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Introduction to Acquaintance Rape

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Difference between stranger & acquaintance rape

by RenieReader

To all survivors

Category: Biographical Non-Fiction
Posted: January 28, 2008

Warning: The author has noted that this contains strong sexual content.

NOTE: By using the term 'she' to describe a victim, does not mean to imply that all rape victims are female. It is used here primarily for convenience sake. This piece may be reproduced for educational purposes. Please have the courtesy of giving credit to Irene B. Gardner.

I first became interested in the topic of acquaintance rape when I became a statistic--a victim. It was difficult for me to understand how I could have misread one of the men with whom I worked and thought I knew.

It was common practice for transportation employees where I worked to arrange free rides with the drivers. I asked for a ride and received the driver's permission the night my vacation began. He was a man in his sixties, over six feet tall with a large, broad-shouldered frame, and I had never so much as had a friendly cup of coffee with the guy before. Unfortunately, my innocent stopover in Elko, Nevada, ended with the driver entering my room as I slept and forcefully entering my body.

His arms came around me just above and below my elbows, imprisoning my arms at my sides. He placed his head on top of mine, forcing it into the mattress. His knees dug into the backs of mine so I could only flex my feet up and down in fearful agitation. I could not defend myself. I could not get away despite my struggles. He fiercely whispered into my ear, "I'm going to get what I want, so you might as well hold still and enjoy it."

My mind would not accept what had happened. So, as a self-defense mechanism, I blocked this episode from my conscious mind for three years. Not one word about the rape escaped my lips. My sleep was tortured by nightmares of being overwhelmed and overpowered. I gained fifty pounds, developed ulcers, and had a multitude of female problems. Friends and relatives noticed a change in me, but none knew what my problem was or how to help me. I dragged my feelings of fear, shame, guilt and anger into the black abyss called depression. I hid from the pain in drugged slumber, rarely stepping outside my door. I became a hermit in my own body, floating through the days in a fog of denial.

Then one day, another older driver came to my home uninvited. I was alone and had just gotten to sleep when he rang the doorbell. In a panic, I screamed at him to go away, slammed the door, and collapsed into a fetal position. It took several hours of flashbacks, uncontrolled crying and shaking to figure out what had happened and why.

My attempt at suicide landed me in the hospital and started me down the long, difficult road to acknowledgment, resolution and, hopefully, recovery. During this time, I noticed a distinction was being made between Stranger Rape and Acquaintance Rape. I became aware of newspaper and magazine articles about Date Rape. I pondered, what the difference meant to the victims? How did it affect their recovery? Was my experience with acquaintance rape and my reaction typical?

In my quest for answers, I turned to my sister, Michele Gamblin, a rape crisis counselor. She said the victims can be female or male, and the general legal definition is as follows: Rape is the coerced or forced penetration of the vagina, mouth or anus with the penis or any other object. Date or acquaintance rape occurs anytime someone known to the victim used force or coercion to gain sexual intercourse of any type. An ugly definition of an ugly crime.

My sister and others also believe it is because of the freedom of the sexual revolution that payment is expected for time and money spent on a date. Women of ALL ages are expected to be sexually active, and peer pressure is fierce. Often, even the victim doesn't call it rape. "Things just got out of hand," seems to be the attitude of victim and assailant alike.

Now, not only is the crime of rape committed more often, but in three cases out of five, the assailant is someone the victim knows. The rapist often sees himself as 'seducing' his victim. Strangely, in some convoluted reasoning, the victim is seen as the blackguard for labeling her attacker as a rapist. It is better to be a rapist than the raped.

I determined that acquaintance rape is on the increase because of the sexual revolution and, unlike stranger rape, it does have something to do with sex--as well as violence. According to experts, another reason acquaintance and date rape is escalating is because both males and females are presently more accepting of violence in their relationships and in general.

A local YWCA Rape Crisis Center counselor stated the FBI compiles the statistics on reported rapes by locale and then makes those reports available to various institutions. While these reports did not show whether these were stranger or acquaintance rape, they did indicate that sixty-three forcible rapes were reported in my city. According to experts, that means there were about 630 actual rapes. I hate to think what the numbers are today. In the county, seven perpetrators were booked and their ages ranged from 18-64 years old. This fact indicated how naive I had been to consider my 62-year-old, white-haired rapist as 'safe.'

Authorities agree the dramatic increase in reported acquaintance rape cases indicate it is rampant and graphically on the rise. But too many still don't realize they are rape victims because the act was committed by someone they knew.

In checking whether my own reactions were typical, I found post-rape victims experience three phases of responses:

* First, the acute reaction. This may immediately follow the attack and may entail shock, anger, crying or extreme calm.

* Second, an outward adjustment. This is a pseudo-adjustment exhibiting denial, suppression, and rationalization because acquaintance rape is frequently unacknowledged and unreported.

* Third, integration or resolution. Often this occurs as a result of an event which reminds the victim of the rape. She experiences a flashback. This phase may start six months or several years after the assault.

Most victims have an extreme sense of vulnerability which restricts their ability to function. Victims may have recurrent nightmares, phobia, anxiety, depression and diminished self-esteem. This cluster of reactions is labeled Rape Trauma Syndrome and is likened to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In addition, besides experiencing sleep and eating pattern disturbances, mood swings, and a constant attempt to block the thoughts of the assault from her mind, most Rape Trauma Syndrome victims report physical reactions in the body area that was the focus of the assailant's force. It is stressed that the major symptoms most victims experience are nightmares and phobias, including fear of sex.

If a victim previously had a psychological or physical condition, she would develop additional symptoms and would 'regress according to her vulnerability.' The victim who has not reported the rape and has not dealt with her feelings and reactions, has also burdened herself psychologically by her silence.

Rape-related stressors, like the assailant who is known, require extra coping tasks by the victim. This victim has to deal with different issues than the victim of stranger rape. When the assailant is known, the victim must learn a new way of predicting dangerous human situations or remain in a chronic fearful state of existence in relating to people, especially men.

To recover, the victim needs to make some kind of sense out of why the rape occurred, deal with a group to which she and the assailant already belong, and make the decision whether or not to press charges because of loyalty ties. Thirty-seven percent of victims said the issue of trust was most important to them in recovering from rape because of their feelings of being betrayed. Not only does the victim have to deal with the disgrace of being raped, she also has to deal with the stigma of being mentally ill.

Now that I realized my reactions to acquaintance rape were all too typical, including the fact that I did not report it to the police, I looked into the reasons rape victims don't file a report. I suspect the war stories I had heard about how rape victims are treated by the police and the court system also had a lot to do with it.

It has been theorized that if the victim perceives the police as able to provide a haven, she is more likely to report the rape. In addition, a victim is most apt to report stranger rape, but least apt to report date rape. If threatened with a weapon or seriously injured, a victim will more readily report the rape. Many victims report being beaten instead of being raped. In other words, the victims perceive physical violence as more socially acceptable than rape.

In studies, it has been discovered that the attitudes of both police and rapists are surprisingly similar:

1. Rape prevention is primarily the woman's responsibility
2. Rape is motivated by a desire for sex
3. Punishment for rape should not be severe
4. Victims precipitate rape through their appearance or behavior
5. A raped woman is a less desirable woman
6. Women should not resist during rape.

In this same study, it was found there are no uniform methods for labeling rape cases by police and they can vary from one department to another in the same precinct. The police have a tendency to doubt the credibility of women who:

A. are extremely obese
B. have seen psychiatrists
D. receive welfare

If a police woman is present when a victim files a report, the case is more likely to be categorized as founded.

Indications are that legal reforms of police and court processes in other states have shown an increase in the accuracy of labeling cases and in convictions. Hence, the victims would feel more secure about reporting rapes if there was an obvious increase in convictions.

A local attorney indicates that Utah law predicates its standards of rape on the defendant's conduct rather than on the victim's resistance. However, practically speaking, she believes the court would probably take the victim's resistance into account as well as whether there was a weapon or other means used to threaten her.

Also, the statute of limitations is within one year of the assault or when the victim should be aware a crime has been committed. At present, the latter qualification refers to minors when they reach majority.

While there is a national trend toward denying the admittance of third-party testimony regarding the victim's sexual history, a local assistant county attorney indicates that Utah allows such testimony regarding consent if it could be shown the victim had a past history of falsely reporting rapes or a history of sexual aggression. Its admittance would be left to the discretion of the trial judge.

Research indicates forty percent of rape cases are acquaintance rapes, but the myth commonly believed is that 'true' rape involves strangers. People also believe that a woman's reluctance to report a rape indicates a fabricated rape report, even though it is estimated that only ten-to-thirty percent of all rapes are reported.

Acquaintance rape is a problem demanding public awareness. The long-range effects on the victims also places a vast financial burden on the public itself because of high, long-term medical expenses and the subsequent economic non-productivity of victims.

The myths about stranger versus acquaintance rape must be dispelled among victims, rapists and the legal system. We need an integration of reform laws to aid in convictions and reduce victim harassment. The statutes of limitation must reflect realistic victim symptomologic time frames. These responsibilities do not belong solely on the shoulders of the victim.

Men and women alike must be made aware of the rights of the other to say, 'No.' Forcing or coercing another in order to gain sexual intercourse of any type is an act that can and will lead to arrest and conviction, even if the assailant is an acquaintance.

Many years later, I still awaken each dark morning about three o'clock (the time the rape occurred), my feet agitated, flexing up and down in helpless, tortured pantomime of that repugnant assault. Even sleeping medications have no power to eradicate this recurrence.

To catapult myself into the resolution stage, I filed a civil lawsuit against my rapist. Of course, the three-year delay cost me credibility and legal recourse. Although my medical expenses alone were in excess of $40,000, and this assault has cost me years of pain, my job, my sociability, my self-esteem, my ability to trust, my judgment and the possibility of any male companionship. The rapist has experienced no pain and no loss other than paying a $3,000 settlement, including my attorney's fees and costs.

The case records have been sealed to further protect the rapist's name, and I must change enough of the details of this writing to make his identification unapparent. Despite the perpetration of acquaintance rape, he remains untouched, untarnished and undaunted by his actions.

Author Notes
I know this is a rather long essay, but felt it was necessary to portray the extent of this problem. Although I have used the term victim on numberable occasions here, I prefer using 'survivor.' This term means the victim has done whatever is necessary to no longer be victimized and identified by the event.

A few reviewers have asked what the term: 'founded' means in this context. It means the court has reviewed the evidence and finds it to be true. Therefore, the allegations made by the victim are founded in truth.

It seems that a considerable number of gifted writers, poets, and artists on FanStory and elsewhere have experienced rape in various forms at one time or another.

I've tried to be factual in this essay, but still show the emotional impact of this epidemic. This piece portrays the colorless world a victim exists in after being raped.

Thanks and hugs,

Copyright by Irene B. Gardner aka RenieReader

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • BEVCATS101
    My heart goes out to you, I pray you will find peace within you to overcome your insomnia, rls, depression due to this senseless crime. emoticon emoticon
    3688 days ago
  • no profile photo CD2332407
    My heart is broken by this blog Renie. I am speechless. Wish I could do something besides by your friend. I will remember you in my prayers. I'm glad you did something and didn't carry this burden with you in silence for the rest of your life.
    3708 days ago
    I was almost date raped twice 25 yrs ago. Once violently. The other time he finally just left. I have believed and understood it for all these years. Questioned myself if I had led the guy on. I did not. Still never trusted men. Not really. I was thin then. I believe I put on weight as a way of protecting myself. And all these years later, I still don't trust easily. Thanks for this topic. I wish it wasn't really true. But guys just keep thinking its ok. And others well if you went out with him it couldnt have been that bad. Well, yes, if you didn't want it it was. And they get away with it because the women are too scared to report it and fear they won't be believed.
    3712 days ago
    What a moving and disturbing account. The system has to change and rapists have to be held accountable. Women need to stand together. I sincerely wish that you will find peace, joy and happiness in the rest of your life. God bless you.
    3746 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/17/2011 10:42:36 PM
  • SILLYHP1953
    Powerful blog and powerful comments. I don't even know what to say. I'm shocked, stunned, feeling residual emotions.
    3746 days ago
    I'm sorry for your pain. emoticon
    3758 days ago
    Powerful. Accurate. Painful. Please visit my page, especially my second to the newest one written. Conversion Disorder can stem from years of traumatic experiences where actually bodily abuse/ emotional/ mental pain was endured~having gone "undelt with."

    With a new accident that is a fairly serious one, my husband, daughter, and I have recently learned that conversion disorder has the ability to literally remove the life of a person, without actually killing them. Coma like symptoms for days or weeks...even months at a time. Deep actual pain where the new injuries from a recent traumatic ACCIDENT accident occured~are multiplied by MANY.....from the subconscious coming alive with sleep time becoming night mares, or fear of sleeping at all. Sleep walking that already went on from childhood, has become acting out dreams appearing wide awake, functioning, walking, talking, possibly even driving, and upon waking in the morning~retelling bits and pieces of what seemed to be just another silly dream. Ohhh to find out a few days later, that person in your dream you (I) actually did have a 30 minute conversation with in a public place....just chipper as can be, but still showing signs of pain while walking, sitting, standing. No doubt about the pain being real from the stair case fall seven months ago. It is real, it is there, assured by teams of specialists (city doctors, rather than a small town doctor who WAS NOT the "usual~very well liked by MANY~INTERNAL MEDICINE DOCTOR," passed all off as "in my head, and coming right out and asking if I lied to her~" with the HAND WRITTEN DOCUMENTED list of new symptoms brought in the following week for follow up. Bet that is gone from my chart now....destroyed. Great bed side manner(NOT)! Noooo....lack of education as well as putting a new patient "through a chute so to speak, out here in cowboy country. were mentioned. Night sweats, tremors as if having sezures....all conversion disorder.

    What does a toddler do when this all began at the age of three years old, having gone on for a daily basis for wayyyy too many years to count. Parents and Grandparents who found out not wanting the community to know "THEIR DAUGHTER'S WEREN'T PURE," fired the "animal/man" from helping my folks at their business; while my sister and I were stilll around him as he worked for my uncle as well, and for my Grandfather. Sooo ages 3-11.....silent, frightening, threats from the locally liked man who wandered the streets and still does to this day.

    At the age of 19 marrying just to get out of this home town and away from "that man...still watching....and walking the streets. Away from my folks who stilll forbid the subject be discussed any further than, "WE GOT RID OF HIM, HE'S NOT WORKING FOR US....IT'S OVER. SUBJECT CLOSED!"

    Wow first hubby was wonderful, dedicated, supportive, until together we decided to add to our family. When our son was a mere three weeks old.....my ex husband snapped. Was it jealousy sharing me with our new baby, after nearly 3 years alone with me? Why the arousal in him when I was nursing our son. Another sick man!!! The same type of abuse happened over and over for YEARS....14 TO BE EXACT UNTIL FINALLY I WAS OUT....OUR TWO LITTLE ONES WERE WITH ME, AND WE WERE FREE(physically, but not emotionally or mentally).

    Sooo now......Counseling.....LOADS OF IT! Physical therapy, mental therapy....regular doctoring for the actual damage from my fall, a neurologist who sees me out of state every 4-5 weeks, a pain management team~prepared to work with me for six weeks, a spinal specialist, this list could go on and on! Flash backs are wicked and it could be something as simple as seeing a wallet that looked like his in the hands of another man. A profile image of a large tall man who looks similar to my ex husband, cologne of the same kind....ANYTHING BUT ALWAYS WHEN LEAST EXPECTED!! Oh my gosh and to see the jerk from when I was a toddler.....who hasnt changed a bit in appearance here and there around town, always watching with a smirk on his face. It' enough to push a person into insanity. I am still hanging on by a thread, but am no longer social for the most part. Not since prior to my staircase fall in June. I get myself to and from doctoring, or have help with that if necessary. Functioning on a daily basis is tuly difficlt, and I must say the time I spend with my almost 14 year old Daughter....bring giggles, laughter~she is my becon of light, hope, faith, and the will to keep going rather than just rolling over and giving up.

    Thank You So Much For Sharing this~there are so many blessed folks who are completely unaware of actual life altering moments that without a doubt do not, and wont ever...JUST GO AWAY~FOR SURVIVORS WHO HAVE A "PUBLIC FACE," programed since toddler years, and still my "survival mode' when I out and about. Truly there is happiness within each and every one of us; however that "happy mask," is truly protection that whom ever we see, run into, or have brief plans with, won't see deeper into the Soul simply existing that is truly filled with "ULTIMATE PAIN."

    BRAVO FOR A BLOGGGGG WELL DONE~THE NAKED TRUTH very well could be booed by some, and cheered on by others who are at the point in their own lives that cobwebs must be CLEARED~to live a semi normal life.

    ~Diane~ emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3759 days ago
    Did not know this, thanks for the info.
    3759 days ago
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