Mark Your Behavioral Health Calendars!

April 2017



Alcohol Awareness Month


National Autism Awareness Month


National Child Abuse Prevention Month


Sexual Assault Awareness Month


April 2-8: National Youth Violence Prevention Week


April 5: Sexual Assault Awareness Day of Action


April 6: National Alcohol Screening Day


April 7: World Health Day


National Council for Behavioral Health NatCon Conference

Washington State Convention Center

Seattle, Washington

April 3–5, 2017


Innovations in Recovery

Foundations Events

Hotel del Coronado

San Diego, California

April 3–6, 2017


American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 48th Annual Conference

Hilton New Orleans Riverside

New Orleans, Louisiana

April 6–9, 2017


Altarum’s Twitter Chat on Behavioral Health
No Behavioral Health Twitter Chat is scheduled for April, but stay tuned for another #AltarumBHchat soon. Follow Altarum on Twitter for the latest notifications.

Note from the Director

Given the correlation between alcohol consumption and sexual assault, it seems fitting that Alcohol Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month are both observed in April. While researching sexual assault on campuses, I was struck by emerging themes from assault survivor testimonies—all felt they must have done something to trigger the event, few filed a formal complaint for fear of ramifications and/or embarrassment, all said “No” to their assailants who did not listen, and either one or both of the people involved had been drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, another thing these stories had in common was that no one talked about it. 

April Director's Note image

Young adulthood is a challenging time—a time of great vulnerability, finding oneself, and awkwardness. When alcohol is added, inhibitions are quelled, including those that protect us from bad decisions. We cannot protect people from the consequences of bad decisions made by themselves or others, but we can help them to recover.  We know that keeping secrets does not work for anyone in recovery. Experiences must be spoken of in order to reclaim one’s power and be a beacon of hope to others who need to know that they will survive and that things will get better. 

In 2014, as part of an unprecedented national effort to address alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum establishing the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.” The White House asserted that we need to combat campus rape by “[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist.”1 As adults who love these young people, we need to ensure that all campuses provide access to a hopeful, healing environment where young people who are struggling feel cared for and heard when they need it most. 

This issue of BHchat Corner provides personal stories of recovery, articles on the latest research, and other interesting tidbits of information on issues related to the over-consumption of alcohol, sexual assault, and the intersection of the two. I challenge you to better educate yourself on issues related to sexual assault and alcohol use. Start with the information provided by the Altarum Behavioral Health Technical Assistance Center (BHTAC) team, but please do not stop there.


Diana Williams

Director, BHTAC

[1] Kitchens, C. (20 March 2014). It’s time to end ‘rape culture’ hysteria. Time. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from


Stories of Recovery


Access to Recovery logo

The Access to Recovery (ATR) program, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration since 2004, is a federal treatment initiative that employs a unique voucher payment system in helping people who are living with substance use challenges. ATR supports these individuals as they determine the treatment or recovery support services they need on their road to recovery. Please note that the names in the following ATR success story has been changed to ensure confidentiality.

Christopher’s Story
I have suffered from severe alcoholism for the last six years. Yes, I was at the end of my rope. I was able to check into inpatient rehab with Lifeline in May of 2015. I was able to break the cycle of abuse. While I was in rehab, I learned of programs that could help me with my sobriety (i.e., Oxford, Service Work). I was able to secure housing with Oxford House as well as performing service work with Kleen Street Recovery Café. This was a game changer for me.

I have always had hearing issues my whole life. It was never so apparent as it has been the last five months. I was very apprehensive to attend AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings as well as holding conversations with people since my hearing has declined even more as I have aged.

ATR was made aware of my situation and thought that they may be able to help. I was able to be fitted for new hearing aids quite quickly. Now, I have a tremendous amount of confidence attending meetings, speaking with people, etc. I am not "scared" of missing an entire conversation with people in recovery, my doctors, and even my daughter.

I am not exaggerating when I say that my life has changed since I was able to receive hearing aids. I would never be able to get them on my own.

Up Arrow Back to Top

The following stories of recovery are part of the #WeAreRecovery campaign. Submit your story here to be shared on social media for the #WeAreRecovery project, or here for the #WeAreRecoveryAllies campaign. All stories are unique, and yours can inspire others. Your story may be featured in an upcoming issue of BHchat Corner: News You Can Use. If you have questions, email the BHTAC team.

KristenKristen from Walled Lake, Michigan writes: Because of my recovery I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream and travel to Iceland. Best of all, I was able to remember every moment because I no longer drink alcohol and suffer from blackouts. By working the 12 Steps and finding my purpose through service work, I have recovered from a once seemingly hopeless condition. It was only by working with a sponsor and getting honest with myself that I was able to finally realize that non-alcoholics don't get three DUI's and destroy relationships as a hobby. Today I am at peace with my past and my secrets have become my story. I am proud to be a part of a local coalition that serves our community by providing prevention and support services for substance use disorders.


Daniel from Reno, Nevada writes: #MyRecovery is everything to me. Not only did recovery give me a new life filled with hope and the possibility to dream again, but everything good in my life is because of recovery. The best of those gifts is being able to be a loving and present husband and father. It is because of recovery that I am able to feel loved and be what I need to be. I get to show up every day, and swing for the fences. I am so grateful that I get to work in this recovery advocacy field, and interact with people who have found the same hope that recovery brings. I am so grateful for being a part of a Collegiate Recovery Program. I believe collegiate recovery can change the world. Students go on to do incredible things, and become influential world changers, all because they found recovery and an education. #collegiaterecovery changed my life, and I am eternally grateful for the path that has opened up because of it!

Up Arrow Back to Top


Spotlights and Highlights


Team members from Altarum’s Behavioral Health and Sexual Health areas of expertise attended and exhibited at the 99th Annual Conference for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NAPSA), the premiere conference for student affairs administrators in higher education. Attended by close to 7,000 people with more than 600 sessions, the conference drew interest from professionals and students interested in discussing the most important topics and issues faced by colleges and universities across the country. 

NASPA logoBehavioral Health Practice Area Lead Melanie Ogleton and Sexual Health Project Director Jennifer Rogers attended sessions to support Altarum’s research interest to better understand campus sexual assault prevention and response in underrepresented college settings, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other minority serving institutions, and community colleges. Ms. Ogleton notes, “While there is quite a bit being done now in the area of campus sexual assault prevention and response, and a lot of it extremely exciting work, it is evident that understanding prevention and response efforts from unique cultural and social norm perspectives and structural considerations, as is the case with community colleges, appears to be missing. The limited availability of this input affects the research conversation and discussion regarding practical, inclusive interventions.”  Jennifer Rogers also adds, “Although many colleges and universities are focused on ensuring they’re compliant with necessary laws and regulations, institutions of higher learning are also increasingly focusing on prevention. Preventing sexual assault is key in ensuring a safe, welcoming, and inclusive campus environment and critical in recruiting and retaining a diverse student body.”

Kelsi Carter and Tim Rabolt, representing Altarum’s BHTAC Team, attended sessions to support Altarum’s growing involvement in collegiate substance use recovery program support and implementation. Tim Rabolt, also an active board member of Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE), says, “Collegiate recovery programs (CRPs) are starting to become more embraced by NASPA and the field of student affairs as a whole. It was encouraging to see 12 Step rooms throughout the conference as well as about half a dozen sessions that discussed addiction recovery in some capacity. The emerging partnership between Altarum and ARHE should provide a lot of solutions to campuses across the country.”

Focusing on campus sexual assault prevention and response as well as collegiate recovery efforts, Altarum's expertise was a perfect complement for the growing need of holistic student health on college campuses across the country.

Up Arrow Back to Top

At least 50% of college student sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use, 43% of the sexual victimization incidents involve alcohol consumption by victims, and 69% involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrators. Additionally, 90% of acquaintance rapes involve alcohol.2

It would be easy to conclude that alcohol consumption causes these assaults, so curtailing alcohol consumption should then positively influence the number of sexual assaults on campuses. After a meta-analysis of both sexual assault literature and literature that examines alcohol’s effects on aggressive and sexual behavior, the author concludes that the research suggests that “alcohol consumption by the perpetrator and/or the victim increases the likelihood of acquaintance sexual assault.”

KegsHowever, the fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault. In fact, the meta-analysis also suggests that in many aspects of personality and attitudes, men who commit sexual assault when drinking alcohol are similar to men who commit sexual assault when sober.

The causal direction could be the opposite and is, in fact, supported by much anecdotal evidence—some men consciously or unconsciously drink alcohol before committing sexual assault to have an excuse for their behavior. Alcohol is commonly viewed as an aphrodisiac that increases sexual desire and capacity.3 Many men expect to feel more powerful, disinhibited, and aggressive after drinking alcohol. To assess the influence of such expectancies on perceptions of sexual behavior, researchers asked sober college men to read a story about a man forcing a date to have sex. Study participants reported that they would be more likely to behave like the man in the story when they were drunk rather than when they were sober, suggesting that they could imagine forcing sex when intoxicated.4 Alternatively, other variables may simultaneously cause both alcohol consumption and sexual assault. For example, personality traits, such as impulsivity, or peer group norms may lead some men both to drink heavily and to commit sexual assault. At least one study suggests that men who participated in aggressive sports (e.g., football, basketball, wrestling, soccer) in high school used more sexual coercion as well as physical and psychological aggression in their college dating relationships than men who had not. These men also scored higher on attitudinal measures thought to be associated with sexual coercion, such as sexism, acceptance of violence, hostility toward women, and rape myth acceptance.

None of this is to imply any of the following: men are the only ones to commit sexual assault, less alcohol consumption will not affect the number of sexual assaults, or that no causation exists between sexual assault and alcohol consumption by either the victim or perpetrator. However, to effectively address the issue of campus sexual assault, we must not simply assume a simple causal relationship between drinking and sexual assault.

[2] Gray, R. H. (5 March 2012). Campus assault statistics. Campus Safety Magazine.

[3] Crowe, L.C., & George, W.H. (1989). Alcohol and human sexuality: Review and integration. Psychological Bulletin 105:374-386.

[4] Norris, J., & Kerr, K. L. (1993). Alcohol and violent pornography: Responses to permissive and nonpermissive cues. Journal of Studies on Alcohol Suppl. 11:118-127.

Up Arrow Back to Top


Latest in Research


In a recent study of almost 1,000 college-age men, researchers found no evidence that male students’ binge drinking per se increases their odds of becoming a perpetrator of sexual assaults. However, the study did find that participants who frequently went to bars or college parties were more likely to report behaviors that constitute sexual assault than their peers who drank in other settings (i.e., in their homes). The study also found that the likelihood of becoming a perpetrator increased during semesters where individuals reported attending bars and parties more frequently. 

The findings, reported in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs suggest that "drinking setting" rather than drinking might be key. "People drawn to these settings may be at higher risk," said lead College boys drinkingresearcher Maria Testa, Ph.D., of the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo. That is, a student who heads to a bar or party might be more interested in sex than one who is content staying in the dorm and watching television, she said.  However, Dr. Testa notes, the study did not ask about specifics of these sexual assaults, so it is unclear if these assaults stemmed directly from a night at a bar or party.

Dr. Testa notes that these findings could have some practical implications for college, especially around strategies to make college parties and bars around campuses safer to prevent sexual assaults, including increasing bystander intervention training. 

Up Arrow Back to Top

No assaultsIn 2013-14, a study of more than 231,400 students—primarily 18-year-old freshmen—in colleges and universities across the United States focused on two key issues affecting college students all over the country: alcohol consumption and attitudes/behaviors surrounding sexual assault. Students completed surveys before and after completing an online course designed to help students avoid negative consequences related to substance use and sexual assault. The surveys collected information on students’ attitudes and behaviors regarding alcohol and drug use, relationship violence, and sexual assault.

The research findings include the following:

  • The greatest increase in drinking rates during the first semester of college occurs in students who were sexually assaulted during this time.
  • As drinking becomes more problematic, students are more likely to report being sexually assaulted.
  • The vast majority of students responded to the online course with a small, but significant healthy increase in their attitudes and behaviors surrounding sexual assault. However, comparing pre- and post-course responses, a heavily male sub-population moved strongly in the unhealthy direction. This group was eight times more likely than the majority of students to commit sexual assault.

Researchers suggest that this study has several implications for practice. These include 1) research and prevention efforts targeted toward offenders, especially high-risk males identified by predictors such as alcohol use, aggressive behaviors, and unhealthy attitudes toward sexual assault, 2) education surrounding sexual assault on the college campus should greatly increase efforts to improve bystander intervention attitudes and behaviors, and 3) sexual assault education should be paired with substance use education programs on college campuses.

Up Arrow Back to Top




Follow Altarum on TwitterNo Behavioral Health Twitter Chat is scheduled for April, but stay tuned for a new #AltarumBHchat soon. Follow Altarum on Twitter for the latest in behavioral health news and notifications about upcoming discussions. Visit BHTAC for a list of Altarum’s previous Twitter chat guests and Storify to view the full conversations.

The Altarum Behavioral Health team is on Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to “like” the pages to stay connected with the behavioral health community.

Up Arrow Back to Top

Contact Information
Sarah Litton
Manager, Communications and Public Affairs


Altarum is a national nonprofit whose mission is to create a better, more sustainable future through ideas and action that transform American health and health care.