Safety and Wellness

Date Rape

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What Is Date Rape?

When people think of rape, they might think of a stranger jumping out of a shadowy place and sexually attacking someone. But it's not only strangers who rape. In fact, about half of all people who are raped know the person who attacked them. Girls and women are most often raped, but guys also can be raped.

Most friendships, acquaintances, and dates never lead to violence, of course. But, sadly, sometimes it happens. When forced sex occurs between two people who already know each other, it is known as date rape or acquaintance rape.

Even if the two people know each other well, and even if they were intimate or had sex before, no one has the right to force a sexual act on another person against his or her will.

Although it involves forced sex, rape is not about sex or passion. Rape has nothing to do with love. Rape is an act of aggression and violence.

You may hear some people say that those who have been raped were somehow "asking for it" because of the clothes they wore or the way they acted. That's wrong: The person who is raped is not to blame. Rape is always the fault of the rapist. And that's also the case when two people are dating — or even in an intimate relationship. One person never owes the other person sex. If sex is forced against someone's will, that's rape.

Healthy relationships involve respect — including respect for the feelings of others. Someone who really cares about you will respect your wishes and not force or pressure you to have sex.

Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol is often involved in date rapes. Drinking can loosen inhibitions, dull common sense, and — for some people — allow aggressive tendencies to surface.

Drugs may also play a role. You may have heard about "date rape" drugs like rohypnol ("roofies"), gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), and ketamine. Drugs like these can easily be mixed in drinks to make a person black out and forget things that happen. Both girls and guys who have been given these drugs report feeling paralyzed, having blurred vision, and lack of memory.

Mixing these drugs with alcohol is highly dangerous and can kill.

Protecting Yourself

The best defense against date rape is to try to prevent it whenever possible. Here are some things both girls and guys can do:

  • Avoid secluded places (this may even mean your room or your partner's) until you trust your partner.
  • Don't spend time alone with someone who makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable. This means following your instincts and removing yourself from situations that you don't feel good about.
  • Stay sober and aware. If you're with someone you don't know very well, be aware of what's going on around you and try to stay in control. Also, be aware of your date's ability to consent to sexual activity — you may become guilty of committing rape if the other person is not in a condition to respond or react.
  • Know what you want. Be clear about what kind of relationship you want with another person. If you are not sure, then ask the other person to respect your feelings and to give you time. Don't allow yourself to be subject to peer pressure or encouraged to do something that you don't want to do.
  • Go out with a group of friends and watch out for each other.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help if you feel threatened.
  • Take self-defense courses. These can build confidence and teach valuable physical techniques a person can use to get away from an attacker.

Getting Help

Unfortunately, even if someone takes every precaution, date rape can still happen. If you're raped, here are some things that you can do:

  • If you're injured, go straight to the emergency room — most medical centers and hospital emergency departments have doctors and counselors who have been trained to take care of someone who has been raped.
  • Call or find a friend, family member, or someone you feel safe with and tell them what happened.
  • If you want to report the rape, call the police right away. Preserve all the physical evidence. Don't change clothes or wash.
  • Write down as much as you can remember about the event.
  • If you aren't sure what to do, call a rape crisis center. If you don't know the number, your local phone book will have hotline numbers.

Don't be afraid to ask questions and get information. You'll have lots of questions as you go through the process — such as whether to report the rape, who to tell, and the kinds of reactions you may get from others.

Rape isn't just physically damaging — it can be emotionally traumatic as well. It may be hard to think or talk about something as personal as being raped by someone you know. But talking with a trained rape crisis counselor or other mental health professional can give you the right emotional attention, care, and support to begin the healing process. Working things through can help prevent lingering problems later on.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: February 2009



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