The larger point,
also, is not just about protecting women, but redefining rape as
a problem behavior of too many normal guys. The psychos get the
attention even though surveys find surprisingly large numbers of
college guys say they would rape if they could get away with it.
So, the problem seems to be the way many men are socialized,
including the sense of privilege and entitlement (such as sexual
access) they feel because they are 'regular guys.' Rape tends to
be seen as a 'woman's problem' because they suffer the effects
of victimization, but the conversation also needs to include the
problem of men who rape dates, classmates, acquaintances and
As much as we wish
this article could provide all the answers, realistically it
provides starting points for further thoughts, discussions and
hopefully some activism.
& Its Effects
As noted above,
acquaintance rape includes the category of date rape and
encompasses sexual assaults by individuals known to the victim:
a classmate, a family friend, a co-worker, etc. It involves
being subjected to unwanted sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal
sex, or other penetration, such as by fingers or objects. While
the common image of rape is that it involves force or the threat
of force, the basic point is that it happens without the woman's
consent - perhaps even sexual activity done to a woman who is
passed out or drugged and thus unable to consent.
Both perpetrators and
survivors of acquaintance rape come from every socio-economic,
cultural, religious, and racial background; it happens at
community colleges as well as Ivy Leagues and all regions of the
country. Discussing statistics can sometimes be helpful in
making sense of a problem, but readers should treat all
statistics on rape - and domestic violence, teen dating, child
abuse, etc - with caution. Rape frequently goes unreported
because of the stigma and shame. Women are even less likely to
report acquaintance rape for similar reasons - plus women worry
that people will not believe them, the police will not do
anything, and they will generally be dismissed because it was
not a 'real' rape.
The belief that there
are 'real' rapes and then there are acquaintance rapes can have
devastating effects on victims seeking help. While acquaintance
rape typically involves less overt violence than stranger rape,
survivors of acquaintance rape often experience serious,
long-term psychological effects. Compared to victims of stranger
rape, acquaintance rape victims tend to blame themselves more,
view themselves more negatively, and often have trouble trusting
people in their relationships. Acquaintance rape survivors also
feel particularly helpless and unsafe, since they have found
that even people they trusted may perpetrate an act of violence
against them. Family and friends may not be a basis of support
of acquaintance rape survivors, as they may be for survivors of
stranger rape. If they tell friends or family, the seriousness
of the attack may be played down, or the survivor may be blamed
for the rape. For all these reasons, acquaintance rape victims
are overall less likely to seek crisis services, tell someone,
report to police, and seek counseling - even though the rape can
carry some significant psychological effects.
acquaintance rape need a variety of services including
confidential and private medical care, counseling concerning
pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and STDs. A counselor who specializes in
sexual assault can listen, give support, ideas and information
on options. Since rape involves a profound loss of control,
counselors do not tell a woman what to do, but try to discuss
available options. A phone call can be a good way to start, with
in-person appointments to follow up with ongoing counseling and
support, including support groups and other types of services.
There are a set of
beliefs and misunderstandings about acquaintance rape that are
held by a large number of men and women. These flawed ideas
serve to shape the way acquaintance rape is dealt with on both
personal and societal levels. This set of assumptions often
presents serious obstacles for victims as they attempt to cope
with their experience and recovery.
A female who
gets raped usually deserves it, especially if she has
agreed to go to a male's house, room, or park with him.
deserves to be raped. Being in a male's room or car only
means that a female has agreed to hang out with a man;
consent to have sex is not implied by these decisions
and must still be explicitly given.
survivors are "sexually loose" individuals who
are "asking for it."
of rape are victims of violence and domination. The
notion of "asking for it" reinforces views of
women as sex objects, of deserving punishment for
violating narrow standards of 'virtue,' and of men as
entitled to sexual access of women.
rape is committed by males who are easy to identify as
are often raped by "normal" acquaintances who
resemble "regular guys." Fraternities and
sports teams are disproportionately involved in campus
rapes, but there they are not the only ones and there is
no clearly identifiable 'type.'
who don't fight back haven't been raped.
point is that the woman said no, so activity that occurs
after this point is rape because it is without her
consent. The decision to fight back or not is separate
and will depend on a number of personal factors
including physical strength, threats by the perpetrator,
perceptions of danger and increased harm from
kissing or certain kinds of touching mean that
intercourse is inevitable.
right to say "no" should be honored,
regardless of the activity which preceded it. A
California court recently held that a woman has the
right to withdraw consent during intercourse.
a male reaches a certain point of arousal, sex is
inevitable and they can't help forcing themselves upon a
are capable of exercising restraint in acting upon
sexual urges. The notion of 'out of control' sexuality
helps relieve men of responsibility and shifts blame to
the woman for the man's arousal. Cold showers and
masturbation are always options for men.
women lie about acquaintance rape because they have
regrets after consensual sex.
larger problem is that many people believe the myths
about acquaintance rape and convince the woman her
experience was bad sex rather than rape. Filing charges
is a big step that opens the woman up to many questions
about her private life and is not something done
who say "No" really mean "Yes."
notion is based on rigid and outdated sexual
stereotypes. If yes mean yes and no means yes, then
women are simply sex objects always available for the
pleasure of men with no way to refuse sex.
behaviors such as drinking or dressing in a sexually
appealing way make rape a female's responsibility.
is the responsibility of the perpetrator, just like with
murder, robbery and burglary. Rape happens to women
wearing old sweats as well as those dressed up, so
looking good is not an invitation to be raped. Also,
drinking is a gender-based double standard: it increases
a woman's responsibility but provides an excuse for the
Date Rape Drugs
across the country have come forward with disturbing tales of
drugs being slipped into their drinks- and being raped while
under the influence. These drugs tend to be colorless and
odorless, so they can easily be slipped into drinks. The person
who drinks it will have less ability to fight back or may be
rendered unconscious. Some of the drugs cause memory loss and
most are rapidly broken down by the body, thus making
One of these drugs is
flunitrazepam, or Rohypnol -- known on the street as "roofies"
or "the forget me drug". It is a powerful sedative 10
to 20 times as strong as Valium, and causes memory loss and
unconsciousness; the combination of this strong sedative with
depressants like alcohol can be especially dangerous. This drug
takes effect within 20 to 30 minutes and can last as long as 12
hours. Although Rohypnol is on the market in 64 countries as a
prescription sleeping aid and a pre-surgery medication, it is
illegal in the United States and possession is a felony.
Another drug, GHB
(known on the street as "Liquid X" or "easy
lay"), is also an odorless, colorless, liquid depressant
with anesthetic qualities. It is also commonly used as an amino
acid by bodybuilders. GHB is usually distributed as a sodium
salt in powder or tablet form commonly dissolved in water. This
drug gives a feeling of relaxation, tranquility, sensuality, and
loss of inhibitions (especially for females), so there are
reports of it being recreationally used and abused in addition
to the involuntary ingestion associated with date rape. The drug
takes effect in about 10 to 15 minutes after ingestion and lasts
2 to 3 hours unless combined with alcohol, where the effect may
last up to 20 or 30 hours. Large doses can induce sudden sleep
within 5 to 10 minutes. A third known drug, Ketamine (also known
as "Special K" or "Vitamin K") is a powerful
anesthetic used as an animal tranquilizer. It is available in
liquid, powder, or pill form. Ketamine causes hallucinations,
amnesia and dissociation making it attractive for a potential
The best advice for
avoiding date rape drugs usually centers on protecting yourself
and others by pouring your own drinks directly from the can or
bottle. Be careful about drinking from punchbowls or other open
containers, and keep a careful eye on your glass (do not leave
the drink on a table when going to bathroom). Sticking together
with a groups of friends is important, and if someone seems more
intoxicated than the amount of alcohol would warrant, get them
out of the party and be ready to get them to a hospital if they
go unconscious. Finally, take seriously comments by other women
about parties that may have involved date rape drugs.
Rape is one of the
more obvious forms of gendered violence, which refers to men's
violence against women. While some people like to try to create
a ranking of which is worse, the point really is to recognize
how they can work together to shape women's lives and responses
to victimization. In addition to rape, there is teen dating
violence, catcalls and various types of verbal harassment. The
study of college women (mentioned in the introduction) also
included low levels of stalking and violations of privacy like
taking intimate pictures of someone without their consent (or
posting the pictures to the internet).
Women certainly need
to protect themselves from these behaviors, and they need to
stick together because collective action is necessary for social
change. But it is also important to focus attention on men's
behavior, especially the attitudes of regular guys. Since many
of these guys are not psychos or evil people, the attitudes they
have learned about women and rape can be unlearned. It requires
the efforts not just of women, but male peers who 'get it' - who
see women as equals, who know how they expect their mom and
sister to be treated and use that as a model for how they treat
As a Woman, You
As a Man, You Can...
- Talk openly about sex, and keep talking as you get deeper
into a relationship.
- Be careful not to let alcohol or other drugs decrease your
ability to take care of yourself and make sensible
- Trust your gut feelings. If a place or the way someone
acts makes you nervous or uneasy, get out.
- Check out a first date or a blind date with friends.
Insist on going to a public place like a movie, sporting
event, or restaurant. Carry money for a phone call and taxi,
or take your own car.
- Don't leave a party, concert, game, or other social
occasion with someone you just met or don't know well.
- Take a look at the men around you and be wary of anyone
who puts you down, or tries to control how you dress or your
choice of friends.
- Ask yourself how sexual stereotypes affect your attitudes
and actions toward women.
- Accept a woman's decision when she says "no."
Don't see it as a challenge.
- Avoid clouding your judgment and understanding of what
another person wants by using alcohol and other drugs.
- Realize that forcing a woman to have sex against her will
is rape, a violent crime with serious consequences.
- Never be drawn into a gang rape- at parties, fraternities,
bars, or after sporting events. Male bonding and peer
pressure can be powerful forces; be skeptical about
rationalizations and group think that turn what is gang rape
into something that seems like group sex.
- Seek counseling or a support group to help you deal with
feelings of violence and aggression against women. See the
section on stopviolence.com
on men's groups seeking to end violence against women. Many
links, including the toolkit to end men's violence, has good
thoughts about the links between masculinity, homophobia and
violence against women.
If Acquaintance Rape Happens to You...
If It Happens to
Someone You Know...
- Get help. Phone the police, a friend, a rape crisis
center, a relative. Don't isolate yourself, don't feel
guilty, and don't try to ignore it.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible. Do not shower,
wash, douche, or change your clothes. Valuable evidence
could be destroyed.
- Get counseling to help deal with the emotional trauma
caused by rape.
- Believe her or him.
- Offer comfort and support. Go with her or him to the
hospital, police station, or counseling center.
- Let the survivor know that s/he is not to blame.
- Be careful about asking questions abut what she did or did
not do because, because they may be taken as blaming the
victim. Take a Stand Against Date Rape!
- Ask your student government or other organization to
sponsor a workshop on date rape and sexual stereotyping.
Work with a hotline or crisis center to persuade rape
survivors to join the panel.
- Volunteer at a rape crisis center or hotline.
- Monitor the media for programs or videos that reinforce
sexual stereotypes. Write or call to protest. On the other
side, publicly commend the media when they highlight the
realities of date rape.
- Ask college or professional athletes or other role models
to talk to high school students about sexual stereotyping
and responsible behavior.