February 1989

What Causes Sexual Assault?

Author Affiliations

School of Public Health University of Michigan 1420 Washington Heights Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029
Residential College University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1245
Department of Psychiatry University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL 60612

Am J Dis Child. 1989;143(2):137. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1989.02150140019002

Sir.—The article by Jenny1 in the July 1988 issue of AJDC represents a disturbing setback in our understanding of sexual assault that has developed over the past 20 years.2 The focus on "risk-taking" behaviors such as alcohol use or agreeing to go into a car or house with a recent acquaintance implies that these women caused or were to blame for their assaults. Is it not self-evident that those who committed the assaults were also out after 10 pm or that they were also probably using drugs? Is it not painfully clear that none of these behaviors justifies assault of a young woman by a man?

Risk-taking behaviors are unwise for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that young women who drink or stay out late are more likely to run into men who may assault them. Nevertheless, such behaviors do not mean

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