Under the influence?

Under the influence?

Considering the role of alcohol and sexual assault in social contexts

Liz Wall and Antonia Quadara

ACSSA Issues No. 18 — July 2014
Under the influence? Considering the role of alcohol and sexual assault in social contexts

Key messages

Alcohol is a feature in a high proportion of sexual assaults.

It appears that alcohol has a multi-faceted role in facilitating sexual assault.

There are social and gender issues around alcohol consumption that perpetrators are able to exploit to their advantage.

Alcohol is used as a tool by perpetrators to increase victim vulnerability and enhance their own confidence.

Alcohol is used as an excuse by perpetrators to reduce their culpability and accountability.

Alcohol may be consumed voluntarily by victims or perpetrators may coerce consumption or covertly administer alcohol.

Alcohol on its own is not a causative factor for sexual assault but it acts together with social and cultural factors that influence behaviour in relation to social scripts and sexual interactions.

Alcohol has a culturally accepted place in social situations, particularly when young people congregate, however, it is also widely acknowledged that alcohol is often present in many sexual assaults that occur within these social contexts.

Although there is extensive research on the link between alcohol and sexual assault, there is still a lack of clarity about the exact role that alcohol plays in facilitating this type of sexual violence. Perpetrators are able to use alcohol to their advantage in a number of ways.

Clearly, alcohol is not a causative factor on its own, as many people drink without perpetrating violence. It seems most likely that alcohol acts in multiple ways and interacts with a range of social and individual factors to influence the perpetration of sexual assault.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Liz Wall is a Research Officer and Antonia Quadara is the Manager of the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault.


The authors would like to thank Dr Rebecca Jenkinson, Research Fellow at AIFS, and Dr Bianca Fileborn, Research Officer at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society for the their valuable feedback.

Publication details

ACSSA Issues
No. 18
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, July 2014.
22 pp.
ISSN: 
1833-7864
ISBN: 
978-1-922038-60-9
Suggested citation:

Wall, L., & Quadara, A. (2014). Under the influence? Considering the role of alcohol and sexual assault in social contexts (ACSSA Issues No. 18). Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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