Acquaintance Rape

When we think of rape, most people picture a woman being attacked by a stranger in a dark alley. The fact is that almost four out of five rape cases involve people who know each other. When this happens, it is known as acquainance rape, or "date rape." What are the risk factors and how can you avoid being a victim of acquaintance rape? Read on for some answers.

Some Facts about Acquaintance Rape
Approximately 77 percent of all rape victims know their attacker and 92% of adolescent rape victims know their attacker. On college campuses, one in four women are victims of rape. At least 84 percent of those women know their attacker and 57 percent of those rapes happened on a date.

While most acquaintance rape victims are female, males can also be victims of this type of sexual assault. Victims come from every socio-economic, cultural, religious, and racial background.

Who are the Attackers?
People who commit acquaintance rape don't fit a common profile. However, some similar characteristics have been identified, including:

* A tendency to solve problems by using violence.
* Aggressiveness in intimate relationships.
* Being overly demanding of their partners.

Protect Yourself
Here are some things you can do to help avoid being a victim of acquaintance rape:

* Trust your gut instincts. If you don't feel comfortable in a situation, get out.
* Be self-sufficient. Don't rely on others to keep you safe.
* Be careful when inviting someone to your home or going to someone else's home. This is where most acquaintance rapes occur.
* Communicate with your partner. Be clear about what you want and don't want.
* Be independent at a date. Help decide where you will go, pay your own way, and provide your own transportation.
* Don't drink too much or do drugs. It can compromise your judgement.
* If things start to get out of hand, protest loudly and leave. Don't wait for someone to come to your rescue.
* Feel free to go on a group date if you don't know the person. Meet in a public place.
* Avoid being coerced with such lines as, "If you really love me, you'll do it." This is a classic manipulation tactic used by date rapists.

Psychology of the Acquaintance Rape Victim
Being assaulted by someone you know is just as scary as being assaulted by a stranger. It might take awhile for you to fully realize what has happened to you. And even then you may still have doubts. You may think that at some point you gave consent, or that you sent mixed signals, or that in some way it was your fault. Remember, rape is NOT your fault.

It can be very difficult to come to terms with the fact that someone you know and possibly care about has hurt you in this way. You may be worried that you'll see your attacker again. You may be unsure whether to report the assault to the police. And you may fear that no one will believe you.

Almost one-third of all rape victims suffer from rape-related post-traumatic stress disorder, which includes sleeping and eating disorders, nervousness, fatigue, withdrawal from society, and distrust of others.

The action you take should be the same as with any other rape. Get help. Tell someone you trust, go to the emergency room, call a rape crisis center, and call the police.

-- Beth Adamo

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