Atrisk Populations

Multiple perpetrator rape is a ubiquitous public health concern; however, there are populations who are increased risk of experiencing this atrocious act(s). Adolescence is a high-risk period for attempted and completed sexual assaults; approximately one-third of sexual assault victims in the United States report sexual violence during this developmental stage. Ullman's study1 comparing individual and multiple perpetrator rape reported to Chicago police indicated that victims and offenders of multiple perpetrator sexual assaults tended to be younger and unemployed. These findings are critically important given that adolescent sexual assault is associated with an increased vulnerability for a range of mental health problems. Specifically, longitudinal study findings indicate that sexual assault during adolescence is associated with increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, and substance abuse disorders.11

Individuals with a prior trauma history are also vulnerable to multiple perpetrator sexual assaults. In particular, a history of previous traumatic experiences is related to increased vulnerability to multiple assailant sexual assaults among women. In Ullman's investigation2 she found that in a sample of 1,084 community-residing female victims of sexual assault (multiple-offender cases; n = 176, 17.9% of the sample) and with single-offender cases (n = 807), the majority of the women had experienced a lifetime traumatic event (90%), but multiple perpetrator sexual assault victims experienced an average of 3.72 traumatic events, whereas individual rape victims experienced 3.05 traumatic events, t (1, 216) = -3.27, p = .001. Furthermore, more than half of the sample had child sexual abuse histories, and multiple perpetrator rape victims were marginally more likely to have experienced child sexual abuse (p < .007).2

Finally, researchers are increasingly recognizing that a substantial proportion of assaults involve alcohol and other substances and may differ from assaults where alcohol or other drugs are not involved.12 An estimated half to three-quarters of sexual assaults involve alcohol use.13-14 Approximately one in twenty women (4.7%) reported being raped in 119 schools surveyed in 2001. Nearly 72% of the victims experienced rape while intoxicated. White women under twenty-one years of age, residing in sorority houses, using illicit drugs, drinking heavily in high school, and attending college with high rates of heavy episodic drinking were at higher risk of rape while intoxicated.15 The amount of alcohol that perpetrators or victims consumed during assault was linearly related to the type of sexual assault committed and to how much aggression was used by perpetrators during the assault.16 Drug-facilitated sexual assaults have also been on the rise over the last decade, involving what is often referred to as "date rape" or club drugs. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate, methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine, and ket-amine hydrochloride and its components are among the most popular drugs used for this purpose. Use of these chemical substances is increasingly frequent among youth, especially during all-night dance parties and at clubs. Perpetrators choose these drugs because they act rapidly, diminish inhibition, produce relaxation of voluntary muscles, and give the victim lasting anterograde amnesia for events that occur under the influence of the drug.17

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