Sexual abuse of teenagers and young women is perpetrated not only by adults but also by dates, peers and acquaintances. Familiarity creates the illusion of safety and breeds anticipation of mutuality and respect. Regretfully, these assumptions are sometimes erroneous and may lead to devastating traumatic outcomes. Teenagers and young women must know the potential risks and learn how to secure their safety.
Part of our human maturation is organized around social interactions with peers. Most youngsters are enthusiastic about meeting new friends, pursuing shared activities and are flattered by being paired with a peer, friend or acquaintance.
Dr. Diann Ackard’s research of 83,731 students in the 6th, 9th, and 12th grades in Minnesota found that “Four percent of students reported sexual abuse by a non-family member, 1.3% by a family member, and 1.4% by both.”
Dr. Ackard’s 1998 Minnesota Student Survey of 9th and 12th grade students in public high schools revealed that older girls were especially prone to predatory sexual practices, with 11.5 percent of high school seniors reporting date violence and/or rape, compared with 6.7 percent of 9th grade girls. Both the 9th and 12th grade boys reported sexual abuse at a rate of 6 percent, though the nature of boys’ sexual abuse was not specified.
Many girls erroneously believe that a forcible sexual encounter may be the result of exuberant passion, love or excessive sexual urges rather than acts of aggression, violence and abuse. They are often unsure about NOT being responsible for provoking sexual abuse and are confused about their possible culpability by being friendly, pretty, seductively attired or any other accusations that may have been levied against them. Rebuffed sex is rape!
Girls’ need to please boys for popularity and connection and some young women’s clinging to romantic hopes may infringe upon their judgment, intuition or courage in resisting unwanted sexual advances.
Friendship also may cloud suspicions. A recent National Crime Victimization survey found that from 80% to 95% of college campus rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.
In Robin Warshaw’s book, “I Never Called It Rape”, the author offers clues females may use to identify sexual abusers. Pre-warning abusers’ behaviors include: belittling comments, ignoring, sulking, dictating friends or style of dress, projecting an overt air of superiority, acting as if one knows another much better than one knows herself, deriving pleasure from physically startling or scaring another, speaking derisively about women or previous girlfriends, being prone to extreme anger when frustrated, and encouraging behaviors that could limit resistance such as drinking or going to private or isolated places.
Assess others and prepare yourself to secure your safety.
To prevent date rape:
¨ Teach your daughter that love and caring are tender and unwanted physical contact is abusive.
¨ Understand that controlling behavior may be a pre-cursor to victimization.
¨ Refuse alcohol, drugs, secluded locations or any activity that feels uncomfortable to you.
¨ Practice saying ‘NO” firmly, which meets the legal definition of resisting unwanted contact.