Drinking alcohol does not impair women’s ability to recall sex attack, study suggests 

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Drinking alcohol does not impair women’s ability to recall sex attack, study suggests

  • A study found drunk women are not significantly worse at recalling details
  • Less than 3 per cent of alleged rapes end in a charge or court summons

Having a few drinks does not impair a woman’s ability to accurately recall being sexually assaulted, a study claims.

Rape convictions are notoriously low in the UK, with police investigations and court cases often casting doubt on women’s recollections of events because they were drunk.

Now researchers say women who have consumed alcohol are not significantly worse at recalling important details of a sexual attack.

A study of 90 women, aged 18 to 32, gave them a fictitious scenario in which they met a man called Michael in a bar or at a party and got talking.

Half the study volunteers drank three vodka and tonics on an empty stomach. The others had tonic water in cup that contained a lime soaked with vodka and some vodka on the rim, so they were not sure if they were consuming an alcoholic drink.

Professor Heather Flowe, who led the study from Birmingham University, said it suggested 'being raped creates strong memories of certain harrowing details, regardless of alcohol consumption'

Professor Heather Flowe, who led the study from Birmingham University, said it suggested ‘being raped creates strong memories of certain harrowing details, regardless of alcohol consumption’

At 22 separate points in the scenario – read on a computer, with a female voice also reading it aloud – they could decide to carry on or ‘call it a night’.

Almost one in five women continued the scenario to the end, having imaginary consensual sex with Michael after going home with him. For the 83 per cent who called it a night, they were told he refused to take ‘no’ for an answer and raped them.

Asked questions about this fictional rape, having been asked to imagine it had happened to them, the women who had drunk alcohol were no less accurate in their recollections.

The participants, who were warned about the subject of the study before signing up, generally remembered the sexual assault better when they were expecting to drink alcohol.

The researchers said women may be ‘hyper-vigilant’ for dangerous behaviour from men when they know they might be drunk.

Professor Heather Flowe, who led the study from Birmingham University, said it suggested ‘being raped creates strong memories of certain harrowing details, regardless of alcohol consumption’.

Less than 3 per cent of alleged rapes in England and Wales end in a charge or court summons.

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