|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
The thought of sexual assault might make you think of a stranger jumping out of a shadowy place and attacking someone. But it's not only strangers who rape. About half of all people who are raped know the person who attacked them.
Forced sex between two people who already know each other is known as date rape or acquaintance rape. Date rape most often happens to females, but males can be raped too.
Even though most friendships and acquaintances don't lead to violence, it's important for preteens and teens to be aware of date rape and learn how to stay safe.
Just the Facts
Here are some important facts about date rape to share with your preteen or teen:
Alcohol may play a part in rapes. Drinking can loosen inhibitions, dull common sense, and — for some people — allow aggressive tendencies to surface.
Drugs also can play a role. You might have heard about "date rape" drugs like rohypnol (sometimes called roofies), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), and ketamine. Drugs like these can easily be mixed in drinks to induce a temporary coma and amnesia upon waking. These drugs also can be fatal (cause death), especially when mixed with alcohol.
The best defense against date rape is to try to prevent it whenever possible. Encourage your kids and teens to follow these rules:
Unfortunately, even if your teen takes every precaution, date rape can still happen. If your teen is the victim of date rape, it's important to seek medical care. Medical care is not only crucial to a person's health and safety, but also to provide documentation in the event of a criminal investigation.
Here are some guidelines:
Many medical facilities have staff who are trained to take care of someone who has been raped, such as a forensic nurse examiner (FNE) or sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). Depending on the patient's age and the circumstances, the exam may include a pregnancy test for girls; testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); checking for internal injuries; testing to see whether the person was drugged; and checking for samples of the rapist's skin, hair, nails, or body fluids. It's best to get this done right away but doctors can gather evidence several days after a rape. In most areas, health care workers are obligated to share this information with the police.
Emotional care and support is also very important. It can be hard for teens to think or talk about something as personal as being raped by someone they know. But talking with a trained rape crisis counselor or other mental health professional can give your teen the right emotional attention, care, and support to begin the healing process. Working things through can help prevent problems later on.
Rape counselors also can work with parents and loved ones to help them deal with their own feelings about what happened.
When Your Teen Won't Tell
It can be hard to help a child who's keeping a secret from you. Preteens and teens often turn to their friends to discuss deeply personal issues — and something as serious as rape is no exception. In fact, some states have privacy laws that don't require parents to be notified if a teenager under age 18 has called a rape crisis center or visited a clinic for evaluation.
But even if your teen doesn't confide in you, there are some signs that could mean he or she is struggling emotionally — whether due to date rape or something else — and needs your help.
If you see new behaviors like these, reach out and let your daughter or son know that you're always available to listen, no matter what. If your child still won't open up and you continue to suspect some kind of trauma or upsetting event has happened, seek a therapist's help to get support for your child and your family.
Reviewed by: Michelle New, PhD