Could It Be Rape?
There are many images that come to mind when talking about rapists, such as strangers lurking in dark alleys in search of prey, or armed housebreakers.
However, most rapes are not committed by strangers but by acquaintances and friends. Date rape happens when someone you know, such as your partner or someone you met at a party, pressures you into having sex or just does it without getting your consent. Most victims of date rape are women, though there are male victims too (in which case, the crime is called sexual assault by penetration).
Here are some familiar excuses that have been given to justify date rape: “She was asking for it by flirting with me and wearing that skimpy skirt”; “He was the one who invited me into his house”; “She didn’t say no”; and “We had sex before”.
In all of these cases, if the other party has not actually consented to sex, you will get yourself into serious trouble if you treat the above behaviours as consent to sex.
Even if there is apparent consent, factors such as age, mental/physical condition, power differentials (e.g., teacher and student) and psychological coercion may negate consent.
CONSENT THAT IS FORCED MAY NOT COUNT
Comments like “If you don’t do it, I will show my friends the sex photos I took” may lead the victim to consent unwillingly. The law requires consent to be given freely and voluntarily.
So what exactly is consent? Consent refers to the willing agreement of all parties to the activity under consideration. The easiest and clearest way to get consent is to ASK.
There are some important things to keep in mind:
- Are the parties capable of giving consent? If your partner is drugged or drunk and clearly not aware of what is happening, don’t take advantage of the situation. The law specifically provides that there is no consent if the person is not capable of understanding the nature of the act. All the more, you should never have sex with an unconscious or semi-conscious person.
- Has consent been given to each sexual activity? Consent to one activity does not automatically cover anything else that you’d like to do. Neither does it cover subsequent occurrences of that activity. So if your partner consents to heavy petting, do not assume that this is an invitation to engage in penile penetration. Consent to penetration once does not mean consent to penile penetration when you next meet.
- Consent can be given and withdrawn at any stage, through verbal and non-verbal means. If your partner is doing things that make you uncomfortable, say that you want to stop. However, telling someone that you aren’t interested in doing something can be very difficult. In such cases, pretending that you’re getting diarrhoea or are feeling nauseous and need to stop can do the trick. If you need to resort to this, perhaps you should think about whether you should continue with this relationship at all.
Remember, you have the right to say no. If you’re the initiating party, and if your partner pushes you away, pulls away from you, cringes or stiffens – take note, stop the activity, and check to see if something’s wrong. You don’t want to be an unintentional rapist.
NOTE FOR DUDES
If you’re a dude, you may be feeling the pressure to be the “aggressor” or to prove your manhood. This is understandable but this does not mean that you should force yourself on your partner if that person is not ready for this. There is too much to lose: your partner’s well-being, their respect, the relationship and your future if you are found to have raped your partner.
ADVICE FOR VICTIMS OF DATE RAPE
If you are a victim of date-rape, here are some things you should remember:
- Don’t blame yourself. Nobody asks to be raped.
- Call someone you trust for help.
- Don’t do any of the following: shower, wash your clothes, douche, brush your teeth, eat or drink so that the evidence is preserved.
- Write down what happened in detail.
- Go to the hospital immediately (within 24 hours, if possible) for treatment and to get a rape kit done.
- Make a police report.