For purposes of this article, the terms “sexual assault” and “rape” will be used interchangeably.
What is Date Rape?
Date rape, also known as acquaintance rape, is a sexual assault – or attempted sexual assault – committed by someone the sexual assault victim knows. Date rape, like other types of rape, involves sexual intercourse without mutual consent. Date rape is more appropriately called “acquaintance” rape, as “date” implies that the victim is in a relationship with his or her attacker.
While the term “rape” conjures up images of strangers attacking a random victim, almost 80% of rapes (or 4 out of every 5 rapes) are committed by people that the victim knows. A woman is four times more likely to be raped by someone she knows. Even if the perpetrator of the sexual assault has had previous consensual sexual relations with the victim, it is still illegal to force sex upon another.
Many people who have been raped by people that they know have a difficult time believing that what happened to them was a rape. Rather than focusing upon the violation of the rape, he or she may blame him or herself for the rape.
It is important to remember that the act of rape has nothing to do with sex or passion or love – rape is always an act of aggression and violence.
The trauma of an acquaintance rape is no less severe than a rape committed by a stranger.
How Common is Date Rape?
It’s unfortunate to note that date or acquaintance rape is far more common than you may think. While many rape victims do not report rape or sexual assaults, victims are even less inclined to report rape by someone that he or she knows.
The scary thing is that nearly 80% (4 out of 5 cases) of rapes are date rape situations. Effectively this means that a woman or man is 4 times more likely to be raped by someone she knows.
Who Commits Acquaintance Rape?
Those who commit acquaintance rape don’t have a particularly recognizable profile, there are some commonalities among those who commit acquaintance rape. These include:
- People who are aggressive in intimate relationships
- People who bend toward violence to solve problems
- People who are overly demanding of their partners.
A date rape perpetrator can be:
- Your partner
- An ex partner
- A friend
- Someone you work with
- A new acquaintance
Acquaintance Rape Myths Dispelled:
“Men can’t be raped” – Most victims of acquaintance rape are female, but males can also be the victim of a sexual assault.
“He/She was asking for it” – No one “asks” to be raped.
“He/She just loves me – that’s how he/she shows it” – Rape is not a crime of love or passion – it is about violence and force.
“The victim had a lot of sexual partners” – It does not matter how many sexual partners a person has had – they still do not deserve to be raped.
“She was dressed provocatively. She was looking for sex” – Wearing a short skirt or skimpy clothing does not mean that someone is “asking for it,” or “deserves it.”
“He/She was wasted” – Being intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs does not imply consent to sexual intercourse.
“He/She bought me dinner!’ – Just because you buy dinner and drinks does not mean that you owe your date sex.
“He can’t control his urges – he’s a guy” – Guys CAN control their sexual urges.
“I didn’t fight back” – Even if you don’t fight back, it’s still rape.
“Only bad people get raped” – Even “nice” girls can be raped.
“Rapists LOOK like rapists” – Rapists are not generally scary looking people – they’re people from ordinary backgrounds of all ages.
“My attacker didn’t use a weapon, so it’s not rape” – It’s still rape even if the perpetrator does not use a gun or knife.
“I didn’t say NO” – Even if you did not expressly say no to the sexual encounter, there are many other ways that someone can insinuate that he or she is not in the mood for sex.
What Are The Three Stages of Acquaintance Rape?
In order to prevent an acquaintance rape, it helps to know what the stages of acquaintance rape are. Many of our societal norms dictate that we behave politely and passively around others. This means that we may suppress our feelings of discomfort and fear so that we don’t offend someone else. Above all else, no matter how rude you may feel, LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE – IT MAY TELL YOU WHEN SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT.
Here are the three stages of acquaintance rape, as explained by RAINN:
1) Intrusion – this is an attempt by the rape perpetrator to violate the victim’s personal space and level of comfort. This may be demonstrated by revealing personal information, or via seemingly-accidental touches and stares.
2) Desensitization – this stage of acquaintance rape occurs when the victim feels comfortable around the rape perpetrator. He or she regards the intrusive behaviors as non-threatening. The victim during this stage of acquaintance rape may feel uneasy, but often convinces him or herself that the feeling is unfounded.
3) Isolation – the rape perpetrator uses the victim’s trust to isolate the victim from others.
How Can I Spot The Warning Signs of a Date Rape?
There are a couple of things to keep in mind to try and avoid date or acquaintance rape.
- The most important thing when trying to prevent a date rape is this: Trust your gut – if it’s saying something’s wrong – LISTEN TO IT.
- Go out with a group when you’re going on a date.
- Organize your own way home so you don’t end up relying upon your date for a ride.
- Keep a cell phone on you.
- Most date rapes happen in the home, so be careful about inviting him or her inside and vice versa.
- Keep an eye on anyone who spends the night feeding you drinks. Being drunk can make your judgement VERY impaired.
- Keep an eye on your friends – make sure they’re not getting themselves into a dangerous situation.
- You ALWAYS have the right to say no. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
What Are The “Date Rape Drugs?”
Sometimes, rapists use extremely powerful drugs to assist in a sexual assault or acquaintance rape. These drugs may be slipped into a drink while the victim is not looking and may cause the victim to become weak, confused, and possibly pass out. Once a victim is passed out, he or she cannot resist sexual intercourse – and may not remember what happened.
These date rape drugs can be used on men and women and include the following:
Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) – a small, round, white pill (newer forms may be oval and grey-green colored) that dissolves in liquids. The dye in these new pills makes clear liquids turn bright blue and dark drinks cloudy – but the color change may be hard to note in a darkened room.
The effects of Rohypnol can be felt within 30 minutes and lasts a couple of hours. A person on Rohypnol may behave as though they are drunk – they may have trouble standing, speech may be slurred, or they may pass out.
Other effects may include:
- Feeling drunk
- Loss of muscle control
- Difficulties with movements
- Slurred speech – trouble talking
- Nausea/Stomach problems
- Amnesia – No memory of being drugged
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) – comes in different forms – a colorless, odorless liquid, white powder or pill, that can give drinks a salty flavor that’s easily masked by juices or other sweet drinks. GHB takes effect about 15 minutes after it’s ingested, and it’s effects can last 3-4 hours. Even a small amount can cause tremendous effects – so overdose on GHB is common.
Problems with GHB include:
- Problems with vision
- Loss of consciousness
- Amnesia – cannot remember events that happened during drugging.
- Feeling as though in a dream
- Breathing difficulties
- Slowed heart rate
Ketamine – comes in a liquid form or a white powder. Ketamine, or “Special K” is a fast-acting drug, that causes memory problems, inability to move, and amnesia. Other problems with Ketamine include:
- Distorted perceptions of sound and sight
- Inability to remember time and identity
- Out-of-body experiences and dream-like feelings
- Feeling out of control
- Problems with movement
- Impaired breathing
- Aggressive/violent outbursts
- High blood pressure
- Slurred speech
What About Alcohol?
Any drug that causes impaired judgment or different behaviors can put a person at risk for unwanted and/or risky sexual activity. Alcohol is known for such behaviors. Alcohol is also the most common drug used to aid in a sexual assault/rape. Why?
- It’s hard to think clearly while drunk
- It’s harder to set limits and make good choices while drunk
- It can be hard to tell if a situation is dangerous or bad
- It’s harder to say no to unwanted sexual advances
- It’s harder to fight back during a rape
- Blackouts and memory loss are common
Okay, How Do I Make Sure I’m Not A Victim To Date Rape Drugs?
There are some things to do to combat the usage of date rape drugs around you. Most of these are common sense ideas to avoid date rape drugs:
- Don’t take drinks from other people.
- If someone gives you a drink, don’t drink it.
- Open all containers yourself.
- Keep your drink with you all the time – even in the bathroom.
- Don’t drink anything from a punch bowl or other open containers as they may have been drugged.
- Don’t share your drink with anyone else or take a drink from someone else’s cup.
- Go with anyone who offers to get you a drink from the bar – watch as the drink is poured and carry it yourself.
- Don’t drink anything that tastes or smells weird – GHB may have a salty taste.
- Bring a designated driver, even if you’re walking – a sober buddy can help you make good decisions.
- Pour out any drinks you’ve left unattended.
- If you feel drunk and haven’t had much (or anything) to drink, call 911 immediately – some of these drugs can kill you.
How Do I Know If I Was Drugged and Sexually Assaulted?
Sometimes, it’s really hard to tell if you’ve been drugged with “date rape” drugs and raped – most people don’t remember being drugged or assaulted.
A victim may not remember the attack at all, or it may be 8-12 hours after the rape before he or she remembers it. The drugs used to facilitate sexual violence are fast acting and metabolize quickly. Unless the victim seeks help very quickly after the rape, he or she may not be able to prove that drugs were involved.
Signs that you may have been drugged and sexually assaulted include the following:
- Feeling drunk after only one drink or like the drinks are way stronger than normal.
- You wake up feeling super-hungover and confused – a whole chunk of time was lost.
- You can’t remember anything after your drink.
- Your clothes are torn, ripped or on your body the wrong way.
- You feel like you’ve had sex but have no memory of it.
What Do You Do If You’ve Been Drugged And Raped?
Call 911 and get medical care immediately. Alternately, find someone you trust to take you to the ER.
Don’t brush your teeth, urinate, wash your hands, eat, drink, change clothes, bathe, shower, douche before you go – this can remove valuable evidence of a rape.
Call the police from the ER – tell them all that you remember. Don’t be afraid to tell the story – nothing you have done means that you deserve to be raped.
Ask the hospital to test your urine for the date rape drugs – many of those metabolize quickly, so the sooner you can give a urine specimen, the better.
Don’t clean up the area where the sexual assault occurred – there could be evidence on a glass or on the sheets.
Be sure to follow up with a rape crisis counselor or a therapist who specializes in rape/sexual assault. You can call National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 to find a trauma counselor near you.
What Are The Feelings That I Might Feel After Rape By An Acquaintance?
After being raped by someone that you know, there are many feelings that you may feel. These feelings may be strange and new, but no matter how you feel, it’s normal. If you find yourself unable to cope after the rape, please seek professional help from a trained rape counselor.
Feelings post-rape may be any or all of the following:
- Problems sleeping
- Problems eating
- Wildly swinging moods
- Blaming yourself
- Feeling humiliated and ashamed
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Fear of leaving the house
- Fear of another rape
- Feeling helpless
- Using alcohol or drugs to “feel better”
- Thoughts of suicide
- Feeling depressed
How Do I Cope With Acquaintance Rape?
There are a lot of different factors that make coping with a sexual assault by someone that you know challenging. Common reactions to date rape may include:
- Fear of retaliation for reporting the attack
- Fears of being harassed and/or assaulted again
- Fears of being harassed by family and friends of the attacker
- Fear that another attack will occur.
Common myths can also hinder recovery from sexual assault. Common rape myths may include the following:
- The attack was caused by the victim dressing provocatively, “he/she asked for it.”
- The attack was caused by the victim being intoxicated.
- The attack was caused because the victim had already been intimate with the attacker on previous occasions.
Blame for the attack may also hinder recovery from date/acquaintance rape. Types of blame include the following:
- Victim believes that he/she caused the attack by being drunk and/or intoxicated.
- Victim believes he/she didn’t say no loudly enough.
- Victim feels he/she lead the attacker on.
- Family and friends blame the victim for the attack.
Continued Trauma With Acquaintance Rape:
Unlike a rape attack from a stranger, someone who is raped by someone he or she knows has an added layer to their healing: they may be forced to confront their attacker in a social setting, even if the rape goes unreported. Fears of these encounters can cause increased shame and humiliation for someone who is the victim of acquaintance rape.
How To Heal After Acquaintance Rape:
Healing after such a confusing type of rape can be extremely difficult. We here at Band Back Together have compiled a resource for those of you who have been raped or know someone who has been raped.
Date Rape Hotlines:
IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER CALL 911
If you have been sexually assaulted/raped and are in need of immediate assistance, call 1-800-656-HOPE.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Additional Resources For Date/Acquaintance Rape:
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) – the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline at rainn.org, and publicizes the hotline’s free, confidential services; educates the public about sexual assault; and leads national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.
Office on Women’s Health – US governmental website that has a list of common date rape drugs and their effects.
Joyful Heart Foundation: Created by Law and Order’s Mariska Hargitay for survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. Their mission is to educate, empower and shed light into these terrible crimes and help the survivors heal.
Hope for Healing: A website dedicated to helping male victims of rape/sexual assault.
End the Backlog: A charity organization seeking justice for survivors by working in partnership with government, non profits, advocates and survivors to bring attention, funding and new legislation to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits across the country.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center: the nation’s principle information and resource center regarding all aspects of sexual violence.
It Happened to Alexa Foundation: provide funds for families to travel and be with a rape victim for the duration of the trial.