RAINN defines acquaintance rape as assault involving coercive sexual activities that occur against a person's will by means of force, violence, duress, or fear of bodily injury. These sexual activities are imposed upon them by someone they know (a friend, date, acquaintance, etc.). Acquaintance rape shatters the myth that people are only raped by strangers in foreign situations. This form of assault can be even more traumatizing because it involves the loss of trust. Typically people have some form of a relationship with their assailant so it is devastating when this relationship is breached. Victims of acquaintance rape are also less likely to receive support from their social circles. They often face scrutiny and also blame from the people they seek support from. It is important to realize that it is never the victim’s fault. Acquaintance rape has become a prevalent occurrence on college campuses. Student’s increase in freedom, false expectations, and access to drugs and alcohol can lead to more opportunities for this assault to occur. Below are some helpful ways to avoid and prevent this assault.
RAINN notes that acquaintance rape typically occurs in three stages:
- Intrusion- Attempt by the offender to violate the victim's personal space and level of comfort. May draw close by revealing personal information or through "accidental" touches and stares.
- Desensitization- Occurs when the victim feels comfortable with the offender and has come to regard intrusive actions as no longer or, at least less, threatening. The victim of the desensitization may feel uneasy but convinces himself or herself that the feeling is unfounded.
- Isolation- The offender uses the victim's trust to isolate him or her from others.
- Trust your intuition. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe then leave that situation immediately.
- Adapt the buddy system. When you’re going out to parties or other social functions on or around campus, surround yourself with people who can look out for you and vice versa.
- If you are feeling threatened make a scene. It may be uncomfortable. It may be awkward. It may be embarrassing. It is beneficial.
- Be extremely careful in situations involving drugs and alcohol. In these situations inhibitions are lowered, decision making skills are harder to make, and it’s harder to clearly communicate.
- Listen. When you are in a sexual situation with a person listen to everything they are saying. If your partner says “no,” STOP. No other factors matter, just stop.
This topic of the week was written by Malyka Cardwell, MFT.