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"One year ago, I locked my door and went to sleep; like we all do on any given night. Unfortunately, this night was like no other before and was one I will never be able to forget. I woke up that night to a co-worker who had undressed himself, crawled into my bed and raped me. "
Kathleen, rape survivor

Rape is a crime, talking about it isn't. SPEAK.

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Definition and Facts

        Rape is an act of power and dominance. Victims are more likely to be raped by someone they know; between 50 and 70 percent of all rapes occur within the context of a romantic relationship, and more than half the time the assault takes place in the victim's home. Rape is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States, due to the victim's fear of embarrassment, humiliation, or retaliation by the rapist. Estimates of the percentage of rapes reported to authorities range from 10 to 50 percent. Because of the difficulty of obtaining a conviction, about two percent of all rapists are convicted, and most serve approximately half of their original sentence

          A high percent of women who have been raped develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Many women have difficulty maintaining a normal life following a rape, and may repress the experience for an extended period before they are able to talk about it. Over the past 20 years feminist organizations have fought successfully to change public attitudes toward rape as well as treatment of rape victims. Efforts have been made to increase the sensitivity of police and hospital personnel to rape victims through special training programs. Today, women police officers routinely investigate rape cases. Rape crisis centers in local communities throughout the nation counsel rape victims and perform other services, such as instruction on rape prevention, providing hotline services and legal advice, and supplying hospital emergency room advocates to offer emotional support to victims and assure that they are treated fairly by physicians and the police.

          Despite these and other advances in combating rape, it remains a difficult crime to prosecute. Traditionally, rape victims have been questioned about their sexual histories, although most states now place restrictions on the admissibility and usage of such information at trial.

Acquaintance rape

          In recent years, increased attention has been focused on date or acquaintance rape, a widespread phenomenon that is particularly insidious because women who are victimized in this way are more likely to blame themselves and are less likely to seek help or prosecute the attacker. A study of acquaintance rape at 32 college campuses sponsored by Ms. magazine found that one in four women surveyed were victims of rape or attempted rape, that most rape victims knew their attackers, and over half the assaults were date rapes. Only 27 percent of the women identified themselves as rape victims, and five percent reported the rapes to police. Of the acquaintance rape victims in the Ms. magazine survey, 38 percent were between 14 and 17 years old. Rape can be particularly devastating for adolescents; the damage it inflicts on the victim's sense of personal integrity interferes with the fragile personal identity and sense of self-esteem that are being forged during this period. It also upsets the adolescent's need to assert some control over her environment. Young rape victims, who are often sexually inactive at the time of the attack, may have their ideas and feelings about sex distorted by the experience. Often, they have daily encounters with their attacker or his friends at school or social events, adding to their sense of shame and humiliation. Most are unlikely to report the rape to parents or other adults, fearing they will be blamed or that their parents may press charges against their own wishes.

Anyone May Become A Victim

        You are a victim of a crime if you have had unwanted sexual contact. Sexual battery is no less serious if you know your attacker. Previous sexual contact with your attacker does not justify or excuse the crime. If you think sexual battery is motivated by passion or happens because the victim asked for or wanted it, look at the facts. Sexual battery can happen to anyone - you, your children, co-workers, or friends, or other members of your family. The victim can be any age, race, have any income level and live in the city or in the country. It can happen to anyone.

        Sexual assault awareness is based on environmental alertness. Remember alcohol and drugs dull your senses and judgment. When uncomfortable, trust your instincts! Perhaps you think sexual assault happens only in certain high-risk situations such as hitchhiking, walking alone at night, or going out socially alone. It's true that sexual assault can occur in such situations, but it also takes place in ordinary, seemingly safe places. In fact, about one-third of all rapes occur in or near the victim's residence. About one-half of the rapes are by first or casual dates or romantic acquaintances.

        It is important to be aware that most sexual offenders don't look abnormal or act strangely. In fact, perpetrators of rape and assault are not always strangers to their victims. In many cases, the assailant is an acquaintance, neighbor, friend, or relative.

        Date rape prevention involves educating both young men and young women. Men need to understand that NO means NO. The only thing they are owed for a date is thank you. Women need to understand that they have the right and responsibility to communicate clearly--to say what they mean and want. They need to trust their instincts and, sadly, learn to stay out of risky situations.

Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2nd ed. Gale Group, 2001.

This site is offered for support of other rape and sexual abuse survivors. It is not meant to be a substitute for any kind of professional help.
If you are in a crisis situation we urge to contact your local rape crisis center or health care professional.

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