Steubenville 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.”
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.