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Alcohol Outlet Density, Heavy Episodic Drinking, and Sexual Violence Perpetration: A Multilevel Mediation Model

By Alexandra L. Bellis


Current campus sexual violence prevention strategies have focused almost exclusively on person-level change by targeting individuals’ attitudes and behaviors. However, few of these programs have demonstrated effectiveness and few studies have investigated alternative prevention strategies that could be implemented across multiple levels of analysis. One potential promising community-level prevention strategy is alcohol availability. Alcohol is a significant predictor of sexual violence perpetration and alcohol outlet density is a significant positive predictor of violence and crime in campus and community samples. However, no study to date has assessed the effect of alcohol availability on campus sexual violence. The current study examined the extent to which alcohol availability, defined as alcohol outlet density within a specified radius, was a community-level risk factor for sexual violence perpetration on college campuses. Using publicly-available alcohol license data and self-report data from a recently-completed longitudinal cohort study of college men, a three-level mediation model was estimated to investigate the effect of institution-level alcohol availability on college men’s alcohol use and sexual violence perpetration. Institution-level alcohol availability within a three-mile radius did not predict college men’s heavy episodic drinking or sexual violence perpetration and heavy episodic drinking did not mediate the relationship between alcohol availability and person-level sexual violence perpetration. Although these findings are surprising, alcohol availability is more complex than alcohol outlet density and there are several other factors that may be important to understand alcohol availability, especially near college campuses (e.g., alcohol control policies, enforcement of legal drinking age laws, culture of alcohol outlets). Findings from the post-hoc exploratory model suggest that changing norms related to drinking may be a way to both reduce heavy episodic drinking and prevent sexual violence perpetration. Perceptions of drinking behavior, aggregated at the institution-level, significantly predicted heavy episodic drinking, which mediated the relationship between perceptions of drinking behavior and sexual violence perpetration. Combining these findings with evidence of successful social norms campaigns related to drinking provides some hope for identifying potential community-level risk factors for sexual violence perpetration

Topics: Alcohol outlet density, Sexual violence perpetration, Binge drinking, Heavy episodic drinking, Multilevel SEM, Alcohol availability
Publisher: ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University
Year: 2017
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