Sexual assault and alcohol abuse: A comparison of lesbians and heterosexual women

Purpose: To compare and contrast lesbians' and heterosexual women's experiences of sexual assault and to investigate relationships between sexual assault and alcohol abuse. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 63 lesbians and a demographically matched comparison group of 57 heterosexual women. Lesbians' and heterosexual women's experiences of sexual assault, drinking levels, and alcohol-abuse indicators were compared using descriptive statistics. LISTEL analysis was used to test the effects of sexual assault on a latent measure of alcohol abuse. Results: Lesbians reported more childhood sexual experiences, were more likely to meet the study definition for childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and were more likely to perceive themselves as having been sexually abused as children. CSA was associated with lifetime alcohol abuse in both lesbian and heterosexual women. However, adult sexual assault (ASA) was associated with alcohol abuse only in heterosexual women. Implications: Sexual assault is a common experience among both lesbians and heterosexual women. Findings emphasize the importance of asking about sexual assault in health histories, and assessing clients for substance abuse and other sequelae of sexual assault.
Author: 
Hughes,Tonda L.
Johnson,Timothy
Wilsnack,Sharon C.
Reprint Status: 
IN FILE
Start Page: 
515
End Page: 
532
Journal/Periodical Name: 
Journal of Substance Abuse
Volume: 
13
Abstract: 
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between sexual assault and alcohol abuse among lesbian and heterosexual women. A sample of 63 lesbian and 57 heterosexual women (N = 120), 18 years and older, were recruited throughout a large urban area by means of advertisements in local newspapers and flyers. Several survey and interview questionnaires were included to assess childhood sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, alcohol abuse, and sexual orientation. Results indicated that lesbians reported more childhood sexual experiences and childhood sexual abuse. Furthermore, for both lesbian and heterosexual women, there was a significant relationship between childhood sexual abuse and lifetime alcohol abuse. Adult sexual assault, on the other hand, was associated with alcohol abuse only within the group of heterosexual women. Although adult sexual assault rates between both lesbian and heterosexual women were similar, the two groups reported differences concerning the type of perpetrator involved, whereby lesbians were more likely to have experienced sexual assault by a family member while heterosexual women were more likely to have been sexually assaulted by a date or a current partner. These results support prior research associating childhood sexual abuse with alcohol abuse. Due to the lack of random selection and the relatively small sample size, additional research regarding childhood sexual abuse and its impact on relationship dynamics is recommended, as well as additional research examining the relationship between sexual assault and alcohol abuse among lesbians.
Topic Areas: 
Alcohol, Effects; lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender
Reference Type: 
JOUR
Reference ID: 
1930
Publication Date: 
2001