Sexual Violence: The Silent Epidemic Table of Contents

The following incident provides an example of acquaintance rape:

“It was the beginning of spring break and I was a junior. I was in good spirits and had been out to dinner with an old friend. We returned to the dorms and there were some seniors on the ground floor, drinking beer and playing poker. I’m an avid player, so we joined them and joked around a lot. One of them, John, wasn’t playing, but he was interested in the game. I found him attractive. We talked, and it turned out we had a mutual friend and shared experiences.

It was getting late, and my friend had gone up to bed, so John offered to see me home safely.

We took our time, sat outside talking for awhile. Then he said we could get inside one of the most beautiful campus buildings, which was locked at night. I went with him. Once we were inside, he kissed me. I didn’t resist, I was excited. He kissed me again. But when he tried for more, I said no. He just grew completely silent. I couldn’t get him to talk to me anymore.

He pinned me down and ripped off my pants. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.”

One sexual assault occurs every two minutes...


Addendum - June 2014

The Definition of Rape & Sexual Assault

What is Acquaintance Rape?

Common Reactions to Sexual Assault

Male Attitudes About Rape

Rape Culture

Danger Signals

Preventive Measures

The Role of Alcohol and Other Drugs

Guys....If You Don't Want to be Accused of Sexual Assault

Read and Practice the Following (second section)


The stereotypical image of the crime of rape is often that of a lone victim walking a dark street – suddenly she becomes the object of attack by a crazed stranger who pulls her into a deserted alley and violently rapes her.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports statistics, there have been an average of nearly 91,000 forcible rapes per year over the last five years and yet rape is still considered to be one of the most under-reported of all serious crimes. Sixty percent of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement.

Victimization by strangers has for some time been considered the most common form of reported rape. However, with one sexual assault occurring every two minutes in the United States, law enforcement officers and rape crisis counselors know that frequently the victim knows their assailant. In fact, some surveys indicate that somewhere between 60% and 80% of all reported rapes may be classified as acquaintance rape. The attacker may have been a college classmate, an old family friend, a neighbor, a professional colleague, a date or other acquaintance. Sexual assault can happen to anyone. Although sexual assault mostly happens to women, it does not exclude it from happening to males and those in same-sex relationships and between same-sex acquaintances.

Since the majority of acquaintance rape victims are between the ages of 15 and 24 (with an average age of 18), college students are particularly vulnerable. The purpose of this booklet is to provide the reader with a better understanding of what constitutes rape, what some male and female attitudes are on the subject, and what practical measures can be taken to prevent attacks.

Since many experts believe the cause of acquaintance rape has its roots in the socialization of men and women, there are no rapid solutions. Through greater awareness of the scope of the problem and through better communication between men and women about sexual beliefs and expectations, the risk of victimization can be reduced.


The legal definition of rape varies by state, but rape is generally defined as forced or nonconsensual sexual intercourse. Rape may be accomplished by threats of harm, fear and/or physical force. Rape may also include situations in which penetration is accomplished when the victim is unable to give consent, or is prevented from resisting due to being intoxicated, drugged, unconscious, or asleep.

Sexual assault is a broader term than rape and it includes various types of unwanted sexual touching or penetration without consent. Sexual assault includes forced sodomy, forced oral copulation, rape by a foreign object, and sexual battery. Sexual battery is the unwanted touching of an intimate part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal. Rape and any other form of sexual assault is a CRIME.


The following incident provides an example of acquaintance rape:

”She met him two years ago at a fraternity party. His good looks, she recalls now, coupled with his shy grin and friendly manner made him appear ‘sweet but not macho.’ They talked and danced for hours, and later that evening, he took her in his arms and they kissed. When he asked if she would like to get something to eat, she agreed. But instead of heading toward a nearby restaurant, he swerved onto a side street, pulled over to the curb and stopped the car. Then he raped her.”

In the case examples contained throughout this booklet, it is easier to recognize rape than in others. Whether it’s clearly forced sexual intercourse or the victimization is much more subtle, each case is an example of rape and each victim suffers rape trauma. Under California law, intercourse is considered to be committed by force and against a person’s will if:

• the person is unconscious
• the person is asleep
• the person is drugged
• the person is intoxicated
• the person is deranged or deficient and they cannot agree to the act


Fear, shock, confusion, guilt, disbelief, degradation and loss of control are some of the common reactions of acquaintance rape victims. Many women, so overcome with guilt, often don’t realize that they have been raped. Some victims are so preoccupied with blaming themselves for wanting to be with their date, that they view the entire episode as their fault. If there were any romantic physical exchanges prior to the attack, the victim often felt that she went “too far” before she said “no” and therefore caused the rape to occur by pushing the man to the edge of sexual frustration. What is sadly forgotten is that in a relationship, sexual activity must be mutually agreed upon: when a woman says no to sexual advances a man should stop. He may be unhappy with her “no” or may not see her again, but he should not use force to get what he wants.

The victim’s feelings of guilt for “causing” a sexual act to occur point out the paradox of the whole issue of rape. One of the oldest myths about rape was that it was a sexual crime. Lust and passion were seen as key elements when the male assailant, at the brink of sexual desire, attacked a woman in order to “relieve” himself. What was unfortunately overlooked by this old viewpoint was the violence of the act. The long process of realigning this traditional thinking was begun by the women’s movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s and eventually culminated in sweeping changes which focused on the violence of the act rather than on the sexual nature.

Today, rape is properly viewed first and foremost as a crime of violence. Men who rape are seen not merely as rambunctious men, but as people who are violently out of control and for whom force is sometimes the only way to get what they want. Nicholas Groth, a clinical psychologist and former co-director of the Sex Offender Program at Somers State Prison in Connecticut, has said, “Rape is the sexual expression of aggression rather than the aggressive expression of sexuality.”

Victims of acquaintance rape are more reluctant to press charges against their attackers than victims of stranger rape and thus, the actual number of acquaintance rape victims is considerably higher than is currently recorded. There are many reasons for the victim’s reluctance: fear that her story may not be believed, confusion that she might be responsible-that somehow she led her assailant on, concern that because she knew her attacker, family and friends will suspect that the victim did something to “ask for it” and fears that if the assailant is prosecuted, the victim’s life will be destroyed emotionally by the trial process.

The following incident provides an example of acquaintance rape:

“Tim was not out to many people. He was shy and not comfortable going to a bar. He felt the Internet was the most viable option. He met a man named Dave and they agreed to meet at a local Starbucks. Dave said he was 23, but Tim noticed he looked much older. They engaged in good conversation and Tim felt free to talk about his sexuality and made a good connection with Dave. Dave asked Tim to come back to his apartment. He said he would be very respectful and just kiss.

Tim was nervous and initially said “no”, but changed his mind, when he asked Dave to promise he would be respectful and not rush him. Drinks were offered and Tim, who does not drink often but when he does usually gets drunk, started to drink. Tim woke up in Dave’s bedroom. He was sore and knew he had been penetrated. He did not remember falling asleep or a good portion of the night. Tim was ashamed. He did not tell anyone of that evening until he went to therapy 10 years later.“

it is against a person’s will if they are intoxicated...

The decision to report a sexual assault is a personal choice. Making decisions and regaining control are important aspects of healing after an assault. Whether the assailant was a date, classmate, family friend, or a stranger, the choice of what to do is up to you. Reporting the assault is a way of regaining a sense of personal power and control. It assists you in doing something about the assault committed against you. However, by reporting the incident you may be also helping others who may have been victimized. Rape crisis trauma affects all victims of rape emotionally and physically. But one of the most severe blows for the victim of acquaintance rape is the destruction of the sense of trust and judgment in friendship. Ann Wolbert Burgess, R.N., D.N.Sc. and Linda Lytle Holmstrom in their book, Rape Crisis and Recovery, have noted:

“The assailant uses his relationship with the victim to justify his being in the situation. He then deceives the person by not honoring the bounds of the relationship.”

Obviously the effect of this kind of rape trauma can jeopardize the ease with which a rape victim develops future relationships. Some women recover from the physical and emotional trauma of rape faster than others. Some women find it hard to have sexual relations after they have been a victim of rape. They are frightened of being “hurt again” and associate intercourse with the rape. Due to this fear, they may find that development of a relationship that includes tenderness, caring and intimacy may take time.


Many social analysts regard rape, especially acquaintance rape, as a problem which directly relates to socialization and the way in which men regard women. In his book, Men On Rape, author, Timothy Beneke, discusses male attitudes toward rape with a variety of men he interviewed. The following is a quotation taken from his interviews as published in Men On Rape:

“…I feel that too much is expected of me because I’m a man. It’s like being pulled in two directions. You’re supposed to be dominant and a provider and be very deferential and respectful to women…”

When men believe that “no” does not mean no, that they are supposed to be aggressive, that they can lose control if they are led on, that women often “ask for it” and that they are confused by conflicting cultural messages, it is not surprising that they are shocked if they are accused of acquaintance rape. The feeling that aggressive behavior is normal is one that some men convince themselves into believing.

In cases where formal rape charges are made against the attacker, rarely does the accused dispute that intercourse took place. Instead, the issue focuses on whether or not the woman gave her consent, shifting away from the act of violence. With the attacker claiming innocence, it now becomes a case of his word against hers – particularly if the victim has no cuts or bruises or other visible signs to attest to her victimization.


Whether or not we realize it, our society subtly breeds a social environment conducive to rape. Consider some traditional beliefs that men and women have been taught:

Men Are Taught:

• They are the stronger sex
• To be tough
• To “score”
• That women want to be dominated
• They have uncontrollable sexual urges
• Sex is not something you discuss ahead of time – just do it

Women Are Taught:

• They are weak
• Aggressiveness is O.K. To be passive
• Strength is unfeminine
• Nice girls don’t get raped
• To not assert their own choices
• They shouldn’t acknowledge their own sexuality

Academic scholars, sociologists and law enforcement authorities agree that there is often a relationship between the sexual objectification of women in pornography and offenders who are motivated toward sex crimes. Fortunately, public awareness of rape, pornography and subtle forms of sexual harassment is increasing. Activist groups have produced films, dramas, and marches designed to “Take Back the Night” which have all provided effective learning in raising awareness of rape. As a result, sensitive media treatment about acquaintance rape is increasing. One of the best defenses, however, is better communication and sensitivity between men and women.


The importance of communication cannot be overstated. The acquaintance rapist sizes up the situation before making his moves – he may take advantage of an opportunity but usually he creates an opportunity. Women need to recognize the difference between normal evolving sexual encounters between consenting individuals and “danger signals” from potential acquaintance rapists:

  • Is he “looking you over” – frequently staring or looking at you at inappropriate times and in a way that makes you uneasy?
  • Is he being “playful” – tousling your hair, touching or patting you? Although this can be normal behavior between two people who are comfortable with each other after a period of time,it is not acceptable behavior for many on a first date.
  • Is his conversation sexual in nature (i.e. telling sex jokes, frequently bringing up the subject of sex)?
  • Is he trying to maneuver you into situations where you will be alone together (i.e. his apartment, frat house or dorm room) under his control?

If you, as a woman, are aware of such signals it is necessary to communicate your feelings in an assertive manner. Set clear limits on sexual behavior. If he touches you, move away. If he stares, show your annoyance. Change the subject if the conversation becomes sexual in nature or simply leave the room. If you are invited somewhere alone with your new date, refuse. Stay where there are other people.

The following incident provides an example of acquaintance rape:

”At around 11:15 p.m. Jake noticed Nicole arrived at the party. She was reputed to be one of the “hottest” women on campus. She appeared to already be somewhat “tipsy,” and Jake began to entertain thoughts of “picking up” on her. Jake met Nicole and was quite generous in providing her with beer – even though, on occasion, she politely refused to drink what was offered. He insisted that she was fine and should have another drink. At around 2:00 a.m. the party was just about over and Nicole was clearly intoxicated. Jake told her she would be safer staying the night as his place instead of going home alone. Nicole accepted the invitation and joined him on the third floor. On their way up stairs, Jake and Nicole passed several of his roommates who, guessing what Jake had in mind, winked as if to wish him luck. Sensing that perhaps her interests might be aroused, Jake quickly made advances and spent the remainder of the night in bed with Nicole. Later the following morning Nicole awoke with little memory of the night before and was shocked and upset to find herself in bed with Jake. With great embarrassment she got dressed and quietly left his room. Jake was confused but remained unconcerned. The following day two police officers began questioning him about his night with Nicole. The officers advised him he was being arrested for rape.”

The key points about acquaintance rape and its danger signals are being in control of your own senses, assertiveness and communication. Don’t be afraid to say no--even without explanation.


The following suggestions and strategies are helpful in lowering your chances of acquaintance rape victimization:

  • When you feel uncomfortable in a situation or you are fearful, trust your instincts.
  • When you mean “no,” say “NO.” Don’t allow room for misinterpretation by being ambiguous in your actions. Be firm. Your intentions and limitations should be communicated early.
  • Don’t immediately transfer your trust from an old friend to a new one. Remember trust should be earned.
  • Control the environment – you should be the one to choose the dating activity and location. If you feel uncomfortable about his plans, speak up.
  • Be alert to diminished awareness caused by alcohol and drugs. If your awareness or judgment is lessened, you may unknowingly be seen as a target by some would-be rapist.
  • Take note of, and make attempts, to guard your personal space.
  • Your posture, gestures, eye contact and clothing may be sending one message— you’re interested. But they can be interpreted quite differently by a would-be rapist. The messages you send in your non-verbal behavior are never an excuse for rape, but it may help to consider that how you are received can be a good reason to leave a situation.
  • Remember that sayings such as “anger is unfeminine” and “being passive is feminine” are stereotypes. These attitudes sometimes prevent women from necessary and effective self expression. For instance, if you are being pressured into sexual activity, don’t be passive and submit because you feel it would be inappropriate to refuse. Get angry if you have to and speak out when any behavior is unacceptable to you. Try not to let your fear of a reaction override your anger or discomfort.
  • It is important to control the “mood and momentum” of your intimate interactions. If the mood becomes uncomfortable, or you feel pressured, speak up and create a physical distance if necessary. It is important to continually communicate how you feel and slow the interaction to YOUR comfort level.


Alcohol and other drugs often play a significant role in sexual assaults. Consider this: 55% of female students and 75% of male students involved in acquaintance rape had been drinking or using drugs at the time. Many victims say later that they drank too much or took too many drugs to realize what was going on; by the time they realized their predicament, it was too late.

Sometimes victims pass out and awaken to find a perpetrator having sex with them. Alcohol clouds judgment and decreases motor skills, which may be crucial in defending yourself or escaping an uncomfortable situation before it gets out of hand. On the other hand, some sexual assaults occur when the victim has had little or nothing to drink and the perpetrator has been drinking and becomes sexually aggressive or has used alcohol/drugs to take advantage of another.

The inability to give consent includes, but is not limited to, being drugged, passed out or unconscious. It is important to remember this as oftentimes victims of sexual assault blame themselves because they drank, did drugs, etc. It is not your fault that the aggressor is the one who took advantage of your diminished capacity.

Bottom line: Using alcohol and other drugs to commit sexual assault is a crime.

Smart Choices when Drinking Alcohol

  • If drinking is your option, plan ahead. Set a limit and stick to it.
  • Never leave your drink unattended, it could become contaminated with drugs without you ever knowing. Some drugs can be odorless and tasteless. If you leave a drink out of sight, get a new one.
  • Don’t drink from common open containers (such as a punch bowl). If you didn’t make the drink, you don’t know what’s in it and it could contain drugs.
  • Never accept drinks from people you don’t know. If you do choose to accept a drink, go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being made, and carry it yourself.
  • Watch out for your friends, and vice versa. Always leave the party or bar together. If a friend seems out of it, is too intoxicated, or is acting out of character, get him or her to a safe place immediately. You could end up saving a life.
  • If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911 immediately.

Be watchful of the signs of alcohol poisoning: unconscious or semiconscious;

  • breathing less than 10 times per minute or irregular breathing; cold, clammy or pale bluish skin; can’t be awaken by pinching, prodding or shouting; vomiting without waking up.

Never leave an intoxicated person alone.

The So-Called “Date Rape” Drugs

Although alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault, other drugs are being used by perpetrators. These drugs commonly referred to as “date rape drugs,” can be odorless, colorless and tasteless and frequently go by names such as Ecstasy, Rohypnol, ruffies, Ketamine, GHB and the Forget Pill.

These drugs alone or mixed with other beverages dissolve quickly and invisibly into liquids and can cause rapid and severe intoxication, dramatically reducing inhibitions and inducing memory loss. Drugs can cause you to lose your ability to defend yourself, escape a harmful situation and remember crucial events. Keep in mind that non-alcoholic drinks and water can also be drugged and that’s why it’s important to make smart choices when drinking.

Effects of these drugs can include:

• feeling overly intoxicated,
• dizziness,
• nausea,
• difficulties breathing,
• memory loss,
• unconsciousness
• and even death.

If you think you or a friend has been drugged, call 911 immediately. These drugs can be fatal. Some drugs can be out of your system in six hours making it difficult to prove a victim was drugged and sexually assaulted. As difficult as it is to overcome the fear of reporting a sexual assault, this is one more reason why it is crucial to get help immediately.


  • If you believe that your partner would not want to be as physically intimate with you if there was not alcohol involved….stop and wait until you have sober consent.
  • If you are reading subtle signs that your partner is uncomfortable or undecided about being physically intimate with you….slow down and talk it over. Wait for a clear YES before you become more intimate.
  • If you are hiding a secret from your partner and if your partner knew of the secret, would they still want to be sexually intimate with you? If the answer is no….you do not have full consent.

The following is a quotation taken from interviews as published in Men On Rape:

“…the whole dating game between men and women also makes me feel degraded. I hate being put in the position of having to initiate a relationship. I’ve been taught that if you’re not aggressive with a woman, then you’ve blown it. She’s not going to jump on you, so you’ve got to jump on her. I’ve heard all kinds of stories where the woman says, “No! No! No!” and they end up making great love. I get confused as hell if a woman pushes me away. Does it mean she’s trying to be a nice girl and wants to put up a good appearance, or does it mean she doesn’t want anything to do with you? You don’t know. Probably a lot of men think that women don’t feel like real woman unless a man tries to force himself on her, unless she brings out the “real man” so to speak, and probably too much of it goes on in my head that you’re complimenting a women by actually staring at her or by trying to get into her pants. Lately, I’m realizing that when I stare at women lustfully, they often feel more threatened than flattered.”

…some sexual assaults occur when the victim has had little or nothing to drink and the perpetrator has been drinking and becomes sexually aggressive...

If there is not ABSOLUTE CONSENT, you run the risk of being accused of sexual assault. Absolute consent is knowing that the choice (by both parties) to become sexually intimate is being made with:

• honesty
• respect
• a cognitive ability to say yes.

Why do you run the risk of being accused of sexual assault if there is not absolute consent?

Clear and simple: When honesty, respect and clear mindedness is not an explicit part of the sexual encounter, the likelihood of someone feeling betrayed is high. By nature and quite understandably, when someone feels betrayed (particularly in sexual encounters) she/he will seek justice and go to the authorities.

The facts: Most guys do not want to been seen as a rapist. Most guys think of rape from a legal perspective. Most guys do not identify as someone who would rape someone else. Many guys do not fully understand what absolute consent constitutes. Many guys are vulnerable to being accused of sexual assault.

What to do: Avoid putting yourself into a position where you might be accused of sexual assault. Even if you are not convicted of the crime, your life will be turned up-side down. Imagine the types of conversations you will need to have with your father, mother, friends and other family members if you were accused of sexual assault.

READ and PRACTICE the FOLLOWING (second section)