Both greater alcohol consumption and a history of sexual assault (SA) have been associated with increased risk for adult SA (e.g., Testa &Parks, 1996). One mechanism through which both alcohol consumption and a history of SA are hypothesized to increase risk for SA is through their impact on women's ability to perceive risk cues prior to a SA. At greater levels of alcohol consumption, women may fail to recognize (e.g., alcohol myopia) risk cues for impending SA which may result in failure to extract themselves from a high risk situation (Norris et al., 1996). Several studies have shown that ability to resist SA is decreased with greater alcohol consumption (Abbey et al., 2002). Similarly, as a result of trauma from a prior SA, women may experience affect dysregulation (e.g., dissociation) that prevents them from reacting appropriately (e.g., over or under react) when faced with a threat of SA, thus preventing them from protecting themselves (Cloitre, 1998). Therefore, both alcohol use and SA history lead to impaired cognitive (i.e., decreased risk recognition) and behavioral (removal of oneself) responses when faced with a new threat of SA. Several studies have assessed deficits in risk perception among women under different alcohol conditions (e.g., Cue et al., 1996) or as a function of SA history (e.g., Soler-Baillo et al., 2005) by manipulating specific risk cues in written (e.g., Yeater et al., 2010) or audio-taped (e.g., Wilson et al., 1999) vignettes. These studies have found evidence to support reductions in risk perception at higher levels of alcohol consumption and among women with SA histories. While these modes of vignette delivery have been successful, they limit or are missing nonverbal and environmental cues that could signal risk for SA that are likely to be present in a real life situation. Video vignettes provide a mode in which nonverbal (e.g., facial expressions) and visual environmental cues (e.g., isolation), as well as verbal risk cues can be presented, thus allowing for a more realistic reflection of a SA situation and full assessment of potential risk cues. This R21 application proposes the development and validation of an innovative computerized, video vignette measure for use in assessing young women's perceptions of risk cues for SA. Multiple methods are proposed for developing and validating the vignettes (i.e., focus groups, expert panel feedback, and pilot testing with and without alcohol administration). The primary goal of developing the new measure is to capture all of the dimensions of risk perception so that we can more fully understand the mechanisms through which other factors, such as alcohol consumption and SA history, interfere with this perception to place women at greater risk for SA. A secondary goal of this R21 is to compare the newly developed video vignettes to written and audio versions of the same vignettes. In comparing the different modes of vignette administration, we hope to determine which mode is perceived most realistically and accurately for cue recognition. Future applications would involve development of unique prevention programs using the video measure as a training tool to improve women's risk perception to reduce SA risk.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research aims to develop a new computerized video vignette measure to assess women's ability to perceive risks for sexual assault during heterosexual drinking situations. This measure improves upon existing written and audio-taped measures by including non-verbal risk cues that are missing in these other modes of vignette presentation, yet are important components in any social interaction that involves communication. Development and validation of this measure will occur through a rigorous multi-method process.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-AARR-F (52))
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Freeman, Robert
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State University of New York at Buffalo
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United States
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