Parents warn your kids about Acquaintance Rape

Two female college students studying togetherSteubenville football players, Bill Cosby, and now a former Stanford swimmer, have made headlines over accusations of rape. Since in our country, we’re innocent until proven guilty, this column isn’t about prematurely convicting the accused, or even further chastising the guilty. Rather, it’s about exposing the ongoing and often silent threat of acquaintance rape. The www.freedictionary.com defines acquaintance rape as a, “Rape committed by someone with whom the victim is acquainted.” Originally, this crime was commonly identified as, “date rape,” but that terminology is too specific. Although in college rapes, the perpetrator is known to the victim 90 percent of the time, they are not necessarily a dating partner.

Tragically, rape and sexual assault happen both to women and men, and can occur anywhere. Yet RAINN, the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network reports, “9 out of 10 rape victims were female in 2003.” So, for space, let’s talk about young women on college campuses only. Alarmingly, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80 percent of sexual assaults of college females are likely to go unreported. Why wouldn’t you tell someone if you had been raped or sexually assaulted? Maybe, because in some cases, there are extenuating circumstances causing a victim to blame herself. For example, a 2004 study conducted at 119 colleges found that one in 20 college women reported being raped during the school year…[while almost] 75 percent of the victims said they were intoxicated when the assault occurred.” Additional statistics indicate that “75 percent of male students and 55 percent of female students involved in acquaintance rape had been drinking or using drugs.”Bar shot

Campus sexual assault surveys indicate that about 1 in 5 female students will be a victim of sexual assault. These statistics, however accurate are not the point says writer, Tyler Kingkade in his December 2014 Huffington Post column. Kingkade says the point is that victims are finally speaking up and saying that once they did report, their cases were handled poorly by campus hierarchy. Here’s the dilemma: often a university is hesitant to admit that they have a problem with rape on their campus. It’s not exactly a PR selling point for parents, “Have your daughter come to our college and then take your chances.” A victim can also be revictimized by the reporting process, and the inability to successfully prosecute the crime. Although some universities are aggressively addressing this tragic phenomenon through preventive education. Yet this knowledge can come too late for acquaintance rape victims, since freshmen and sophomore students are at the highest risk of violation.

That’s why, it’s paramount for parents to speak candidly with their college-bound kids. Warning their daughters to not go to a party alone but with other females, and never leave with a male she doesn’t know well. Tell her to guard her drink [even if it is water or soda] and never drink from a punch bowl or open container, because drug facilitated rapes are an ongoing issue. “Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assualt, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBl, etc.,” according to the RAINN Website. Their national sexual assault hotline is 800-656-HOPE.

Tell your sons that, “No,” means, “No.” No matter how far the sexual activity has gone, and if a young woman is incapicitated, she’s just not fair game because she is unable to legally consent. Don’t assume that your child will not drink, attend parties, or make poor choices, even if they are a church-goer or homeschooled since these can be the most vulnerable youth due to naivety. Remember a teenager’s newfound freedom can be a dangerous gift with deadly consequences. Lastly, don’t expect public high schools to be solely responsible for prevention. They are inundated with a multitude of prevention issues like: bullying, teen dating violence, prescription drug abuse, nutrition, etc. It’s time for parents to step up to the plate, do a little research, and start this difficult conversation.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist, who is a past two term board member for the Ohio Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She is the author of the book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors, which includes the chapter, “The Reality of Acquaintance Rape,” available through www.amazon.com or her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Ryan Claypool has been featured on Joyce Meyer’s Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life program.

Acquaintance Rape: The Crime No One Talks About

Can we talk candidly about acquaintance rape today? For years, I have written to media outlets all over this nation begging them to do more stories on this topic. You see, this crime is a real danger for women on college campuses, or those looking for love on an Internet dating site. Few folks want to talk about it, but it is so easy to avoid.

Let’s back up. It’s been three years, since convicted rapist Jeffrey Marsalis made headlines when he was sentenced to life in prison on June 30, 2009. “He’s the poster boy for date rape…,” said Idaho’s Blaine County prosecuting attorney Jim Thomas when I spoke with him by phone back then.

Authorities will probably never know how many victims the unemployed paramedic drugged and then assaulted. According to media reports in January 2006, Marsalis was originally found not guilty in a Philadelphia courtroom in cases involving three of his accusers.

During a second Philadelphia trial in June 2007, seven more females accused him of rape. Six of the victims reported meeting Marsalis through an online dating service. This boy-next-door-looking predator posed as a doctor, an astronaut and even a CIA agent to have an opportunity to meet his unsuspecting victims.

Prosecuting attorney Jim Thomas advises women to “be wary of people making claims  online of who they are and their background.” He cautions that predators like Marsalis can much more readily assume false histories with the advent of the Internet.

Like the success of the Internet, women have also come a long way professionally. Among the ten female plaintiffs in the Philadelphia trials, there was a pharmacist, an accountant, and even a lawyer. Yet the second verdict failed to convict Marsalis of even one rape, but did find him guilty of the lesser charge of sexual assault in two of the cases, and of one count of unlawful restraint.

Maybe that’s why, “fewer than 5 percent of college women who are victims of rape or attempted rape report it to police,” fearing they will not be believed.  This is particularly tragic, since it’s estimated that “90 percent of…victims know their assailant.” These statistics can be found in the article, “Acquaintance Rape of College Students,” authored by Rana Simpson.

Not long ago, this type of crime was identified solely as date rape, but that terminology is too specific, because the perpetrator is not necessarily a dating partner. Therefore, the term acquaintance rape is often used to define this sexual violation which seems rampant on college campuses.

Some universities are now aggressively addressing this issue through preventive education. Often though, this knowledge comes too late, since female students are most vulnerable to violation during the first few days of their freshman year.

For example, another study of 119 colleges reported that “one in twenty college women reported being raped during the school year…” This study also indicated that “… [almost] 75 percent of the victims [in campus cases] said they were intoxicated when the assault occurred.”

Through my years as a journalist, I have listened to the traumatic accounts of females who have been victimized. I have heard the heart cry of sympathetic men who feel helpless in confronting the predators in their own gender; and researched facilitated- rape drugs like Ecstasy, Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine.

Information from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/date-rape-drugs.cfm explains the danger of these predatory drugs. Alcohol can also be used as a predatory drug since it can “affect judgment and behavior,” according to this government Web site which states that, “even if the victim of sexual assault drank alcohol, she is not at fault for being assaulted.”

IF YOU NEED HELP VISIT THE NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT ONLINE HOTLINE

Perhaps, the lack of a rape conviction in the Marsalis trials in Philadelphia was partially due to the fact that most of the women testified that they willingly met him for a date and had a couple of drinks. Despite the lack of a rape conviction, in October 2007, Judge Steven R. Geroff refused to minimize Marsalis’ crime, sentencing him to a total of up to 21 years in prison. “I was very impressed by the girls [female plaintiffs]….even though there were acquittals,” said Judge Geroff. “He [Marsalis] ruined so many lives, and he didn’t care,” added the Philadelphia judge explaining his rationale for handing down the maximum sentence on the two sexual assault charges.

“By the time he had been sentenced the [Philadelphia] victims felt some justice had been done,” commented special prosecutor Joseph Khan. Then more justice occurred when Marsalis was sentenced to life in prison being eligible for parole in 15 years for the 2005 rape of a former 21-year-old co-worker near Sun Valley,Idaho.

Prosecuting attorney Jim Thomas, who successfully won the Idaho rape conviction against Marsalis, admits that date/acquaintance rape cases “are one of the most difficult” to prosecute especially when alcohol is a factor. Yet in both Pennsylvania and Idaho, prosecutors refused to give up until Marsalis was behind bars leaving the world a safer place.

For too long, society has forced victims to embrace the shame induced code of silence, which perpetuates this crime. Yet following the example of the courageous Marsalis’ accusers and the dedicated prosecutors, it’s time to unite our voices to warn women everywhere.

Christina Ryan Claypool is the author of the book, “Seeds of Hope for Survivors.” She is a former two-term board member for the Ohio Coalition against Sexual Assault.