One in 12 women have had non-consensual sexual contact – NUI Galway study

Survey of 1,691 people is first comprehensive study of sexual behaviour in a college population

A third of young women and more than half of young men said they had sex with people after drinking with whom they would not when sober. Photograph: iStock

A third of young women and more than half of young men said they had sex with people after drinking with whom they would not when sober. Photograph: iStock

 

One in 12 young women are certain they have had sexual contact with someone in the past year where they were unable to give consent or stop what was happening because they were drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep, according to a new report.

More than a quarter of females and 35 per cent of males agreed with the statement that “guys don’t usually intend to force sex on a girl, but sometimes they get too sexually carried away”.

The survey, carried out at NUI Galway, found that 8 per cent of women and 4 per cent of men were uncertain but suspected sexual contact had happened where they were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because they were incapacitated or asleep.

Three per cent of male respondents were certain sexual contact had happened where they were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because they were incapacitated or asleep .

The survey of 1,691 people aged 18-29 is the first comprehensive study of sexual behaviour and sexual assault in a college population.

The report’s main author Elaine Byrnes, a doctoral researcher at the NUI Galway School of Psychology, said the results show the incidence of sexual violence and assault “are comparable to international studies of college students”.

They highlight the need for a national study of third-level students on the issue, she said.

“Findings on alcohol-related sex consequences, particularly where students report being forced or pressured into sexual activity, highlight the importance of continuing consent education, how it is understood and communicated, and the role of alcohol in sexual decision making,” Ms Byrnes said.

Sex after drinking

More than three quarters of women and 69 per cent of men agree they are less nervous about sex after drinking. A third of young women and more than half of young men said they had sex with people after drinking with whom they would not when sober. Three-quarters of young women and more than half of young men are extremely/very likely to confront a friend who plans to give someone alcohol to get sex.

The majority of respondents (90 per cent females, 86 per cent males) agree/strongly agree they would ask a partner if he/she wanted to go back to their place to communicate consent to sex.

Just 5 per cent of females in a relationship agreed they were satisfied with their sex life compared to a quarter of single females.

More than half of young men in a relationship agreed that if they could live their sex lives over, they would change nothing, compared to a fifth of single males.

Padraig MacNeela, a co-author of the report, said: “The report sheds light on how these factors occur in an Irish context. In many cases this is the first time that some of these measures have been used outside the US and the first time they have been reported on in an Irish context.”

John Hannon, director of student services at NUIG, said the university was “committed to supporting and enhancing the holistic development of students attending our institution”.

“This data will contribute to informing further development of policies and services in the area of sexual health on our campus,” he said.