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Date Rape

What Is Date Rape?

When people think of rape, they might picture 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; sometimes it's the person they're going out with or interested in. Girls and women are most often raped, but guys also can be raped.

Most friendships and dates never lead to violence. But it can happen. So it's good to be prepared. Here are two key things to know about rape:

  1. The person who is raped is not to blame. Rape is always the rapist's fault. People never "ask for it" because of the clothes they wear or the way they act. If sex is forced against someone's will, it's rape. That's true even when two people are dating — even if they've had sex before. You never "owe" someone sex, even if you're dating.
  2. Rape is not about sex or passion. Forced sex is an act of violence and aggression. It has nothing to do with love. Healthy relationships are about respect. Someone who really cares about you will respect your wishes and not force or pressure you to have sex.

Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol and drugs can play a role in date rapes. Drinking can loosen inhibitions, dull common sense, and — for some people — allow aggressive tendencies to surface.

Drugs can take away your ability to be in control or get help. You may have heard about "date rape" drugs like "roofies," GHB, and ketamine. Drugs like these can easily be mixed in drinks to make a person black out and forget things that happen. Girls and guys who have been given these drugs say they felt paralyzed, had blurred vision, and couldn't remember things.

Mixing these drugs with alcohol is highly dangerous. People can end up dead if they're given a date rape drug when they've been drinking.

Protecting Yourself

The best defense against date rape is to try to prevent it. Here are some things you can do:

  • Avoid secluded places when you're in the early stages of dating or just getting to know someone. Going someplace where you can't get help can be risky if you don't know the person you're with. That includes your room or the other person's. Wait until you trust your partner before going anywhere private or out of the way.
  • Don't spend time alone with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Follow your instincts. If a situation doesn't feel right, get out.
  • Stay sober and aware. If you're with someone you don't know very well, stay aware of what's going on around you.
  • Be aware of your date's ability to agree to sex. You may be guilty of rape if the other person has been drinking, doing drugs, or is not in a condition to respond or react.
  • Be clear about what kind of relationship you want with the person. If you are not ready for sex or touching, or you're not sure, ask the other person to respect your feelings.
  • Don't let peer pressure push you into something you don't want to do. "Everybody's doing it" is a myth. Most teens are not having sex.
  • Go out with a group of friends and watch out for each other. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you feel threatened.
  • Take self-defense courses. These can build confidence and teach valuable physical techniques a person can use to get away from an attacker.

Getting Help

If you are raped, here are some things that you can do:

Immediately After a Rape

  • If you're hurt, go straight to the emergency room. Most medical centers and hospital emergency departments have doctors and counselors trained to take care of someone who has been raped.
  • Call, text, or find someone you feel safe with. Tell them what happened.
  • If you want to report the rape, go to the hospital right away. To keep as much of the physical evidence as you can, don't change clothes, don't wash, and don't douche.
  • If you aren't sure what to do, call a rape crisis center. Search online for local numbers or call the national sexual assault hotline at (800) 656-HOPE. Rape crisis calls are anonymous and confidential. The counselor can explain the law in your area and give you advice on what to do.
  • Write down as much as you can remember about what happened.

Up to 72 Hours After a Rape

  • If you want to report the rape, go to the hospital as soon as you can. If possible, don't change clothes, don't wash, and don't douche. But if you've already done these things, don't let that stop you from getting help. Take as much evidence with you as you can — like underwear or other clothing that hasn't been washed yet. Doctors can gather evidence several days after a rape. The hospital also will check you for STDs and give you treatments to help prevent them.
  • If you aren't sure what to do, call a rape crisis center. Search online for local numbers or call the national sexual assault hotline at (800) 656-HOPE. Rape crisis calls are anonymous and confidential. The counselor can explain the law in your area and give you advice on what to do.

More Than 72 Hours After a Rape

  • If you want to report the rape, call the police or a rape crisis center. A rape crisis center is a good place to start if you were raped a while ago. They can give you advice on the best approach to take (for instance, if you should go to the hospital or contact the police first).
  • If you just want to talk or need counseling, call a rape support line. Search online for local numbers or call the national sexual assault hotline at (800) 656-HOPE. Rape crisis calls are anonymous and confidential. They will put you in touch with someone in your area who can help. Some rape crisis centers offer short-term counseling help.

Reporting a Rape

The sooner a rape is reported, the better. Quick reporting increases the chances that rapists will be caught and prevent them from hurting someone else. But you can still report a rape months or, in some states, even years after it happens. Different states have different rules. To find out more about rape laws in your area, go to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) (RAINN) website.

Rape isn't just physically damaging — it can be emotionally traumatic as well. It may be hard to think or talk about something as personal as being raped by someone you know. A trained rape crisis counselor or other mental health professional can give you the right care and support to begin the healing process. Working things through can help prevent lingering problems later on.

Reviewed by: Michelle New, PhD, and Allan R. De Jong, MD
Date reviewed: April 2011