In Teens

Understanding the Ugly Face of Date Rape

date rape

Date rape is a devastating experience that is very often under-reported and under-prosecuted. What is even worse is that the victim often suffers even more when video of the attack is posted to social media or the victim is bullied by peers and others as if the victim is at fault for the attack.

Shocking date rape statistics

Every two minutes “another American is sexually assaulted” according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), and 44% of the victims are under 18 years of age and 80% of the victims are under 30 years old. An estimated 2/3 of the rapists are known to the victim, yet 97% of the rapists “never spend a day in jail.” With the shocking statistics of cases where the rapist is known to the victim, it is easy to understand why people may wonder why the perpetrator is never even arrested. Date rape discounts the perceived notion that the rapist is some stranger lurking behind the bushes or in the shadows of night who overpowers the victim. The Center for Family Justice defines date rape as occurring “when there is forced or coerced sex within a dating relationship.” They substantiate that nearly 2/3 of rape victims between 18 to 29 years old report having a prior dating relationship with their attacker. The actual definition of date rape for legal purposes may vary from state to state, but generally involves any attempts or actual act of forcing someone to have any type of sex against their will or drugging the date so that the victim no longer has the capacity to resist or say “no.”

Date rape drugs

Instances of drugging victims so that rape can occur have recently been a subject that has been far-reaching. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health gives a long list of drugs that are sometimes used to facilitate date rape. The OWH says that even touching the victim without consent or using an object on the victim can be a component of date rape. These substances, which includes drugs like GHB, short for gamma hydroxybutyric (pronounced GAM-muh heye-DROX-ee-BYOO-tur-ihk) acid, with street names like “bedtime soup” or “liquid ecstasy,” and Ketamine, known in the streets as “black hole” or psychedelic heroin,” are potent and dangerous drugs. Rohypnol, or “roofies” also referred to as the “forget pill” is not even legal in the United States, but is easily brought into the country.

They are easily slipped into a date’s drink and the drink does not have to be an alcoholic drink, making it much easier to slip into a cola or fruit juice drink of a younger victim. The effects of date rape drugs can leave the victim unconscious, in a stupor or aware of what is going on, but unable to resist and in some cases, even unable to move. Alcohol is also considered a date-rape drug because it can alter a person’s judgment, behavior and ability to consent to any type of sexual act. It is important that teenagers, young adults and even those over the age of 30 become educated in what the date rape drugs are, what effects the drugs can have on a person and how to prevent being drugged so that a rape or attempted date rape occurs.

It is still date rape now

It is important for victims who are date-raped, parents of date rape victims, law enforcement officials and sexual assault advocates to recognize that even if the victim and the rapist have had sex in the past, if the victim refuses or is drugged into having sex, it is still date rape now. As pointed out by Teen Violence Statistics, even if a victim initially consents to a sexual encounter but changes his or her mind, it is still date rape if the victim is forced into having any type of sex.

Date rape is not the fault of the victim

Date rape is never the fault of the victim. It does not matter if the rape occurs on a first date or long into a dating relationship, if the victim does not consent, it is still rape. It does not matter if the victim was flirting with the perpetrator, wears short skirts or other revealing clothing, it does not give the rapist the right to sexually assault the date-rape victim.

It is also rape, whether or not the victim consents to sex when on a date if the victim is a minor and the rapist is an adult. In the courts, a minor is viewed as not having the legal capacity to consent to sex.

It is imperative that the victim realize that the rape was not a crime of passion but one of power. Even though the rapist is someone the victim has been dating, rape is never about love or even liking someone. The victim must realize the rape was a vicious attack where the rapist intentionally overpowered and took advantage of the victim.

Date rape bullying

The victim is sometimes victimized again when rumors are spread about the attack or someone videos the attack and posts it to social media or shares it with others by other means. The victim is often bullied and intimidated, called names, belittled and degraded, possibly even attacked again. The bullying can lead to depression and even suicide. In May 2013, the New York Daily News reported that the parents of Audrie Pott did not want the three boys accused of raping 15 year old Audrie when she was given alcohol at a party and was passed out drunk. A video of the three 16 year old boys raping Audrie surfaced at the San Francisco high school where the victim attended. According to the report, she hanged herself 8 days after the video and pictures “went viral.”

When 17 year old Rehtaeh Parsons hung herself, it was as a result of the bullying that occurred after she was raped. She went with another girl to a family friend’s home at the age of 15, where there were several boys present. The other girl left and Rehtaeh was gang-raped. The bullying was relentless, with The Globe and Mail reporting that she was called names like “slut” and was sent “crude emails” from other teens. The bullying regularly continued until she hung herself.

How to reduce the risk of becoming a date rate victim

It is crucial to have a plan when going on a date, especially if it is a new date. Always carry a cell phone. Parents should stress to their teen to call and check in, no matter how uncool they consider it. Early in relationships especially, insist that dates take place in a well-lit location where there are a lot of people, such as a popular restaurant, bowling alley, school dance, festival or amusement park. Consider double-dating or group dates to lessen the chances of being completely alone with your date that you may not know very well. Do not drink or take any drugs when at a party or on a date, even if “everybody else is doing it.” That is not an excuse for you to do it. Maintaining complete composure and having awareness of what is going on around you will help you get away or notify someone where you are if something suddenly goes wrong. If you are not completely confident, do not get in the car with your date. Make sure your teen or young adult knows that it is okay to change their mind at the last minute and to always follow their instincts. If something goes wrong and the teen is threatened, make noise to attract others while trying to get away. If there is a weapon involved, do not jeopardize your life. Try to remember as many details as possible such as anything the rapist says and your surroundings.

How to help victims of date rape

Besides helping the victim realize that date rape is not about passion and that the rapist is at fault and not the victim, there are other ways to help date rape victims. It is imperative that the victim not bathe after being raped; even though that is likely the first thing the victim wants to do. Calmly explain to the victim that evidence must be preserved and bathing will wash it away. Call police and report the crime. Have medics to transport the victim to the hospital. Both law enforcement and medics will know how to preserve evidence and will take care that it is preserved. Date rape statistics are going up and it is often not reported. Victims feel it is their fault for a variety of reasons. When precautions are taken, when the victim realizes and accepts that the rape and bullying that often follows is not the victim’s fault, the victim is more likely to successfully recover. This is especially true if the victim has a strong support system from family, friends and advocates.

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