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Sexual Assault Acquaintance & Date Rape

Acquaintance rape is a sexual assault crime committed by someone who knows the victim. It is also called date rape or marital rape if the crime happens on a date or among partners. As a sexual assault crime, acquaintance rape includes forced, manipulated or coerced sexual contact. If someone has forced you to have sex, that is rape - even if you know the attacker. Here are some facts about acquaintance rape:

  • It can happen any time or place.
  • The rapist may be a date, spouse, neighbor, colleague, classmate, delivery person or anyone else you know.
  • Most acquaintance rape occurs to women ages 16-24 (US Dept. of Justice, 1994).
  • Seventy-seven percent of rape survivors knew their attacker (US Dept. of Justice, 1994).
  • One out of every seven women is a victim of marital rape (MS., 1990).
  • Members of male-only groups, such as fraternities and athletic teams, are involved in a disproportionate number of rapes, especially gang rapes (Association of American Colleges Project, 1985).
  • One in four college women were victims of rape or attempted rape while they were students. Eighty-four percent of them knew their attackers. Fifty-seven percent of the rapes happened on a date (Dr. Mary Koss, Kent State University, 1987).
  • Rape happens among people of the same-sex and within gay and lesbian relationships.

Why does this happen?

There are many different kinds of acquaintance rape, and date rape is one of the most confusing kinds. Many teen and adult males who rape do not view themselves as rapists. Some men believe that women play hard to get, say "no" and mean "yes" and enjoy being pursued by an aggressive male. Because some men perceive that sex is their right, they rape the person they are dating. Acquaintance rape also happens because the attacker chooses to force sex on the victim. Rape is an act of power and control that may be meant to punish or humiliate the victim.

Many adolescents have distorted perceptions of violence and have been found to have beliefs that condone forced sex under some circumstances. A survey of boys and girls, ages 11 to 14, found that: 51% of boys and girls said forced sex was acceptable if the boy "spent a lot of money" on the girl; 65% of boys and 47% of girls said it was acceptable for a boy to rape a girl if they had been dating for more than six months; and 87% of boys and 79% of girls said sexual assault was acceptable if the man and woman were married (Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1994).

The Role of Alcohol and Other Drugs

Everyone should be able to drink or go to a party without the fear of rape. Unfortunately, women are more vulnerable to sexual assault when they are drinking. Women's use of alcohol is judged to be different from men's. If a woman is raped at a party where she drank too much, she is often blamed for the assault. The rapist, on the other hand, is often not held accountable for his violent behavior. He uses drinking as his excuse: "I didn't know what I was doing."

Rohypnol and "date rape drugs" have been put in women's drinks and used as a tool to sexually assault them. These drugs cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, and the effects include drowsiness, impaired judgment or motor skills, and amnesia, which may last 6 to 8 hours.

If you choose to drink, be sure to have a plan of how to stay safe. Do not accept drinks from strangers and do not leave drinks unattended. Ask a friend who is not drinking to be sure you get home safely. On a date, decide ahead of time the level of sexual intimacy you are comfortable with and communicate that clearly before you both start drinking. Remember that you always have the right to stop sexual intimacy. Men can help women by intervening if a woman is being harassed; by making sure that a woman is not isolated by a man or group of men; by refusing to go along with plans for "getting a woman drunk;" and by helping an intoxicated woman get home safely.

Effects on the Survivor

Individuals who have been assaulted by someone they know may feel guilty or responsible for the assault, feel betrayed, question their judgment and have difficulty trusting people. Survivors may fear that they will not be believed if they tell someone, or they may not identify what happened as an assault. A survivor may blame herself or himself, because she or he accepted a ride from a friend, attended a party, drank at a party, or invited someone into her or his apartment, dorm room or house. It is very important to be supportive of survivors and let them know that it was not their fault.

Men may be hesitant about reporting or talking about the rape, because issues of masculinity and homophobia come into play. A man may ask, Why couldn't I protect myself? Has this ever happened to other men? If I had sex with another man, am I a homosexual? If his attacker was a female, a man might fear that no one would believe his story or that he would be laughed at. Male survivors should receive equal attention, respect, support and services as female survivors.

Many of the effects are similar to those of other forms of sexual assault. See the web pages entitled Information for Friends and Family.

Risk Reduction and Communication Tips


WOMEN:

  • Know your sexual desires and limits; communicate them clearly.
  • Be assertive. You have the right to say NO to sexual activity.
  • Be aware of any nonverbal messages that you may be sending.
  • Trust your intuition. If you feel afraid, try to leave the situation.
  • Know that nothing you do is guaranteed to protect you against sexual assault.

MEN:

  • Know your sexual desires and limits; communicate them clearly.
  • Accept the woman's limits. Remember that "no" means "no."
  • Do not assume that previous permission for sexual contact means that she wants to have sex with you again.
  • Understand that being turned down for sex is not a rejection of who you are as a person. It means your partner does not want sex with you at this time.
  • Stop woman-hating jokes, sexual harassment and any other form of sexual violence. Confront your friends. Spread the message that violence against women is not okay.

**Additional information can be obtained by contacting OCOSA at (614) 268-3322, RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE, or your local rape crisis center.