Date Rape is Rape

I work with a lot of teen girls and young women and, sometimes in the course of getting to know them, I learn they have been the victim of sexual assault at some point in their lives. Now this might be the reason they have scheduled an appointment to come and see me, but many times it is not, but is part of their history they want to share. Sexual assault is terrible, no matter the circumstances, but I have grown increasingly frustrated with hearing, “It was just date rape” or “Well, it was someone I knew” as if this somehow lessens the trauma of the experience or reduces their right to complain as compared to women who have experienced “real rape”. Gah! This is so frustrating! Rape is rape whether the victim knows the perpetrator or not, whether she was grabbed in a dark alley or not, and whether there was additional physical violence or not. Rape is rape.

I want to point out the many ways a victim of date rape may suffer differently than those who are the victim stranger rape (is that even the right term?) Don’t get me wrong, both are terrible, traumatic, life-changing experiences, but I want to highlight how the lesser considered event has its own unique challenges to overcome:

  1. Date rape leads you to doubt your own ability to separate the good guys from the bad guys. This person had enough of your trust that you were hanging out with them. You felt safe enough (frequently) to be alone with him. He violated that trust and treated you with nothing short of contempt and violence. Many women lose their ability to trust themselves when they feel they can no longer trust others.
  2. Others may minimize your experience. The tried and true statements about it being “just date rape” minimizes your experience and may reduce the amount of support your receive from others. You may feel you need to prove to them just how deeply you were impacted by what happened to you. It can be frustrating to feel people just don’t understand how hard it is.
  3. You may be confused about what actually happened. I hear this a lot. Women need time to come to terms with what happened to them and may even be tempted to deny what happened. Acknowledging your sexual assault (even to yourself) may feel like pressure to act – to do something about it.
  4. Some people will blame you for this happening to you. You led him on. You were a tease. You wanted it. This sucks. They are terrible. I am sorry.
  5. He may blame you. He will likely deny any rape occurred. He will say the sex was consensual and without any signs of physical injuries (which may or may not be present), it becomes a “he said/she said” situation. All too often, this is why these crimes go unreported.

If you take anything away from this rant of mine, please let it be this – rape is rape whether the victim knows the perpetrator or not. If you, or someone you know, are sexually assaulted it is a traumatic experience. You did nothing wrong. It is always 100% the perpetrator’s fault, whether you know him or not.

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5 thoughts on “Date Rape is Rape

  1. All five of these things are so very harmful and frustrating. Number 4 was especially upsetting coming from my dad. It is really hard to deal with these events in a bubble let alone in a world full of uneducated people. Thank you for this post!

    Like

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