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Ana Santos, Contributor
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September 16, 2011

6 Things Every Woman Needs to Know about Date Rape

FN answers 6 frequently asked questions about this crime, covering topics from its legal definition to victim support and assistance. By Ana Santos
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date_rape_inside_1.jpgGrowing up, our mothers would always remind us not to talk to strangers. When we got a bit older, our girlfriends warned us against accepting free drinks from unknown men (or women for that matter) for fear that it might be spiked with some unknown substance that might cause us harm. But no one told us to be careful of the guys we did know; the guys who might misinterpret familiarity for consent and feel entitled to have their way with us if we’d been flirtatious, drunk, or simply naïve; the guys who breach our trust in a crime more common than you might think—date rape.

Below we've listed six critical questions about date rape—and the answers to them. Read on to learn what you should know about date rape and how you can prevent it from happening to you.


1. WHAT IS DATE RAPE?

Psychologist Mary Koss defines date or acquaintance rape as an act where a person is "subjected to unwanted sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, or other sexual contact through the use of force or threat of force. Unsuccessful attempts are also subsumed within the term 'rape.'" Koss further defines sexual coercion as "unwanted sexual intercourse, or any other sexual contact subsequent to the use of menacing verbal pressure or misuse of authority."

According to Robin Warshaw, author of I Never Called It Rape--a book that was largely premised on the findings of Koss--just because you weren’t fighting back, kicking, or screaming during the course of the act doesn't mean it wasn't rape.

Unlike other forms of rape we may be more familiar with, date or acquaintance rape mostly happens in dorm rooms or at the homes of either the victim or the assailant, which warns us of something we should always keep in mind: being in familiar surroundings doesn't necessarily make you safer than going to places you've never been to.


2. HOW PREVALENT IS DATE RAPE?

The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS) cites a university survey conducted among more than 5,000 male and female students that revealed the following results:

  • One in four women surveyed was victim of rape or attempted rape.
  • An additional one in four women surveyed was touched sexually against her will or was victim of sexual coercion.
  • 84 percent of those raped knew their attackers.
  • 57 percent of those rapes happened while on dates.
  • One in 12 male students surveyed had committed acts that met the legal definitions of rape or attempted rape.
  • 84 percent of those men who committed rape said that what they did was definitely not rape.
  • 16 percent of the male students who committed rape and 10 percent of those who attempted a rape took part in episodes involving more than one attacker.

The sad thing is that date rape often goes unreported. Self-blame, fear of what others will say (that the victim was somehow asking for it and or deserved it), and the stigma that comes with being identified as a rape victim are all common reasons why women choose to remain silent. Another horrifying reality is that some women do not even realize that they have been raped because the perpetrators were people they knew. AAETS goes on to cite additional findings from the same research:

  • Only 27 percent of those women whose sexual assault met the legal definition of rape thought of themselves as rape victims.
  • 42 percent of the rape victims did not tell anyone about their assaults.
  • Only 5 percent of the rape victims reported the crime to the police.
  • Only 5 percent of the rape victims sought help at rape-crisis centers.
  • Whether they had acknowledged their experience as a rape or not, 30 percent of the women identified as rape victims contemplated suicide after the incident.
  • 82 percent of the victims said that the experience had permanently changed them

According to the 2009 Philippine National Police Statistics cited by the People's Recovery, Empowerment Development Assistance (Preda) Foundation, there is an average of nine rape cases every day or one incident every two and half hours in the country.


[Click here to go to page 2]


(Photo by sheena, as a rule via Flickr Creative Commons)

date_rape_inside_2.jpg3. WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT PUT YOU AT RISK?

Taking drugs or imbibing alcohol makes you vulnerable because apart from affecting or clouding your judgment, these substances may make you less able to fight off unwelcome advances or, worse, less conscious of advances such as unwanted touching taking place.

Drugs and alcohol are also the same factors that can make men more aggressive. But identifying perpetrators can be difficult as they can be just about anyone. However, the AAETS cites several characteristics that are common in men who are likely to perform this crime: a childhood history of sexual or physical abuse, a strict adherence to and identification with the male dominant archetype, and a history of physical abuse towards women.


4. WHAT ARE A RAPE VICTIM'S RIGHTS?

Atty. Clarita Padilla, Executive Director of Engenderights, a non-government organization that seeks to empower women through legal policy advocacy, stresses that "as long as there is force, intimidation, or threat, the incident may be classified as rape." So it isn't about whether or not you know the perpetrator or have even had a certain level of physical contact prior to the rape, if a sexual advance is unwanted, it is still considered rape.

These are the rights that protect victims of sexual assault:

a.  Right to Confidentiality

According to Atty. Padilla, the names and personal circumstances of the complainant or rape victim should be kept confidential by police officers and other officials of the court during the trial proceedings. However, Atty. Padilla stresses that this confidentiality rule is stated as “may order” and is not “mandated” by law, which means that this is something that may not be consistently followed.

b.  Right to have a female officer attend to your case

According to Republic Act 8505, also known as the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998, any police officer, medico-legal, and prosecutor who is assigned to handle rape cases should be female. However, the judge may or may not be female.


5. WHAT STEPS DO YOU TAKE IF YOU ARE THE VICTIM OF DATE RAPE?

If you find yourself the victim of acquaintance rape, here are some guidelines to follow:

a. Don’t take a bath in between the time of the incident and the time you made your complaint.

b. File your complaint within 24 hours of the incident.

c. Keep soiled clothes, which will be submitted as evidence. Don’t wash your hands as the skin under your fingernails may be checked for skin samples that you may have scratched off your assailant.


6. WHERE CAN VICTIMS GO FOR HELP?


If you should find yourself a victim of date rape, you may get assistance from the Women's Crisis Center at the East Avenue Medical Center in Diliman, Quezon City, or from GABRIELA. We've listed some details below:

Women’s Crisis Center
ER Trauma, Annex Bldg., East Avenue Medical Center, Diliman, Quezon City
Telephone Nos.: 436-5088 / 925-7133 / 436-5088

GABRIELA
National Alliance of Women's Organizations in the Philippines
P.O. Box 4386, Manila 2800
Telephone Nos.: 632-371-2302 / 632-374-3451 / 632-374-3452
Fax No.: 632-374-4423
E-mail Address: [email protected]

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has a wealth of resources about sexual abuse and how to recover from sexual assault. RAINN lists GABRIELA as a Philippine resource if you need help.


(Photo by _Ganesha_ via Flickr Creative Commons)
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Ana Santos
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Ana is a journalist by education and now, after leaving the corporate world, by profession. She is also a sexual health advocate as a matter of choice and passion... Read more...
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