Sexual assault can happen to anyone, however the majority of rape survivors are women. For this reason, we will refer to rape survivors as female and offenders as male. We do recognize, however, that men are sometimes victims of sexual assault, and that men are traumatized by these experiences.
Acquaintance or date rape occurs when a person is forced, against her will, to have sex and the assailant is someone she knows.
Putting the word "date" in front of "rape" does not in any way decrease the trauma that this violent crime causes. We don't refer to the murder of a women by her boyfriend as "date murder." So why do we use the phrase date rape? Does it somehow make people more comfortable to use language which is more pleasant? Does it gloss over the ugliness of this brutal crime?
Typically the word "rape" prompts images of dark alleys, attacks by strangers, weapons, and the threat of death. This scenario, however, is the exception rather than the rule. Most sexual assaults are by perpetrators known to the victim. When a college student is raped, the assailant is much more likely to use coercion, manipulation, and/or incapacitation by alcohol or other drugs, rather than using a gun or a knife. Because this experience does not fit the traditional definition or picture of what rape is, survivors rape often question whether or not their experience was rape, whether or not to report it to police, and why they are feeling so traumatized.
Acquaintance rape often creates guilt and self-doubt in survivors, who question their own judgment for spending time with the perpetrator. Acquaintance rape survivors make comments such as, "I trusted him," "I had no idea he would do something like this," and "I don't know who to trust." Because our society seems to see acquaintance rape as less ugly, less serious, than rape by a stranger, survivors may receive less support from friends and family. Whether by a stranger or an acquaintance, rape is a violent crime, which leaves lasting wounds for survivors.
If You Were Raped by Someone You Know
- You may be too ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone.
- People may think or say that you led him on.
- You may feel some sense of obligation to the assailant.
- You may feel this is not really rape, because he spent money on you.
- People may not believe you were raped, particularly people who know both you and the assailant.
- You may have difficulty trusting others, especially men, for a long time.
- People may blame you for choosing to date him or spend time with him.
- If the assailant is someone you know well, you may fear he will retaliate if you report the assault.
- Some friends who know you and the assailant may take his side. You may lose friendships because of the rape.
- You may blame yourself for going out with him, or drinking too much, or letting him in your bedroom, or any other action that, looking back, you now regret.
- Remember, it is not your fault that you were raped.
- Tell someone who can help - counselor, victim advocate, teacher, health care provider or a close friend.
- Don't try to handle this alone. Utilize your support systems.