Rape — Stranger or Date-Acquaintance – Healing is Possible

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Stranger Rape

Stranger rape is non-consensual, and/or forced sex, with a woman or man who does not know her/his attacker. The definition of stranger rape is more readily accepted than acquaintance rape. The lack of acceptance that acquaintance rape receives does not limit the shame attached to rape or the trauma felt by the survivor. Ironically, stranger rape is seen as “real rape.” The image of the psychotic stranger attacking the woman is real and does occur. However, the frequency of psychotic stranger rape is considerably less.

The majority of rapists usually target the victim from ‘afar.’ Such as: Seeing her in a parking lot, walking in the neighborhood-his access to her is assured and he calculates his attack. The calculation may be instantaneous or over a period of time. Some rape survivors have later remembered seeing the rapist, but did not suspect they were being targeted. While stranger rape is reprehensible the road to recovery is easier than for the date/acquaintance rape survivor. This is so, because with date/acquaintance rape there has been the ultimate in betrayal-the individual’s sense of trust of men is shattered and their ability to trust their own judgment of people has been shattered.

This statement is not to devalue and belittle the experience of stranger rape. Rather, this statement is for the purpose of legitimizing all experiences of rape. It is the hope that survivors of rape will encounter understanding and awareness and that professionals will recognize the possible differences in the experience of stranger and acquaintance rape.

Date/Acquaintance Rape

“Acquaintance rape” is sexual assault that is committed by someone who the victim knows, such as a classmate, neighbor, friend, date, co-worker or even a husband or boyfriend. In legislation, the word “rape” is no longer used and has been broadened to “sexual assault.” “Sexual assault” is any form of sexual activity (e.g. kissing, fondling, intercourse, etc.) which is forced upon a person, without his or her consent. This includes a wide spectrum of acts, from simple unwanted sexual touching to a violent sexual attack, and it applies equally to both a stranger and to someone who is known by the victim. Essentially, all sexual activity that occurs against a person’s will is sexual assault.

“Acquaintance rape” is the most under-reported form of sexual assault. More than two-thirds of reported sexual assaults are within a dating relationship. Women are reluctant to report this because society believes that a woman who was attacked by someone she knew must have somehow “asked for it”. Reluctance in men to report unwanted sexual touching is rooted in a fear of ridicule for actually not wanting to have sexual contact with a woman, or in the case of male-male contact of being labeled homosexual. It does not matter who the assailants and victims are, nor what their genders are; ANY unwanted sexual touching is a criminal offense.

Danger Signals in a Relationship

While it is difficult to accept acquaintance rape, it is true that in the majority of sexual assaults, the victim knows the attacker. This is why it is important to identify the people who are potential “acquaintance rapists.” Be appropriately suspicious of people who:

o seldom listen to you, ignore or talk over you.

o insult you or putdown and belittle your statements.

o sulk or get angry if you initiate your desires or ideas.

o look right through you or down on you.

o control your life-by telling you who your friends can be, telling you how to dress, insist on making decisions about activities, etc.

o talk negatively about women or men in general.

o are jealous or possessive.

o drink or use drugs heavily

o express anger and violence toward women or men either through words or by physical means.

o are unable to handle sexual and emotional frustrations without becoming angry.

o have a fascination with weapons.

o talk about or act out cruelty to animals, children, or people whom he or she can bully.

o use come-on lines to get you into bed, such as, “If you loved me, you would”; “Don’t you like me?”; “I’ll kill myself if you break up with me”; “You turned me on, so now you have to follow though”; or “You know you really want it!”

The Effect of Rape on One’s Sex Life

The aftereffects with respect to the survivor’s sexuality are immediate. The survivor has the surreal sense that his/her body does not belong to him/her, because his/her body is the ground on which this insidious battle took place. Touch is no longer experienced as affection, but as a violation for the survivor. Touch ceases to create a bond or reassurance or soothing–it hurts and confuses the survivor. Sex now feels ‘dirty’ as the act of rape felt. Survivors sometimes have a strong aversion to (or need for) particular sex acts; feeling betrayed by one’s body; trouble integrating sexuality and emotionality; confusion or overlapping of affection, sex, dominance, aggression and violence.

The survivor may have a strong urge to express sexuality through pursuing power in the sexual arena that is sexual acting out (self-abuse and manipulation, especially among women; abuse of others, especially among men; compulsively ‘seductive’ or compulsively a sexual; ‘must be sexual aggressor or cannot be; impersonal; ‘promiscuous;’ sex with strangers concurrent with inability to have sex in intimate relationships, conflict between sex and caring). Some survivors may become prostitutes, strippers, ‘sex symbol,’ porn actress; sexual acting out to meet anger or revenge needs; ‘sexaholism,’ avoidance’ shutdown, crying after orgasm; all pursuit feels like violation; sexualizing of meaningful relationships; erotic response to abuse or anger; sexual fantasies of dominance or rape.

Rape Survivor Recovery Needs

Even though the emotional impact of rape might not surface for days or weeks the survivor needs immediate attention from family, friends and professionals. The survivor needs you to:

o BELIEVE him/her without question and without blame. Whatever the circumstance, he/she did not want to be raped.

o RESPECT his/her fear. Rapists commonly threaten to kill their victim if he/she does not comply with all their demands. Although, rationally the survivor knows he/she is safe from the perpetrator, the fear remains long after the rape.

o ACCEPT: His/her strong feelings and mood peaks and valleys.

o LISTEN without judgments or giving advise.

o CARE about and nurture the survivor. Encourage him/her to resume his/her decision making responsibilities to regain control over his/her life.

The signs that a survivor needs professional help are:

o Sleep disturbance (inability to fall asleep, waking up frequently, sleeping more than usual, nightmares)

o Drug and Alcohol Abuse

o Difficulty managing daily tasks and routines

o Marital or dating problems

o Sexual Dysfunction

o General fear of others

o Eating Disorders-weight gain or loss, bulimia, anorexia

o Angry outbursts or generally argumentative

o Depression

o Suicidal thoughts or attempts

It is important to know that healing from rape is possible. Engaging with a specialist who provides healing in mind, body, and spirit will create an effective healing process.

write by Lovell

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