Did you know:
- 70% of completed rapes are committed by non-strangers (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999).
- 31% of rape victims develop some form of Rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. (National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992).
When most people think of rape, they visualize an unknown lunatic violently dragging a defenseless person into a dark alley. This is a very inaccurate portrayal. Almost four out of five rapes are committed by attackers who knew or recognized their victims (National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992).
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.
While most victims of acquaintance rape are female, males can also be the victims of this type of sexual assault. Victims of acquaintance rape come from every social-economic, cultural, religious and racial background. Many myths incorrectly characterize rape victims as "sexually loose" individuals who are "asking for it." On the contrary, victims of acquaintance rape are victims of violence and domination.
The prejudicial myths and attitudes surrounding rape victims are what hinder the criminal justice system. Quite often the evidence depends on the victim's word against that of the rapist's; therefore, instead of the offender being tried, the victim's morals, lifestyle, dress and actions are put on trial. As a result, convictions are difficult to get, and police and prosecutors are often reluctant to pursue acquaintance rape cases.
Another factor in the reluctance of the criminal justice system to pursue acquaintance rape cases is that alcohol is often involved. One study found that 75 percent (75%) of the males and 50 percent (50%) of the females involved in college campus acquaintance rapes had been drinking when the sexual assault occurred (Bohmer & Parrot, 1993).
Social standards condemn individuals for getting drunk and place blame on them when they are raped while drinking any alcohol, regardless of whether they were intoxicated at the time of the assault. In reality, whether the victim is drinking or not, the simple act of saying "no" means just 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 a 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, a condition suffered by almost one-third of all rape victims, 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. Only 16 percent (16%) of rape victims report the crime to the police (National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992). 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;
- Counseling; Compensation; and Restitution.
- 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.
Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice (1994).
Criminal Victimization in the United States. Bohmer, Carol and Andrea Parrot. (1993).
Sexual Assault on Campus. New York: Lexington Books.
National Center for Victims of Crime and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center. (1992).
Rape in America: A Report to the Nation. Arlington, VA.
For additional information, please contact:
National Coalition Against Sexual Assault
912 North Second Street Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 232 - 7460
National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center
Medical University of South Carolina
171 Ashley Avenue Charleston, SC 29425-0742
(843) 792 - 2945
Center for Women Policy Studies
2000 P Street, NW, Suite 508 Washington, DC 20036
(202) 872 - 1770
Your local rape crisis center:
Council Against Rape
1415 East South Blvd.
24-hour Hotline (334) 286-5987
Your state Attorney General, county/city prosecutor, or county/city law enforcement: Check in the Blue Pages of your local phone book under the appropriate section heading of either "Local Governments," "County Governments," or "State Government."