Introduction: Emerging adults (18-25 years of age) are at increased risk for sexual assault. There is little Emergency Department (ED) data on sexual assaults that involve alcohol among this population. The purpose of this study was to analyze ED visits for sexual assault and determine if alcohol consumption by the patient was noted.
Methods: This study was a retrospective chart review of patients aged 18-25 presenting to an ED in a college town over a four-year period. Extracted variables included age, gender, delay in seeking care, sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) evaluation, and alcohol consumption by the patient. For analysis of alcohol use, cases were categorized as ages < 21 and ≥ 21.
Results: There were 118 patients who presented to the ED from 2012 to 2015. The mean age of the cohort was 20 years, and almost 70% of visits were among those < 21. Of those aged < 21, 74% reported alcohol consumption, in contrast to 48% of those ≥ 21 (p = 0.055). Of those reporting alcohol use, 36% were evaluated on the day of the assault compared to 61% of those not reporting alcohol (p=0.035).
Conclusion: This study found that ED visits for sexual assault in emerging adults were more common in younger patients. Alcohol use occurred more frequently with patients under the legal drinking age, and presentation was also more likely to be delayed. The relationship between sexual assault and alcohol use should underscore primary prevention efforts in emerging adult populations.