Its 3:20 am. on a Friday morning, and pitch black out. The only things visible are the tree branches and pavement shining from yellow streetlights that carve out a path from the parking lot to the back door of my building. Living on campus at Towson I shouldve owned mace, but I clutched my car key instead, pointed outward ready to stab the eye of anyone deciding to come out of the dark after me. The brisk walk up the hill seems to take half an hour. Finally under the bright lights of the overhang I swipe my card quickly to get inside. The door bolt locks behind me with a loud click. Im safe.
This is the typical scenario were one would assume a rape to take place. When people think about rape, they usually think of a stranger with a knife hiding in the bushes. He waits for a woman to walk by and then attacks. However this is far from the truth. The majority of victims are raped by individuals they know or who are acquaintances. This type of rape is known as acquaintance rape. Eighty percent of all rapes are, in fact, acquaintance rapes. (CallRape) One kind of acquaintance rape is called date rape, in which a man and a woman go out on a date together and forces her to have sex when she does not want to. Date rapes typically occur when a woman is alone with a man. If a woman goes to a man’s room or apartment, or even get into his car alone, she is vulnerable. Date rapes can also occur when others are relatively close by; for example, they can happen in an upstairs bedroom while fifty people attend a party on the first floor. Most girls dont think to reach for mace or car keys in these situations. They dont think about easy escape routes or whos within shouting distance. We shouldnt have to. Unfortunately it is an issue that needs to be discussed. Awareness is the most effective weapon women have against this horrible and often unreported crime.
Many of the attitudes, beliefs, and mistaken ideas about rape have been with us for centuries. By looking at myths, such as women ask for it, and women secretly enjoy rape, from a historical perspective, can lead us for better understanding how they evolved. Much stems back to the idea that women are still seen as the property of men, and are protected as such. Men and women are still taught to occupy very different roles in todays world. Men are usually in power positions, and women are seen as passive. This socialization process is changing, but slowly. Even in early age, boys are taught to be more aggressive than girls are. They are expected to enjoy playing sports. Girls are expected to play less aggressive sports. Boys are taught that they should get anything in their ways, even if it means using violence. Girls are taught to stay away from conflicts. Boys are sometimes taught to have a lot of girlfriends, and not to get tied down by one girl when they are young. They are supposed to play the field. Girls are often taught that they should have a steady boyfriend. They are taught to guard their reputations. All of these childhood lessons come into play in date rape for obvious reasons. (Mufson et all, 1993).
Rape is defined as a forced sexual intercourse against the will of the victim (Parrot, 1988). Rape is a violent act, not a sexual act. The myth that men who rape women are sexually pathological has begun to be dispelled and replaced with an understanding that rape is an act of anger, power and control rather than lust.
Rape can happen to anyone. Women from different cultures, races, ages, and economic level are all vulnerable. So no matter who you are or where you live. Most rape, and specifically most acquaintance rape, happens between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Because this is the time when young women are most likely to date, it is therefore are most vulnerable age of date rape, though acquaintance rape is not limited to dating situations. It may be committed by friends of the family, employers, friends, past boyfriends, and even husbands. The potential causes of rape are varied and controversial. Factors which contribute to rape include decreased status of women within a society, pervasive media exposure of sex, availability of pornographic materials, (especially those involving acts of violence) and inadequate information or misconceptions regarding sexual behaviors. Statistics state that less than four percent of all rapes are classified as victim provoked (Sigler, 1989).
In 1985, Mary Koss, a professor at Kent State University, surveyed approximately 7,000 students on thirty-two campuses on behalf of Ms. magazine and found that one in eight women were the victims of rape. One in every twelve men admitted to having forced a woman to have intercourse or tried to force a woman to have intercourse through physical force or coercion; that is, admitted to raping or attempting to rape a woman. Virtually none of these men, however, identified themselves as rapists. Similarly, only 57% of the women who had been raped labeled their experience as rape; the other 43% had not even acknowledged to themselves that they had been raped.(As cited in Ellen Sweet, “Date Rape. The Story of an Epidemic and Those Who Deny It,” Ms., October 1985, p. 56)
Date rape causes many serious problems. One of these problems is how the victim feels about what has happened to her. Often women are not even sure they have been raped. Forty-three percent of rape victims who lacked acknowledgment astonishingly illustrates the power of denial.
Women think maybe that they asked for it, even though they said no.Whether a woman says no in a sexual relationship means that it depends on the woman and the circumstance. Some women mean no the first time they say it; others do not mean no even after saying it many times. This variation makes it difficult for woman who means no for the first time she says it. Some men become desensitized to the word because many of women in their lives do not mean it. If a man persists in sexual advance after a woman had clearly said no, she might feel angry, frustrated, ignored, unimportant, and unheard. She may try to make him hear her and believe her by being more forceful physically by pushing him away. She may even scream, threaten him, try to escape, or to resort to physical violence by hitting him to make her wishes understood. Many women do know that they want in a sexual relationship but are treated as if they do not (Parrot, 1988).
One of the most astonishing things about date rape is the fact that sometimes men commit date rape without actually knowing what theyve done. They can think that women really do mean yes when they say no. They can think that a woman must want sex if she goes somewhere alone with a guy. They can think that if a girl flirts with a guy, she must want sex. They can also think that a girl owes a guy sex if he has spent a lot of money on her. So, when a guy like this forces his date to have sex, he may not even know he is raping her. Remarkably its possible that he thinks hes just doing what guys are supposed to do on dates.
In many cases, date rapes begin with a miscommunication between the persons. Studies of dating have shown that it is common for men and women to miscommunicate their sexual interests to others. Many studies have shown that college men are quite likely to misinterpret college womens behavior. When women think they are only being friendly and not expressing any sexual interest at all, men often think the woman is making a sexual advance. This miscommunication occurs because males tend to misinterpret subtle aspects of friendly behavior, such as pleasant facial expressions, standing close to male, and maintaining eye contact, as indications of sexual interest.
One reason that men and women often miscommunicate about sex is that they differ in their beliefs and attitudes about sexuality. Another major aspect of dating that is related to date rape is alcohol. Drinking plays a role in sexual aggression in a number of ways. First, some men use alcohol to reduce the resistance of a date who has not previously consented to sexual activity. Some men do this intentionally to disinhibit an agreement to something a woman wouldnt otherwise agree with sober. Most men give the role of alcohol no thought and simply offer it to their dates as part of the normal dating ritual. Problems occur when these men believe that a woman who contents to sex when intoxicated is giving her consent. Second, alcohol lowers inhibitions and often increases interest in sexual activity. Because it does lower inhibitions, alcohol makes it more likely that the male will do something such as using force that he would not do when he had not been drinking. Finally, playing a primary role after the fact, drinking allows people to attribute their behavior to the alcohol rather than their own choices
(Mufson at all, 1993).
It is also important to acknowledge that both men and women commit rape, both men and women are victims, and rapes occur among both heterosexuals and homosexuals. No one is completely free of the threat of rape. A recent scientific study of acquaintance rape on thirty-two campuses conducted by Ms. Magazine and psychologist Mary P. Koss showed that significant numbers of women are raped on dates or by acquaintances, although most victims never report their attacks. The Ms. survey states that one in four women surveyed were victims of rape or attempted rape, eighty four percent of those raped knew their attacker, and fifty seven percent of the rapes happened on dates (Warshaw, 1988). The truth is, men are rape victims. Some experts estimated that ten percent of the victims coming to rape-crisis centers are male even though men are far less likely to seek help after being raped than women are. But almost all male-rape victims have been raped by other men (Warshaw, 1988).
The recovery after rape can be a very long process. Picking up the pieces of the victims life after an assault can be the most difficult challenge the victims can ever face. In a relatively short period of time their most fundamental beliefs can be shattered, their sense of bodily integrity, security, and basic justice can be destroyed, and they may question their most important, intimate relationships. Many victims of a rape face rape-trauma syndrome that means an acute reaction to a completed or attempted sexual assault. It describes possible responses to an assault, which vary with each individual. Rape victims are shocked and disbelieved; they face the fear that the others will think differently of them if they know they have been attacked. They blame themselves, and they feel the fear that no one will believe them. Being alone and nightmares are another symptoms of rape-trauma syndrome (Parrot, 1988).
Most women who have been raped report that they believed their lives were in danger during the assault. The act of rape confirms a womans worst fear that when her life is in danger it is possible to be totally powerless to alter the course of events. The body and mind respond in a series of complicated ways based on the persons feeling of intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and threat. Sexual intimacy can be difficult challenge during this phase. An assault can very easily destroy the desire to be emotionally or physically close with another person, and the relationship does not have to be sexual for the victim to feel uncomfortable. It is important for the victims to give themselves time to become more comfortable with sexual intimacy. They may feel comfortable a week after the assault, or they may be uncomfortable a year later.
Rape is not only difficult for the survivor but also for family and friends. They can easily feel helpless when confronted with the survivors pain and anger. Often people want to protect the survivor from any more suffering, so they try to make things as easy as possible. Some families and friends are supportive, loving, and willing to go through a long and sometimes frustrating process as the survivor tries to regain control of her life. Simple things friends and family can do like offering comfort, being attainable, being patient, and listening, not judging can all help the victim in some aspect. (CallRape)
It is important to consider that rape is a community problem. Society as a whole suffers from rape, acquaintance or stranger, violent or not. Women can become frightened of men and afraid of having relationship with them; men can become worried for the women in their lives. . Those who have been raped and their families suffer from emotional trauma that may interfere with their lives for years. Those who rape without consequence may think it is acceptable to violate others, and often do.It is very important that women realize we are not invulnerable to rape.Rape can happen to anyone at any time. Rape prevention strategies help to decrease the risk, but the risk never drops to zero.Awareness prevention should also not be overlooked for potential assailants so that they know what constitutes a rape.
In the back of my mind I knew that acquaintance rape was more prevalent than stranger rape before I began this essay. I also know that I myself have more than a few times been in situations where I put my faith in the strength of someones character rather than my own physical safety. I dont think Im alone either. It was the statistics that really brought the facts to the forefront. Though nothing I discussed in this essay ever happened to me personally, I can still easily name five people who have encountered it in some way.
I think the biggest factor in the reason Aqauintance rape is so often overlooked and unreported is its lack of discussion. These situations are never brought up. Men and women think of rape as something that happens in dark alleys and abandoned parking lots because that’s what makes the headlines. When I was living on campus last year there was a new newsletter detailing a nighttime attack on campus every 2 months. Theyd have a police sketch, campus escort numbers, everything. Nobodys going to pick up a paper and read Jenny Eldman was Raped by Bobby Porter Last Night Even Though He Said He Just Wanted to Hang Out and Study For the English Mid-Term Its because these crimes are so very personal they go unmentioned, despite their obvious frequency. Just as the personal is political, rape is not a private issue, but a public one. Acquaintance rape cannot be considered solely a “personal” issue involving a particular man and a particular woman. It is a problem that concerns all men and all women because it deals with the basic issue of the ways in which men and women relate to each other. There is a need for rape prevention programs in colleges and universities not only to help women protect themselves but to help men understand the issue of rape. Denial is an easy solution for both the victims and perpetrators of this hidden crime. Hopefully as the facts about aqauintance rape come to the surface, people will get the information they need to re-shape their ideas. Isnt that what college is for?