Take a 2015 study that followed more than 700 men through four years of college. This research categorized the men into four groups based on the frequency of sexual assaults they reported committing and how that frequency did or didn’t change over time — low frequency, high frequency, trending toward lower, and trending toward higher. Alcohol use was always higher among the men who committed more assaults than among those who committed fewer, but trends in assault weren’t tied to trends in alcohol use. For instance, among men who reported committing fewer assaults over time and men who reported committing more assaults over time, each group drank less as seniors than they did as freshmen. But the men who committed fewer assaults over time also reported falling rates of impulsivity, hostility toward women, and beliefs that supported rape. The men whose rates of assault were going up, in contrast, reported a growing sense of peer support for forced sex, peer pressure, pornography use, and hostility toward women.

That makes sense if you think about it, Parrott said. After all, we know that not all men who drink, even excessively, commit sexual violence. Even men who do commit sexual violence don’t do it every time they drink — and will also do it sober. Effectively, alcohol isn’t an excuse. “We don’t want to say, ‘Well, he was drinking so that’s why he assaulted her. It’s not his fault,’” he said.