tend to prey on the vulnerability of their victims. They may attempt to increase the amount of drugs or alcohol a potential victim is taking or assault heavily intoxicated people. The attackers may also use alcohol as a way to justify their actions.
A study reported that 83 percent of female victims who were raped after they started using crack cocaine admitted to being under the influence of the drug at the time of rape. At least 57 percent of perpetrators were also intoxicated with crack cocaine when the rape occurred.
More than one-third of sexually active teens and young adults admitted to doing more sexually than they originally intended to while under the influence of substances, according to a survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Not remembering the events that led up to the incident may be traumatizing to victims of sexual assault, and they may blame themselves for their lack of awareness and use of substances.
Younger victims often fear the repercussions of underage drinking, hence they may never report the incident to the authorities. This can lead to a lot of internalized frustration and blame, which may cause the victims to resort to drugs and alcohol to cope with their troubles.
Using Substances to Cope with Sexual Assault
People have different strategies for coping with rough situations such as abuse, rape and trauma. While coping mechanisms can be positive, victims of sexual violence often manage their trauma in negative ways, such as avoidance and denial.
The stress from sexual violence can lead to long-term damaging effects to the brain and incite harmful behaviors such as bulimia
, anorexia or self-harming. Some people may self-medicate to deal with the aftermath of abuse.
The need for self-medication stems from the stigma that society places on sexual assault cases that involve drugs and alcohol. In cases of self-medication, victims view substances of abuse as socially accepted, accessible and cheap solutions to their problems. Instead of quelling the undesired feelings, substances of abuse worsen trauma symptoms.
- Deal with the aftermath of child abuse
- Increase self-confidence and decrease feelings of loneliness
- Feel more in control of the situation
- Function or feel comfortable sexually
- Regain power and self-control
According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape report, 79 percent of rape survivors who drank alcohol became intoxicated for the first time after sexual assault, while 89 percent of rape survivors who used cocaine started using the drug after the assault.
The correlation between rape and substance abuse is apparent. One study found that 73 percent of women in residential substance abuse treatment programs reported they were rape victims.
Self-medicating to address symptoms of sexual and physical abuse can be destructive, and individuals who engage in this behavior are at risk of developing a substance use disorder.