Surviving rape and date rape
Many attitudes, beliefs, and mistaken ideas about rape have been
with us for centuries. By looking at myths such as "women
ask for it" and "women secretly enjoy rape" from
a historical perspective leads us to a better understanding how
they evolved. Women are still seen as men's property and are protected
as such. Men and women are still taught to occupy very different
gender roles in today's world. Men are usually in power positions
and women are seen as passive. This socialization process is changing
Rape is a forced sexual intercourse. Rape is a violent act, not
a sexual act. The myth that men who rape women are sexually pathological
has begun to be dispelled and to be replaced with an understanding
that rape is an act of anger, power, and control rather than of
Rape can happen to anyone. Women from different cultures, races,
ages, and economic levels are all vulnerable. It does not matter
who you are or where you live. Most rape crimes,
and specifically most acquaintance rape,
affects women between the ages of 15 and 25. This is the time
when young women are most likely to date and therefore most vulnerable
to date rape. Acquaintance rape is not limited to dating situations.
It may be committed by friends of the family, employers, friends,
past boyfriends, and even husbands. The potential causes of rape
are varied and controversial. Among the factors that contribute
to rape are the decreased status of women within a society, pervasive
media exposure of sex, and the availability of pornographic materials,
especially those involving acts of violence.
Date rape causes many serious problems. One of these problems
centers around the ways the victim feels about what has happened
to her. Often women are not even sure they have been raped. They
think maybe that they asked for it, even though they said "no".
Some men become desensitized to the word because many of women
in their lives do not mean it. If a man persists in sexual advance
after a woman had clearly said "no", she might feel
angry, frustrated, ignored, unimportant, and unheard. She may
try to make him hear her and believe her by being more forceful
physically by pushing him away. She may even scream, threaten
him, try to escape, or she may resort to physical violence by
hitting him to make her wishes understood.
Sometimes men commit date rape without fully understanding what
constitutes rape. They think that women really do mean "yes"
when they say "no". They assume that a woman must want
sex if she goes somewhere alone with a man. They think that if
a girl flirts, she must want sex. They think that because they
spent a lot of money on a date, their date must therefore owe
them sex. When men such as these force their dates to have sex,
they are, albeit perhaps unknowingly, committing rape.
Recovery after rape can be a very long process. Picking up the
pieces of her life after a sexual assault can be the most difficult
challenge a victim can ever face. In a relatively short period
of time, her most fundamental beliefs have been shattered and
her sense of bodily integrity, security, and basic justice have
been destroyed. Victims may question their most important, intimate
In spite of all this, however, victims' lives will continue and
it is up to them to put the pieces back together. Many victims
of a rape face rape-trauma syndrome,
an acute reaction to a completed or attempted sexual assault.
It describes possible responses to an assault, which vary with
each individual. Rape victims are shocked and disbelieved; they
face the fear that the others will think differently of them if
they know they have been attacked. They blame themselves, and
they fear that no one will believe them. Being alone and nightmares
are another symptoms of rape-trauma syndrome (Parrot, 1988).
Most women who have been raped report that they believed their
lives were in danger during the assault. The act of rape confirms
a woman's worst fear: she is in fear for her life and, at the
same time, she feels totally powerless to alter the course of
events. The body and mind respond in a series of complicated ways
based feelings of intense fear, helplessness, loss of control,
Sexual intimacy can be difficult challenge during this phase.
An assault can very easily destroy the desire to be emotionally
or physically close with another person, and the relationship
does not have to be sexual for the victim to feel uncomfortable.
It is important for rape victims to give themselves time to become
more comfortable with sexual intimacy. They may feel comfortable
a week after the assault, or they may be uncomfortable a year
or several years later.
It is very important to understand that we are invulnerable to
rape. Rape can happen to anyone at any time. Rape
prevention strategies help decrease the risk, but the risk
never drops to zero. Awareness prevention is also very important
for potential assailants to help them understand what constitutes
About the Author:
Terry Shelvy, owner of www.stungungranny.com,
is a self-defense expert and rape survivor. Currently, she moderates
several online support groups for teens and women overcoming
violence, burglary, and rape where the message is the same:.
"you don't have to be powerless, always carry some form
of protection because you never know."