Date rape

For the song by Sublime, see Date Rape (song).

Date rape is a form of acquaintance rape. The two phrases are often used interchangeably, but date rape specifically refers to a rape in which there has been some sort of romantic or potentially sexual relationship between the two parties. Acquaintance rape also includes rapes in which the victim and perpetrator have been in a non-romantic, non-sexual relationship, for example as co-workers or neighbors.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Date rape is particularly prevalent on college campuses, where it frequently occurs in situations involving alcohol or other date rape drugs,[7] which may facilitate the execution of drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA).

History and usage

Historically, in much of the world, rape was seen as a crime of theft of a man's property (usually either a husband or father). In this case, property damage meant that the crime was not legally recognized as damaging to the victim, but instead to her father or husband's property. Therefore, by definition a husband could not be charged with the crime of raping his wife. It was not until 1993 that marital rape was legally recognized as a crime in all fifty of the United States of America. In many parts of the world, marital rape continues to go unrecognized as an crime. As Kersti Yllö states in the prologue of Understanding Marital Rape In a Global Context, "In some cultures, consent is not even something that an individual wife can give. The families that arranged the marriage guarantee her permanent consent."[8]

Since the final decades of the 20th century, in much of the world, rape has come to be broadly regarded as sexual intercourse (including anal or oral penetration) without a person's consent, making rape illegal, including among people who know each other or who have previously had consensual sex. Some jurisdictions have specified that people debilitated by alcohol or other drugs are incapable of consenting to sex. Courts have also disagreed on whether consent, once given, can later be withdrawn.[9] "Cultural and legal definitions of rape are always shaped by the relationships and status of those involved, a premise that holds both historically and cross-culturally."[8]

Many societies rank the seriousness of a rape based on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. "An assault by a stranger is more likely to be seen as a 'real rape' than one by some-one known to the victim."[8] Because of this cultural conception, many date rapes are considered to be less serious than stranger rapes because the nature of the perpetrator-victim relationship, especially for those who have had a prior or current sexual relationship.[8]

The term date rape is first found in print in the 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape by American feminist journalist, author and activist Susan Brownmiller. In 1980 it was used in Mademoiselle magazine, in 1982 Ms. magazine published an article titled "Date Rape: A Campus Epidemic?", and in 1984 English novelist Martin Amis used the term in his novel Money: A Suicide Note.[10][11] One of the earliest and most prominent date rape researchers is Mary Koss, who in 1987 conducted the first large-scale nationwide study on rape in the United States, surveying 7,000 students at 25 schools, and who is sometimes credited with originating the phrase date rape.[9]


Date rape (also known as acquaintance rape) is a form of rape in which there is a potential romantic or sexual relationship between the two partners in the moment the sexual assault occurs. The perpetrator uses physical or psychological intimidation to force a victim to have sex against his or her will, or when the perpetrator has sex with a victim who is incapable of giving consent because they have been incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.[12] According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) date rapes are among the higher number of rape cases.[13] Date rape most commonly takes place among college students under the symptoms of alcohol or date rape drugs consumption that makes the abuse more accessible. One of the most targeted groups are women between the ages of 16 to 24.[14][15]

In most rapes, the perpetrator and the victim know each other,[16] with one study finding that 84% of victims of rape or attempted rape knew their attacker beforehand.[9] The concept of date rape, however, is relatively new. Historically, date rape has been taken less seriously than rape by a stranger, but since the 1980s date rape has been increasingly understood to be a serious societal problem that constitutes the majority of rapes in some countries. It is controversial, however, with some people believing the problem is overstated and that many date rape victims are actually willing, consenting participants, and others believing that date rape is seriously under-reported and almost all women who claim date rape were actually raped.[9] Typically, forced sex between people who know each other has been deemed both less believable and less serious than stranger rape.[17]

American researcher Mary Koss describes date rape as a specific form of acquaintance rape, in which there has been some level of romantic interest between the attacker and the victim, and in which sexual activity would have been generally seen as appropriate if consensual.[18] Acquaintance rape is a broader category than date rape, that can include many types of relationships including employer-employee, landlord-tenant, service provider-consumer, driver-hitchhiker, and rape among people who have a family relationship or who are neighbours. The Encyclopedia of Murder and Violent Crime defines date rape as rape occurring during a pre-arranged social engagement.[19] See also acquaintance rape.

Date rape becomes part of what is known as rape culture in which communication about rape is muted before a rape occurs, during the rape, and after the rape).[16] Because both men and women are "muted," or discouraged from talking about date rape, it is no wonder that a culture is created in which the phenomenon is perpetuated. According to Burnett et al.'s study, this silencing occurs at four levels: culture, the individual, the situational or interpersonal, and the immediate context.

On a cultural level, students say that they don't know how to define date rape; if it can't be defined, then it's hard to report or discipline. On an individual level, after a date rape occurs, the victim often punishes or doubts themselves. When the victim considers talking about the rape with friends, trust between them may have deteriorated. If the victim is unsure how his or her friends are going to react, he or she may decide to say nothing; this decision happens at the situational/interpersonal level. In the immediate context of the rape, the victim may have a difficult time articulating their lack of consent.

In his 1992 book Sex and Reason American jurist, legal theorist and economist Richard Posner characterized the increased attention being given to date rape as a sign of the changing status of women in American society, pointing out that dating itself is a feature of modern societies and that date rape can be expected to be frequent in a society in which sexual morals vary between the permissive and the repressive.[20]


See also: Rape statistics

The concept of date rape originated in the United States, where most of the research on date rape has been carried out.

Rape prevalence among women in the U.S. (the percentage of women who experienced rape at least once in their lifetime so far) is in the range of 15–20%, with different studies disagreeing with each other. An early 1987 study found that one in four American women will be the victim of a rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, and 84% of those will know their attacker. However, only 27% of American women whose sexual assault met the legal definition of rape think of themselves as rape victims, and only about 5% report their rape.[9] One study of rape on American college campuses found that 13% of acquaintance rapes, and 35% of attempted acquaintance rapes, took place during a date, and another found that 22% of female rape victims had been raped by a current or former date, boyfriend or girlfriend, and another 20% by a spouse or former spouse.[21] A 2007 American study found black non-Hispanic students were likeliest to be victims of dating violence, followed by Hispanic students and then white non-Hispanic students.[3]

Rates of date rape are relatively low in Europe compared with the United States.[22]

The rate of reported rapes is much lower in Japan than the United States,.[20] In a 1993 paper German sociologist and criminologist Joachim Kersten suggested date rape may be less prevalent in Japan compared with the United States because Japanese culture puts a lesser emphasis on romantic love and dating, and because young Japanese people have less physical privacy than their American counterparts,[23][24] and in her 2007 book Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation, American feminist Veronica Chambers questions whether date rape is under-reported in Japan because it isn't yet understood there to be rape.[25] In the 2011 book Transforming Japan: How Feminism and Diversity Are Making a Difference Japanese feminist Masaki Matsuda argued that date rape was becoming an increasing problem for Japanese college and high school students.[26]

A 2007 study of attitudes towards rape among university students in South Korea found that date rape was "rarely recognized" as a form of rape, and that forced sex by a date was not viewed as traumatizing or criminal.[27]

Date rape is generally underreported in Vietnam.[28]

In 2012, 98% of reported rapes in India were committed by someone known to the victim.[29]


Researcher Mary Koss says the peak age for being date raped is from the late teens to early twenties.[9]

Even though date rape is considered a hurtful, destructive and life-changing experience, research done by Mufson and Kranz [30] showed that lack of support is a factor that determines the fragmented recovery of victims. They refused to disclose any information about the sexual assault to others, especially if they have experienced date or acquaintance rape due to self-humiliation and self-blame feelings.[31][32]

However, there are several situational contexts where victims are able to seek for help or reveal these tragic experiences. One act for disclosure can be provoked from the willing of preventing other people from being raped, in other words, speaking out. Also, a concern transmitted by the people surrounded the victim can lead into a confession of the assault, or within a situation in which alcohol is involved and that leads to recount the experience.[33]

Minority group victims

Most of the research on sexual assault victims has been carried out with White-middle class population. However, the scale of date and acquaintance rape among the Black and Hispanic youth population is higher,[34][35] and has its particular risk factors.[36][37] A research conducted on 2013 indicated that sexual assault situations were greater among Hispanic (12.2%) and Black (11.5%) female high-school students than whites (9.1%).[38]


Researchers say date rape affects victims similarly to stranger rape, although the failure of others to acknowledge and take the rape seriously can make it harder for victims to recover.[9]

Rape crimes are more frequently perpetrated by people that the victims have confidence with and have known for quite a time. Nevertheless, some people’s beliefs don’t fit in within the date rape scenario paradigm [39] because they firmly prejudiced and stereotyped rape, victims and perpetrators. They tend to justify date rape and blame victims, particularly women victims, for the sexual assault by emphasizing the wearing of provocative clothing or the existence of a romantic relationship.[40][41][42]

One of the main problems of date rape attributions is the type of relationship that the victim and the offender shared. The more intimate the relationship between both partners, the more probable that witnesses will consider the sexual assault as consensual rather than a serious incident.[43] Relationship status can complicate a guilt sentence and that, is one of the main differences between date rape and stranger rape.

Perpetrators and motivations

A 2002 landmark study of undetected date rapists in Boston found that compared with non-rapists, rapists are measurably more angry at women and more motivated by a desire to dominate and control them, are more impulsive, disinhibited, anti-social, hyper-masculine, and less empathic. The study found the rapists were extremely adept at identifying potential victims and testing their boundaries, and that they planned their attacks and used sophisticated strategies to isolate and groom victims, used violence instrumentally in order to terrify and coerce, and used psychological weapons against their victims including power, manipulation, control and threats.[44] Date rapists target vulnerable victims, such as female freshmen who have less experience with drinking and are more likely to take risks, or people who are already intoxicated; they use alcohol as a weapon,[44][45] as it makes the victim more vulnerable and impairs their credibility with the justice system should they choose to report the rape.[46]

American clinical psychologist David Lisak, the study's author and an expert in date rape, says that serial rapists account for 90% of all campus rapes, with an average of six rapes each. Lisak argues that this and similar findings conflict sharply with the widely held view that college rapes are typically perpetrated by "a basically 'decent' young man who, were it not for too much alcohol and too little communication, would never do such a thing", with the evidence actually suggesting that the vast majority of rapes, including date rapes, are committed by serial, violent predators.[44]


Date rape has a particular dynamic: the sexual assault happens on a date type of setting.[47] Therefore, date rapes trials are considered inconclusive by nature and are charged with social concerns (e.g. gender roles, sexuality, body-shape). The criminal justice system urges the victim to describe the sexual assault in detail in order to be able to make a decision in court, ignoring the possibility that the trial can create a hostile environment and be a disturbing moment for the victim.[48][49] Jurors’ personal beliefs and rape myth acceptance can be influential in their decision when it comes to evaluating the scenery, evidence, and making a sentence.

Research has found that jurors are more likely to convict in stranger rape cases than in date rape cases. Often, even in cases in which sufficient physical evidence is present to support conviction, juries have reported being influenced by irrelevant factors related to the female victim such as whether she used birth control, engaged in non-marital sex, was perceived by jurors as sexually dressed, or had engaged in alcohol or other drug use. Researchers have noted that because date rape by definition occurs in the context of a dating relationship, jurors' propensity to discount the likelihood of rape having occurred based on date-like behaviors is problematic.[50] A 1982 American study of assignment of responsibility for rape found respondents were more likely to assign greater responsibility to a rape victim if she was intoxicated at the time of the rape; however, when her assailant was intoxicated, respondents assigned him less responsibility.[17]

Some critics of the term date rape believe the distinction between stranger rape and date rape seems to position date rape as a lesser offence, which is insulting to date rape victims and could partly explain the lower conviction rates and lesser punishments of date rape cases.[50]


David Lisak argues that prevention efforts aimed at persuading men not to rape are unlikely to work, and universities should instead focus on helping non-rapists to identify rapists and intervene in high-risk situations to stop them.[44] Lisak also argues that whenever a nonstranger sexual assault is reported, it represents a window of opportunity for law enforcement to comprehensively investigate the alleged offender, rather than "putting blinders on looking solely on the alleged 45-minute interaction between these two people".[51] Lisak believes rape victims should be treated with respect, and that every report of an alleged rape should trigger two simultaneous investigations: one into the incident itself, and a second into the alleged perpetrator to determine whether he is a serial offender.[52]

Education programs are one way to prevent, protect, and raise awareness about rape and acquaintance rape. But these prevention programs don’t have a huge impact.[53] The combination of sexual harassment prevention tips, survival information and the psycho-social data gathered from women’s assessment of date risks, make these programs focus on broad topics and don’t emphasize on specific and particular areas of date rape prevention.[54][55][56][57]

Future prevention programs should focused on engaging men, creating an open space for conversation and the possible recognition of holding gender bias beliefs and sexual behavior myths, which can lead them to promote sexual harassment behavior.[58]

In media and popular culture

Date rape was widely discussed on college campuses in North America during the 1980s but first attracted significant media attention in 1991, when an unnamed 29-year-old woman accused William Kennedy Smith, a nephew of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, of raping her when they went for a walk on the beach after meeting in a Florida bar. Millions of people watched the trial on television. Hip-hop band A Tribe Called Quest has a song titled The Infamous Date Rape, included in their album The Low End Theory, which was released shortly after the William Kennedy Smith incident. Date rape received more media attention in 1992, when former boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of rape after inviting 18-year-old Desiree Washington to a party and then raping her in his hotel room.[59]


In her 1994 book The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism, American author Katie Roiphe wrote about attending Harvard and Princeton in the late 1980s and early 1990s, amid what she described as a "culture captivated by victimization", and argued "If a woman's 'judgment is impaired' and she has sex, it isn't always the man's fault; it isn't necessarily always rape."[59][60]

In 2007, American journalist Laura Sessions Stepp wrote an article for Cosmopolitan magazine titled "A New Kind of Date Rape", in which she popularized the term "gray rape" to refer to "sex that falls somewhere between consent and denial". The term was afterwards picked up and discussed by The New York Times, Slate, and PBS, and was criticized by many feminists, including Bitch founding editor Lisa Jervis, who argued that gray rape and date rape "are the same thing", and that the popularization of gray rape constituted a backlash against women's sexual empowerment and risked rolling back the gains women had made in having rape taken seriously.[61]

See also


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External links

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