Many of the 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, lead us for better understanding how they evolved. Women are still seen as the property of men, are protected as such. Men and women are still taught to occupy very different roles in todays world. Men are usually in power positions, and women are seen as passive. This socialization process is changing, but slowly.
Rape is a forced sexual intercourse against the will of the victim (Parrot, 1988). 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 replaced with an understanding that rape is an act of anger, power and control rather than lust.
Rape is not a very pleasant subject. When people think about rape, they usually think of a stranger with a knife hiding in the bushes. He waits for a woman to walk by and then attacks. But that is not the only kind of rape. Individuals they know or who are acquaintances rape the majority of victims. This rape is known as acquaintance rape. Eighty percent of all rapes are, in fact, acquaintance rapes. One kind of acquaintance rape is called date rape. This kind of rape happens when a man and a woman go out on a date together. The man forces the woman to have sex with him when she does not want to.
Rape can happen to anyone. Women from different cultures, races, ages, and economic level are all vulnerable. So no matter who you are or where you live. Most rape, and specifically most acquaintance rape, happens between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. This is the time when young women are most likely to date and therefore are most vulnerable to date rape. Acquaintance rape is not limited to dating situations. Friends of the family, employers, friends, past boyfriends, and even husbands, may commit it. The potential causes of rape are varied and controversial. Among the factors that contribute to rape are: decreased status of women within a society, pervasive media exposure of sex, availability of pornographic materials, especially those involving acts of violence, inadequate information or misconceptions regarding sexual behaviors, and the prevalence of child sexual abuse. Statistics states that less than four percent of all rapes are classified as victim provoked (Sigler, 1989).
In early age boys are taught to be more aggressive than girls are. They are expected to enjoy playing sports. Girls are expected to play less aggressive sports. Boys are taught that they should get anything in their ways, even if it means using violence. Girls are taught to stay away from conflicts. Boys are sometimes taught to have a lot of girlfriends, and not to get tied down by one girl when they are young. They are supposed to play the field. Some boys think it is important to date pretty girls. Girls are often taught that they should have a steady boyfriend. They are taught to guard their reputations. All of these childhood lessons come into play in date rape (Mufson et all, 1993).
Date rape causes many serious problems. One of these problems is how 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. Whether a woman says no in a sexual relationship means that it depends on the woman and the circumstance. Some women mean no the first time they say it; others do not mean no even after saying it many times. This variation makes it difficult for woman who means no for the first time she says it. Some men become desensitized to the word because many of women in their lives do not mean it. Of 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 to resort to physical violence by hitting him to make her wishes understood. Many women do know that they want in a sexual relationship but are treated as if they do not (Parrot, 1988).
One of the strangest things about the date rape is that sometimes men commit date rape without knowing what they done. They think that women really do mean yes when they say no. They think that a woman must want sex if she goes somewhere alone with a guy. They think that if a girl flirts with a guy, she must want sex. They think that a girl owes a guy sex if he has spent a lot of money on her. So, when a guy like this forces his date to have sex, he may not even know he is raping her. He thinks he is just doing what guys are supposed to do on dates.
In many cases, date rapes begin with a miscommunication between the persons. Studies of dating have shown that it is common for men and women to miscommunication their sexual interests to others. Many studies have shown that college men are quite likely to misinterpret college womens behavior. When women think they are only being friendly and not expressing any sexual interest at all, men often think the woman is making a sexual advance. This miscommunication occurs because males tend to misinterpret subtle aspects of friendly behavior, such as pleasant facial expressions, standing close to male, and maintaining eye contact, as indications of sexual interest.
One reason that men and women often miscommunication about sex is that they differ in their beliefs and attitudes about sexuality. Another aspect of dating that is related to date rape is alcohol. Drinking plays a role in sexual aggression in a number of ways. First, some men use alcohol to reduce the resistance of a date who has not previously consented to sexual activity. Some men do this intentionally to trick the woman into agreeing to something that she would not agree to when sober. Most men give the role of alcohol no thought and simply offer alcohol no thought and simply offer alcohol to their dates as part of the normal dating ritual. The problem is that these men believe that a woman who contents to sex when toxicated is giving her consent. Second, alcohol lowers inhibitions and often increases interest in sexual activity. And because it lowers inhibitions, alcohol makes it more likely that the male will do something such as using force that he would not do when he had not been drinking. Finally, drinking allows people to attribute their behavior to the alcohol rather than their own choices (Mufson at all, 1993).
It is also important to acknowledge that men and women commit rape, both men and women are victims, and rapes occur among both heterosexuals and homosexuals. No one is completely free of the threat of rape. A recent scientific study of acquaintance rape on thirty-two campuses conducted by Ms. Magazine and psychologist Mary P. Koss showed that significant numbers of women are raped on dates or by acquaintances, although most victims never report their attacks. Ms. survey states that one in four women surveyed were victims of rape or attempted rape, eighty four percent of those raped knew their attacker, and fifty seven percent of the rapes happened on dates (Warshaw, 1988). The truth is, men are rape victims. Some experts estimated that ten percent of the victims coming to rape-crisis centers are male even though men are far less likely to seek help after being raped than women are. But almost all male-rape victims have been raped by other men (Warshaw, 1988).
The recovering after rape can be a very long process. Picking up the pieces of the victims life after an assault can be the most difficult challenge the victims can ever face. In a relatively short period of time their most fundamental beliefs can be shattered, their sense of bodily integrity, security, and basic justice can be destroyed, and they may question their most important, intimate relationships. But in spite of all this, their lives will continue and it is up to them to put the pieces back together. Recovering from rape is more like being cut. To heal from a rape it is not the traditional sense of healing, such as breaking an arm. As you heal and time passes, the cut becomes less visible.
Many victims of a rape face rape-trauma syndrome that means 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 feel the 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 womans worst fear that when her life is in danger it is possible to be totally powerless to alter the course of events. The body and mind respond in a series of complicated ways based on the persons feeling of intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and threat. 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 the 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 later.
Rape is not only difficult for the survivor but also for family and friends. They can easily feel helpless when confronted with the survivors pain and anger. Often people want to protect the survivor from any more suffering, so they try to make things as easy as possible. Some families and friends are supportive, loving, and willing to go through a long and sometimes frustrating process as the survivor tries to regain control of her life. Unfortunately, there are families that are not supportive at all, even the best families.
It is important to consider that rape is a community problem. Society as a whole suffers from rape, acquaintance or stranger, violent or not. Women can become frightened of men and afraid of having relationship with them and men can become worried for the women in their lives. This leads to the untrusting relationships. Those who have been raped and their families suffer from emotional trauma that may interfere with their lives for years. And those who tape may think it is acceptable to violate others.
It is very important that we are invulnerable to rape. Rape can happen to anyone at any time. Rape prevention strategies help to decrease the risk, but the risk never drops to zero percent. Awareness prevention is also very important for potential assailants so that they know what constitutes rape.
Internet – available: Rape Culture. May 6, 1999 http://pubweb.ucdavis.edu/Documents/RPEP/rculture.htm.
Mufson, Susan, and Rachel Kranz. Straight Talk about Date Rape.
New York: Facts On File, 1993.
Parrot, Andrea. Coping with Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape. 1st edition. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 1988.
Sigler, Robert T. Domestic Violence in Context. An Assessment of Community Attitudes. New York: Lexington Books, New York, 1989.
Warshaw, Robin. I Never Called It Rape. The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape. New York: Harper Perennial Publishers, 1994.
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