Objective: The first year of college is an important transitional period for young adults; it is also a period associated with elevated risk of incapacitated rape (IR) for female students. The goal of this study was to identify prospective risk factors associated with experiencing attempted or completed IR during the first year of college.
Method: Using a prospective cohort design, we recruited 483 incoming first-year female students. Participants completed a baseline survey and three follow-up surveys over the next year. At baseline, we assessed precollege alcohol use, marijuana use, sexual behavior, and, for the subset of sexually experienced participants, sex-related alcohol expectancies. At the baseline and all follow-ups, we assessed sexual victimization.
Results: Approximately 1 in 6 women (18%) reported IR before entering college, and 15% reported IR during their first year of college. In bivariate analyses, precollege IR history, precollege heavy episodic drinking, number of precollege sexual partners, and sex-related alcohol expectancies (enhancement and disinhibition) predicted first-year IR. In multivariate analyses with the entire sample, only precollege IR (odds ratio = 4.98, p < .001) remained a significant predictor. However, among the subset of sexually experienced participants, both enhancement expectancies and precollege IR predicted IR during the study year.
Conclusions: IR during the first year of college is independently associated with a history of IR and with expectancies about alcohol's enhancement of sexual experience. Alcohol expectancies are a modifiable risk factor that may be a promising target for prevention efforts.