Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 898-906

First online:

Sexual Abuse History, Alcohol Intoxication, and Women’s Sexual Risk Behavior

  • Rebecca L. SchachtAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Washington Email author 
  • , William H. GeorgeAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Washington
  • , Kelly Cue DavisAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, University of Washington
  • , Julia R. HeimanAffiliated withThe Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University
  • , Jeanette NorrisAffiliated withAlcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, University of Washington
  • , Susan A. StonerAffiliated withTalaria, Inc.
  • , Kelly F. KajumuloAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Washington

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We examined potential differences in women’s likelihood of sexual risk taking in a laboratory setting based on alcohol intoxication and sexual abuse history. Participants (n = 64) were classified as non-sexually abused (NSA) or as having experienced sexual abuse in childhood only (CSA) or adulthood only (ASA) and randomly assigned to consume alcoholic (.06, .08, or .10% target blood alcohol content) or non-alcoholic drinks, after which participants read and responded to a risky sex vignette. Dependent measures included vaginal pulse amplitude, self-reported sexual arousal, likelihood of engaging in condom use and risky sexual behaviors described in the vignette, and mood. NSA and ASA women did not differ significantly on any dependent measures. CSA women reported significantly lower likelihood of condom use and unprotected intercourse relative to NSA and ASA women. Intoxicated women reported significantly greater sexual arousal, positive mood, and likelihood of risky sex relative to sober women. Intoxicated CSA women reported significantly more likelihood of unprotected oral sex and less likelihood of condom use relative to intoxicated NSA and ASA and sober CSA women. CSA women’s increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may be driven by non-condom use and behavioral changes while intoxicated. These findings provide preliminary insight into situational influences affecting CSA women’s increased STI risk.


Sexual abuse Sexual arousal Alcohol intoxication Sexual risk Condom use Vaginal pulse amplitude