Date rape torment

Forcible sex, whether committed
by a stranger or a friend,
is still rape and it’s a crime

Tips for parents

By Nancy Arcayna

RAPE doesn't have to happen in a dark alley or involve masked men using weapons or force. According to research from the National Association of Social Workers, conducted 12 years ago and involving participation of students from the University of Hawaii, one in five college-age students will be raped. Cathy Betts, education coordinator at the Sex Abuse Treatment Center, believes the actual number today is closer to one in four high school and college-age students, and the scariest part is that people, including victims, don't recognize the rape. Likely, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows and trusts. And most people don't want to acknowledge this fact.

Betts said, "One myth is that rapists are usually dirty, scrubby strangers. If young men, young women, and their parents all believe in this myth, it will be hard for them to define any forced, manipulated or coerced sexual act between people that know each other as a sexual assault or date rape, as in 'it couldn't have been rape, I know her, she's my girlfriend.' "

The definition of a sexual assault is any unwanted, tricked, forced, coerced, or manipulated sexual activity without consent, explained Betts.

"Date rape is basically forced penetration while on a date or in a dating situation." According to studies, many of the attacks happen either in the victim or offender's home.

Ounce of prevention

The two reasons for sexual assault are power and control. Some rapists feel they must punish someone in order to feel strong, said Betts. Others believe a woman is playing games, thinking "she really didn't mean no" or "she was barely wearing anything."

"One myth is that men are entitled to certain things in society. Some may feel entitled to having sex with a girlfriend or wife, as outdated as it may seem," Betts said, explaining that gender stereotypes teach us that certain types of forceful behavior is just being macho and OK. And, in some instances, rewarded.

Grace Caligtan from Domestic Violence Clearinghouse said, "Boys were not born to be violent and women do not like to be hit or degraded sexually. But all of us are taught gender and sex roles from the time we are keikis. It can teach boys that they have to be tough, be da man, the one in control.

"And to hide their feelings, lest be a wuss. It teaches girls that they have to put up with, and submit to what guys do."

Fear and intimidation are tactics often employed by sex offenders. Most people believe that a weapon or physical force is needed to commit a sexual crime, said Betts. Sometimes, the victim may feel that the offender will hurt or kill them during the assault. Just because a victim does not physically fight back, doesn't mean they have consented, Betts said. "It's important for parents to talk to young children about their bodies and appropriate touching."

Prevention begins with teaching women how not to be victimized. Betts said, "True prevention would be teaching our boys and men to respect all humans, how to be sensitive, how to create empathy in their lives and how to foster relationships that are equally inclusive, rather than based on power and a sense of control of independence."

After an assault

An individual who is raped must tell someone they trust. "If they don't believe you, keep telling until someone does," said Betts. The Sex Abuse Treatment Center has crisis workers that may be reached over the phone. Crisis workers can also assist victims with filing a police report.

Sex assaults can cause severe emotional, psychological and physical trauma. "It's always best to talk to a professional counselor or therapist for assistance in the recovery."

Another point Betts stresses is that victims should never blame themselves. "You didn't ask for it, you didn't deserve it, even if you were dressed provocatively, had prior sexual relations with the offender or were in the middle of sex when you decided you wanted to stop. It's still rape and it's not your fault."

Evie Yanagida, a clinical psychologist, said, rape victims go through a period of trauma similar to those who have fought wars or suffered great losses. Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, nightmares, phobias, anxiety about leaving the home and being with other people. Feelings of guilt and helplessness can follow.

"Sometimes victims report feeling numb -- not feeling that they are in their bodies -- but observing things from afar," said Yanagida. "They may always feel like they are on the edge of their seat." Date rape is the not classic "guy jumping out of the bushes" so self-blame and guilt delays reports to police and in seeking treatment.

"Shame is attached to any kind of assault, but in date rape, the blame is on the victims themselves."

Victims may want to forget about the scenario, but Yanagida warns that it will take a toll. "In the beginning, friends and family may be supportive, but after a few months, they want you to get over it. "The support network is critical. They (victims) need to be able to tell their story over and over again. Family and friends often fail to recognize that the consequences of date rape are just as devastating as a stranger rape."

Medical exams can be performed up to 72 hours after a rape occurs. "In case a victim wants to press charges, the evidence is kept."

Yanagida suggests going to an objective outsider such as a priest, minister or counselor. Research has indicated that healing begins once victims are able to talk about what has happened.

In the schools

"We want teens to be able to recognize violence in their dating relationships, say no to violence, get help when needed," said Caligtan, who also presents workshops for youths.

It's hard for some teens, she said. "Many of them have been raised in a home where they see their dad hit their mom or toxic ways of relating. Because they live with it on a day-to-day basis, to make a personal change goes against what happens all around them."

Local universities and high schools also have plans to help avoid date rape and sexual assault. "At UH, we have seen a significant number of cases. We are addressing the problem because we feel the numbers are too high," said Beverly McCreery, gender equality counselor at the UH.

The main goal is to decrease silence for the victims and provide them access to resources. "Certainly some rapists meditate their actions using date rape drugs or physical force. But oftentimes on college campuses, it's a matter of mixed signals. Excessive use of alcohol and unclear communication on sexual limits are also factors."

Another way they are getting the word out is through the dramatic presentation of "Unspeakable Acts." The 40-minute production is now implemented in the new student orientation. Students can think about how they can stay safe as they listen to the monologues, a male perspective, and one of a survivor.

Peer groups also visit classrooms and present lectures to other university students. "We train peers to provide education. Our target is not stranger rape, but date rape," she said.

McCreery added, "If we live in a culture where people say, 'It doesn't happen here,' it can never get any better."

Cathy Kawamura, peer education and resource teacher explained that all high school students are required to take a health class in order to graduate. One topic covered is injury and violence protection. "I think that teens know about date rape, but think it can't happen to them -- just like they won't be the ones to get pregnant," said Kawamura.

"Our program goes into the middle schools to help prevent sexual harassment and assault at a young age, before they get into high school. They need to learn as young as possible to respect others. I believe that mutual respect and date rape are needs in our schools that can be addressed," Kawamura added.

One component of the Peer Education Program is to involve the parents and the community in sexual assault prevention via newsletters or information booths at the parent nights and open houses, said Kawamura.

"We need to educate our parents so that they are aware of the issues and how to help with the prevention. Parents need to take responsibility for their children and learning about what can happen today with them. Many parents are very busy working and are not aware of what their own teens are up to. Many teens have cell phones, their own cars and older boyfriends -- a new generation with more opportunities for date rape to occur."

24-Hour Crisis Hotline: 524-7273
Sex Abuse Treatment Center
Domestic Violence Clearinghouse


Tips for parents

Here are some tips from Cathy Betts of the Sex Abuse Treatment Center:

>> Avoid gender stereotyping your children. Many sex offenders and rapists have been found to have strict gender notions.

>> Teach your child to respect all types of people, regardless of their differences. One vital factor missing in offenders is a sense of empathy.

>> Teach your children about the dangers of teasing and sexual harassment.

>> Teach children, no matter how old or young they are, about healthy relationships. Point out that the healthiest relationships are the ones based on equality and respect.

>> Talk to your children about "victim grooming" behavior. Victim grooming is a tactic similar to how pimps and drug dealers seek out young people who look like they might need attention or money.

24-Hour Crisis Hotline: 524-7273
Sex Abuse Treatment Center
Domestic Violence Clearinghouse

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