B4099 - Is sexual violence in early adulthood among women associated with subsequent alcohol misuse later in life - 11/07/2022

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Hannah Sallis | MRC IEU
Claudia Barber, Professor Marcus Munafo
Title of project: 
Is sexual violence in early adulthood among women associated with subsequent alcohol misuse later in life?
Proposal summary: 

Within the United Kingdom the prevalence of women’s experience of sexual violence particularly in early adulthood is evidenced to be at an increasing rate (Borumandnia et al., 2020) and much higher than society displays. Reports to clinics of the consequential physical and psychological effects have led to an interest from researchers to further investigate the prominent consequential risks following an experience of sexual violence. Interest has risen around incidents of alcohol misuse over other substances following a woman’s experience of sexual violence, as a result of the accessibility and social acceptance accompanying the substance (Burnam et al., 1988). Additionally, consequent severe health risks have been linked to the misuse of alcohol which may lead to an endurance of health concerns for the individual as well as the subsequent pressure implemented onto the health services.

However, despite the prevalence of sexual violence and consequent health risks associated with alcohol misuse, a lack of consistent evidence dominates existing literature. A myriad of reasons as to why a lack of consistent evidence prevails, however consistent reference to the small sample sizes due to the diverse population, methodological complications and inadequate measures are the most prominent throughout existing literature. Furthermore, due to the ambiguous nature of both sexual violence and alcohol misuse, difficulties can arise when attempting to define the two concepts, particularly when portraying this to patients, which can influence accuracy of the data gathered. Nonetheless, a consistent effort is made to reduce these confounding factors to produce research that can reap both clinical and educational benefits from the knowledge gathered. This project aims to account for the issues that previous research has struggled to address, through focusing on the gap in the literature through the use of the large ALSPAC data set to investigate whether an association exists between women’s early adulthood experience of sexual violence in early adult hood at aged 16 and their subsequent alcohol use at ages 24.

Impact of research: 
I believe the impact of this current research will be beneficial for many of reasons, from both a clinical standpoint and as a way of expanding the existing literature to strive for a more comprehensive understanding of such a complex yet common association. Although widespread research has been carried out to establish whether an association exists between early adulthood experience of sexual violence and subsequent alcohol misuse, the complexity of the relationship also increases. This is as a result of the increased accessibility that young adults have to both sexual experiences and alcohol, as well as the confounding variables that exist when measuring an individual’s alcohol misuse. Additionally, evidence from a longitudinal community study from Fergusson et al (1996) found that individuals who experience sexual violence in early adulthood are associated with increased risk of developing psychiatric problems as well as consequential physical health problems. This highlights the far-reaching effects that can arise as a result of an individual’s experience of exposure to sexual violence. Therefore, contribution from the research derived from this project can acknowledge the importance that early intervention can have on reducing financial and resourceful pressure throughout healthcare services as well as minimising patient risk of developing additional health issues. Furthermore, contributing to the existing research around this topic to further confirm whether an association exists is important from an educational perspective as it may be able to provide clinicians with an insight the risks that may occur, from both a patient that has experienced exposure to sexual violence and those that may be vulnerable to victimisation of sexual violence due to their alcohol misuse. Through a more comprehensive understanding, safeguarding strategies can be implemented to ensure the risk factors of the bi-directional relationship between alcohol misuse and exposure to sexual violence can be reduced. Furthermore, research suggests that individuals who experience alcohol misuse problems may be at higher risk of experiencing revictimization (Coid et al., 2011), which emphasises the need for knowledge to facilitate safeguarding procedures.
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 1 July, 2022
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 11 July, 2022
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Statistical methods