What is Date Rape?

April 18, 2022
What is Date Rape?

Content warning: This post discusses topics including sexual violence and rape.

What is date rape?


While rape refers to sexual activity performed without consent, date rape is rape by someone the victim knows.

It is also sometimes called “acquaintance rape” to show that it can occur in non-romantic settings as well, although some make the distinction between date rape and acquaintance rape as pertaining to romantic partners (dates or boyfriends) vs. friends, family members, or other acquaintances. Either way, both involve rape by someone who was trusted, which can be incredibly traumatizing.

Experiencing date rape can be extremely confusing when trying to consolidate the idea of a trusted person in your life being a rapist or someone willing to hurt you.

If you’re questioning whether you’ve experienced date rape or not, try taking our sexual assault quiz to help you understand what you experienced and find helpful resources.


What is the difference between date rape and statutory rape?


The legal definition of statutory rape is when someone has sex with a person who is under the age of consent.

In this case, both parties may be willing participants, but because one person is incapable of providing fully informed consent, it is an abuse of power. Like date rape, it involves people that know each other and may even have a romantic relationship.

Statutory rape can be considered date rape if the experience happened with a known person in the victim’s life.


What are date rape drugs?


Date rape often occurs among college students when alcohol or drugs are involved, and so the term date rape is often associated with the use of drugs.

Although the person who sexually assaulted you may or may not have drugged you, date rape drugs are infamous for making it easier to rape or sexually assault someone by causing confusion, memory loss, black outs, and difficulty in controlling muscle movements.

Date rape drugs can include those that you willfully take. Alcohol is often used, alone or in combination with other drugs like marijuana and cocaine. Even over-the-counter medications, antidepressants, tranquilizers, or sleeping aids can be used against a victim to facilitate an assault.

Other common date rape drugs are:

  • Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) – often nicknamed “roofies.” It’s a strong benzodiazepine (like Valium or Xanax) used to treat insomnia or used for anesthesia but is not legal in the United States. It was previously a small white tablet with no smell or taste, but due to this hazard, it’s now made as a light green pill with a blue core that turns clear liquids blue. Effects can start within 15-30 minutes with its strongest effect at about two hours, and it can last up to 12 hours.
  • GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) – sometimes called “liquid ecstasy,” GHB is a depressant that can be prescribed to treat narcolepsy. It is usually a liquid but can come as a powder, and it has no smell or taste. Effects can start as quickly as 15 minutes after taking it and can last up to six hours.
  • GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) – a precursor to GHB that can be faster and more potent.
  • Ketamine – often nicknamed “Special K.” It can be used for anesthesia and is being tested in small doses as treatment for depression. It comes as a clear liquid or off-white powder, and it is usually injected although can be used orally. Its effects can start within 30 minutes and usually last up to two hours.

If you are in a social situation with drugs, alcohol, or with someone you recently met, ask your friends to look out for you. Avoid drinking from “punchbowls” or containers that can be easily “spiked,” keep an eye on your own drink, and seek help if you feel like you feel like the effects are stronger than usual or you’ve been given more than you intended to have.

Most date rape drugs don’t look or smell like anything, but you shouldn’t drink anything that looks or smells strange or accept any drinks from other people — especially those you don’t know.

It can be extremely difficult to catch someone trying to drug you, so know it’s not your fault if it happens to you.

Even if you willingly drank alcohol or took drugs, you cannot consent to sexual intercourse when under the influence, and no one has the right to take advantage of you in that state.


What do I do if I’ve been date raped?


First, we recommend taking a deep breath. You are not alone and there are people who care about you and want to help.

There are many options available to you and you can always change your mind. You are in control of your narrative and what happens next.


You can:

  • Call a hotline - There are national hotlines like RAINN or local ones available that will answer any questions you may have. You can read our complete guide to calling a sexual assault hotline to better understand the process and your options.
  • Go to the hospital - It is your choice whether you go to the hospital after this experience. They will likely ask if you want a sexual assault forensic exam (also known as a rape kit) performed. Read this guide to learning more about the rape kit process.
  • Call 911 - If you are in immediate need of assistance, feel like you are in danger, or need help getting to the hospital, you can dial 911.
  • Focus on healing - You can also choose to do focus on healing from the experience. You know what is best for you.


If you do want to report, avoid cleaning up (showering, douching, brushing your teeth or hair, washing your hands, changing your clothes), eating, drinking, or using the restroom.

Emergency Rooms can administer a Sexual Assault Forensics Exam (or a rape kit) and collect evidence of the assault from your body, clothes, and other personal belongings. All Sexual Assault Forensic Exams should be free of cost.

Date rape drugs can leave your body or break down very quickly, so make sure to get a Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault Kit as soon as you think you may have been drugged – usually, you will be given the option for this and the rape kit if you seek help within 72-96 hours of the assault. They will take urine and blood samples to test for date rape drugs. These kits can be stored for up to 20 years if you are unsure if you want to report the rape.

You can also look at talking to a sexual assault lawyer who can also help you understand your available options. Whether you experienced date rape yesterday or ten years ago, you still have access to help and resources.


Resources


Hotlines are available 24/7 by phone, chat, or sometimes event text.

National Sexual Assault Hotline by RAINN: (800) 656-HOPE (4673), 24/7 or chat online

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text 1-800.787.3224 www.thehotline.org

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