Rape and Date Rape

What Is Rape?

Rape occurs when sexual intercourse is non-consensual (not agreed upon), or a person forces another person to have sex against his or her will. It also can occur when the victim is intoxicated from alcohol or drugs. Rape includes intercourse in the vagina, anus, or mouth. It is a felony offense, which means it is among the most serious crimes a person can commit. Men as well as women and children can be raped.

Many times, the person who commits rape uses violence to force the person to have sex. An attacker also can use fear alone to commit rape. Rape can cause both physical and emotional harm to the victim.

What Is Date Rape?

Date rape also is when one person forces another person to have sex. It, too, is a felony offense. The difference between rape and date rape is that the victim knows the attacker socially. Perhaps he or she even went out with his or her attacker more than once.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Raped?

If you have been raped, follow these steps:

  • Don't wash or douche. You do not want to wash away any evidence that could be used against your attacker in court.
  • Call the police and tell them what happened. If you are afraid to call the police, call your local rape crisis center.
  • Go to an emergency room. While there, you will be examined. A doctor will make a record of your injuries and treat you. Samples of any fluid left in the vagina or anus (especially semen) will be gathered. Hair, pieces of clothing, or other objects left by the attacker also may be taken. These samples may be used to help identify and convict your attacker.

Was It Really Rape?

Some victims feel like rape is their fault. Although rape is never the victim's fault, feelings of guilt can prevent the victim from getting help. Remember, rape can really hurt a person's emotions. Even if you get over the crisis of the attack, you may develop painful feelings later. It's important to get help for yourself as soon as possible to avoid serious emotional complications, even if you do not want to press charges against your attacker.

If you aren't sure if what happened to you was rape, a rape crisis counselor or doctor can help you sort it out.

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How Does Rape Harm the Victim?

Rape harms the victim both physically and emotionally.

Types of physical harm due to rape can include:

  • Broken bones, bruises, cuts, and other injuries from violent acts.
  • Injuries to the genitals and/or anus.
  • Being exposed to diseases that can be passed on during sex, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, herpes, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
  • Unwanted pregnancy.

Types of emotional harm include:

  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Guilt
  • Feelings of worthlessness

You also may have problems with:

  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Trust
  • Attraction to men (if the attacker was a man)
  • Consensual sex later in life (inability to enjoy sex without intrusive recollections of the abuse)
  • Flashbacks (reliving the rape in your mind)
  • Nightmares
  • Falling and staying asleep

Will I Ever Feel Well Again After Being Raped?

Rape can leave physical and emotional scars that last a long time. Some victims find that emotional scars never go away. Long-term counseling can help you to deal with guilt, fear, depression, anxiety, and other emotions. Many victims also get help by joining support groups.

How Can I Protect Myself From Rape?

Unfortunately, there's no sure way to protect yourself from rape. Even people who take steps to protect themselves can be victims. But, following common safeguards, like these, is still a good idea:

  • Be responsible for your actions. Stay in control. Don't get drunk at a party and ask a stranger to drive you home, for example.
  • Don't walk alone at night. It takes just one trip alone to your car to be attacked. Walk with a friend.
  • Don't get talked into something you don't want to do. Make your own choices and stick with them.
  • Learn ways to defend yourself in the case of an attack.
  • Trust your feelings. If a person seems threatening to you, don't continue the friendship.
  • Learn about rape and why people rape. This knowledge will make you more alert to possible attackers.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 18, 2016

Sources

SOURCE:
American Association of Family Physicians.

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