When most people think of rape, they visualize an assault in a dark alley by a stranger. This is a very inaccurate portrayal.
Acquaintance rape is a sexual assault by an individual known to the victim. Another term “date rape” is a sexual assault by an individual with whom the victim has a “dating” relationship and the sexual assault occurs in the context of this relationship. Many of these rapes are violent, and all are coercive in nature.
The perpetrators of acquaintance rape do not fit an easily recognized profile. However, some similar characteristics have been found in acquaintance rapists including:
- A propensity toward violence in problem-solving;
- Aggressiveness in intimate relationships; and
- Being overly demanding of partners.
Acquaintance rape is not gender exclusive; both males and females can be victims to this crime. Victims of acquaintance rape come from every socio-economic, cultural, religious, sexual orientation and racial background.
In today’s culture, many rape victims are incorrectly characterized. This is due to society’s view that rape victims are at fault for their rape. Frequently, a victim’s morals, lifestyle as well as their dress are put into question. It is important to understand that a victim is never at fault for their rape.
Social standards condemn individuals for getting drunk and place blame on them when they are raped while drinking any alcohol. Whether the victim is drinking or not, the simple act of saying “no” means that no consent has been given. If the victim is intoxicated, then there can be no capacity to consent. However, the voluntary intoxication of an offender cannot be used as legal defense for committing the crime of sexual assault.
Victims of acquaintance rape face problems which are very specific to their type of victimization. Because the rapists may have been a part of their lives or someone with whom they socialize, victims often have to face their assailants after the rapes–causing distress, fear and humiliation for the victim. Victims of acquaintance rape frequently blame themselves for a violent crime over which they had no control. Because the assailants are previously known to them, many victims hold themselves accountable for not having better judged the character of their perpetrators, or for allowing themselves to be in the situation in which the rape occurred. Acquaintance rape victims also experience an extreme violation of trust because this individual they allowed into their life violated all that trust and committed a horrible crime against them.
The trauma caused by acquaintance rape is no less severe than the trauma that is associated with rape by a stranger. Victims can suffer physically, emotionally and financially. Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, includes sleeping and eating disorders, nervousness, fatigue, withdrawal from society and distrust of others. Many victims suffer from one or several of these symptoms and some victims are affected for many years.
Many acquaintance rape victims never reach out for the services and assistance they need in the aftermath of their victimization. When victims do step forward and report, they are often not believed or experience difficulty in receiving proper services.
Victims of acquaintance rape need a variety of rights and services including:
- Confidentiality and privacy protection;
- Medical care;
- Accurate information concerning HIV/AIDS and STDs;
- Compensation; and
Victims also need information about the criminal case during the investigation, trial and corrections system, as well as information about the offender’s known HIV/AIDS status.
Acquaintance rape victims have myriad concerns. The fear of being blamed, fear of their families, friends or the general public knowing about their victimization, or a sense of futileness due to the belief that justice will not be served prevent many victims from coming forward. Preventing secondary victimizations to acquaintance rape victims by the criminal justice system and society is a major concern of the victims’ rights movement.
There are several ways to help prevent and avoid acquaintance rape, one these ways is to look for these three stages during a relationship:
1. Intrusion: Attempt by the offender to violate the victim’s personal space and level of comfort. May draw close by revealing personal information or through “accidental” touches and stares.
2. Desensitization: Occurs when the victim feels comfortable with the offender and has come to regard intrusive actions as no longer or, at least less, threatening. The victim of the desensitization may feel uneasy but convinces himself or herself that the feeling is unfounded.
3. Isolation: The offender uses the victim’s trust to isolate him or her from others.1
Resources: 1. “Acquaintance Rape .” RAINN. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 June 2013. <http://www.rainn.org/get-information/types-of-sexual-assault/acquaintance-rape>.