Rape and Date Rape

What Is Rape?

Rape is sexual assault in which someone penetrates your vaginaanus, or mouth and you didn’t agree to it. It can happen to anyone, and if you've been raped, it's not your fault -- regardless of whether you were sober, knew your attacker, had willingly had sex with them before, the clothes you were wearing, or anything else.

Rape is a felony, which is one of the most serious types of crimes. The U.S. Justice Department defines rape as: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

You can check your state’s laws using the state law database on the website of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). RAINN’s database also covers how states define consent, which may be affected by the victim’s age, abilities, and whether they were intoxicated (including by so-called “date rape” drugs).

Is Date Rape Different?

You may have heard of “date rape” or “acquaintance rape,” in which the victim knows their attacker, as opposed to a “stranger rape.” But it’s all the same crime. Most rapes are committed by someone the attacker knows.

The long-term effects of any rape can be extreme, both physically and emotionally. But there is help.

If You Are Raped

Your safety comes first. You need to get to a safe place and get medical care. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

At the ER, a doctor will talk with you and treat any physical injuries, which may include:

  • Broken bones, bruises, and cuts
  • Injuries inside your body, which you may not know about

Rape also puts you at risk for exposure to HIV and other STDs, and for women, an unwanted pregnancy.

The medical team should also take samples of any fluid left in your vagina or anus (especially semen), and any hair, pieces of clothing, or other things that may help identify and convict your attacker, if you report the rape to the police.

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You can request a “Jane Doe” rape kit that will gather the evidence and save it, in case you’re not ready to report the rape to the police now but might later. And in case you’re concerned about the cost of the exam, you shouldn’t be billed for it. States pay for those exams, whether you file charges with the police or not.

If you’re hesitant to get medical help because you fear that you won’t be believed or that somehow you’re partly to blame, remind yourself that your health comes first, that rape is a crime, and that only your attacker is to blame.

Don't wash or douche before you get medical help. It might make it harder to gather evidence that could be used against your attacker in court.

Tell someone.  If you aren’t ready to report the crime to the police, call your local rape crisis center so you can talk to someone who will listen and help.

Get Support

Rape often has a long-lasting impact. You might have PTSD or problems with fear, depression, anger, trust, sex, and relationships. You might have nightmares and trouble falling and staying asleep, too. And you may feel isolated and fear being judged, though you did nothing wrong.

A mental health counselor can help you to manage these problems and rebuild your life. After rape, many people also get help by joining support groups. The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline (800-656-4673) can help you find resources in your area.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 13, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

GirlsHealth.gov: “What is rape and date rape?”

WomensHealth.gov: “Rape.”

U.S. Department of Justice.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: “Sexual Assault,” “Reporting to Law Enforcement,” “Laws in Your State,” “About the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline.”

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