HSC researcher connects ‘alcopops’ and sexual assault of minors

Matthew RossheimA researcher at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth recently discovered a correlation between alcopops and the sexual assault of minors.

The fizzy, fruit-flavored alcoholic drinks, which contain the same amount of alcohol as up to 5.5 standard alcoholic drinks, have come under fire as parent groups, child safety organizations and others have accused alcohol companies of marketing their products to underage drinkers. Alcopop’s popularity among underage drinkers has recently soared.

Dr. Matthew Rossheim, a professor in HSC’s School of Public Health, published a piece in Health Behavior Research called “Alcopops Disproportionately Consumed by Minors in Sexual Assault Cases?” His study showed that “alcopops” and “supersized alcopops” were disproportionately involved in sexual assault cases where the victim was younger than 18 years old.

His study also found that in 95% of these cases involving a minor, the alcohol was provided by the perpetrator, compared with 33% for adult victims. These drinks, with their sugary, fruity flavors, can mask their alcohol content, making would-be victims susceptible to their incapacitating effects.

“I started this project after noticing a troubling pattern in the news media: children being sexually assaulted after consuming supersized alcopops that were given to them by adults,” Rossheim said.

“In response to the tragic death of a 14-year-old girl, the Canadian government took action to limit the alcohol content of these beverages to protect other children,” he said. “Despite numerous deaths and tragedies in the U.S. linked to these products, there is a lack of any meaningful regulations to prevent such harms. By documenting the atrocities associated with these products, I hope that advocates can succeed in getting regulatory changes that safeguard children from further harm, including death and sexual assault.

For his study, Rossheim and his co-authors dug deep into a large collection of legal documents involving sexual assaults of children. This study provides initial evidence that sexual assault perpetrators may intentionally use alcopops and supersized alcopops for the sexual victimization of minors.

“Dr. Rossheim is one of the world’s leading experts on the study of ‘alcopops’ and at the forefront of addressing this critical public health concern,” said Dr. Shafik Dharamsi, dean of HSC’s School of Public Health. “These types of alcoholic drinks pose serious risks to the health of young adults. Dr. Rossheim’s work can help policymakers and practitioners find better solutions to prevent injury and harm.”

Recent News

  • Our People
|May 23, 2024

Empathy-driven leadership: Rylee Miller embarks on her journey to transform rural health care

At the age of 25, Rylee Miller is not just a Master in Health Administration student. Miller embodies the essence of a natural-born leader, driven by empathy and a relentless commitment to making a difference. Standing on the brink of a new chapter in her life, Miller is excited to leave a mark on r...
  • Our People
|May 23, 2024

Keeping Black mamas alive: TaKasha Davis Ehiogu is on a mission

TaKasha Davis Ehiogu, a 36-year-old Master in Public Health student, is on a mission to make childbirth safer for Black mothers. Her commitment stems from a deep-seated belief that birth in America should not pose any major risks for women, specifically women within a particular ethnic or socioecono...
  • Our People
|May 23, 2024

SBS grad is ready for success at the next level

When Jordan Easterling decided she wanted to go to medical school, she knew she needed excellent health and science training to help her get there. She found the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s School of Biomedical ...
Ashley Gentry Headshot
  • Our People
|May 22, 2024

Faculty highlight: Ashley Gentry, Physician Assistant Studies

Ashley Gentry is an associate professor in The University of Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Dallas Baptist University and graduated from the HSC Physician Assistant Program in 2012 with a Master of P...