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Rape and Date Rape

What is rape?

Rape occurs when sex is non-consensual (not agreed upon), or a person forces another person to have sex against his or her will. It also can occur when the victim is intoxicated from alcohol or drugs. Rape includes intercourse in the vagina, anus, or mouth. It is a felony offense, which means it is among the most serious crimes a person can commit. Rape is a crime that can happen to men, women, or children.

Many times, the person who commits rape uses violence to force the person to have sex. An attacker can also use fear alone to commit rape. Rape causes both physical and emotional harm to the victim.

What is date rape?

Date rape also occurs when one person forces another person to have sex. This crime is also a felony offense. The difference between rape and date rape is that in cases of date rape, the victim agreed to spend time with the attacker. Perhaps the victim even went out with the attacker more than once. Date rape is still rape.

What should I do if I have been raped?

If you have been raped:
  • Don't wash or douche. You do not want to wash away any evidence that could be used against your attacker in court.
  • Call the police and tell them what happened. If you are afraid to call the police, call your local rape crisis center.
  • Go to an emergency room. While there you will be examined. A healthcare provider will make a record of your injuries and treat you. Samples of any fluid left in the vagina or anus (especially semen) will be gathered. Hair, pieces of clothing, or other objects left by the attacker may also be taken. These samples may be used to help identify and convict your attacker.

What if I feel like the rape was my fault?

Some victims feel like rape is their fault. Although rape is never the victim's fault, feelings of guilt can prevent the victim from getting help. Remember, rape can really hurt a person's emotions. Even if you get over the trauma of the attack, you may develop painful feelings later. It's important to get counseling for yourself as soon as possible to avoid serious emotional complications (such as post-traumatic stress disorder), even if you do not want to press charges against your attacker.

If you aren't sure what happened to you was rape, a rape crisis counselor or healthcare provider can help you sort it out.

How does rape harm the victim?

There are many ways that rape harms the victim. Harm can be physical as well as emotional.

Physical harm
  • Broken bones, bruises, cuts, and other injuries from violent acts
  • Injuries to the genitals and/or anus
  • Being exposed to diseases that can be passed on during sex, including AIDS, herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis
  • Unwanted pregnancy
Emotional harm

Even though the attack is not your fault, you may feel:

  • Ashamed
  • Embarrassed
  • Guilty
  • Worthless

You may also have problems with:

  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Trust
  • Attraction to men (if the attacker was a man)
  • Consensual sex later in life (inability to enjoy sex without intrusive recollections of the abuse)
  • Flashbacks (re-living the rape in your mind)
  • Nightmares
  • Falling and staying asleep

Will I ever feel well again?

Rape can leave physical and emotional scars that last a long time. Some victims find that emotional scars never go away. Long-term counseling can help you to deal with guilt, fear, depression, anxiety and other emotions. Many victims also get help by joining support groups.

How can I protect myself from rape?

There is no sure or absolute way to protect yourself from rape. However, following common safeguards is a good idea. You should:

  • Be responsible for your actions. For instance, don't go to a party alone, get drunk, and ask a stranger to take you home. Stay in control.
  • Not walk alone at night. It takes just one trip alone to your car to be attacked. Walk with a friend.
  • Not get talked into something you don't want to do. Make your own choices and stick with them.
  • Learn ways to defend yourself in the case of an attack.
  • Trust your feelings. If a person seems threatening to you, don't continue interacting.
  • Learn about rape and why people rape. This knowledge will make you more alert to possible attackers.

Where can I get help?

Suicide and Rape 24-Hour Emergency Services National Hotline toll-free 1.800.333.4444

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Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 9/28/2009...#4538