Laura L. Smith

Date Rape: What It Is and How to Help

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According to the U.S. Justice Department, one in four women will be raped before they graduate from college.

One in four.  Did it happen to me?  To you?  To your best friend?  Your worst enemy?  Your sister?  Your mother?  Your daughter?

I hear the statistic of one in four and think back to my college roommates.  I lived with three other girls.  Numbers say one of us was raped during the time we lived together.  I have two daughters.  Will they be safe?  Or will they become living, breathing statistics?

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Every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

I hear the frequency and look at the clock.  Every two minutes?  Who is it right now?  How about now?  And how can I help?  How can we stop this?  What does she or he need?

We need to understand what’s going on here.  We need to start talking about date rape, and not sliding on our sunnies as if nothing ever happened.

It did happen.

It is happening.

To you or someone you know, and love, and care about very much.

Ever try bringing up date rape at Starbucks?  A party?  At spin class?  If so, you’ve noticed people coughing, looking at their shoes, checking their phones, anything but looking you and the subject in the eye.  But there it is staring back at us—whether it’s a party with All-American football players on a college campus, or a girl sitting at the dinner table across from you, who you’d never suspect because she’s too afraid to tell anyone what happened.  Date rape does not discriminate.  It happens to girls and guys who put their trust in people who don’t know what the word 'no' means.

So what now?  How does the healing begin after this tragedy?  Where can a victim or their friends and family start?  What resources do they have?

'One questions what it is going to take to convince people that rape on campuses is serious when the siren has been on for 25 years,' said Mary Koss, a public health professor at the University of Arizona in an interview with the Huffington Post.  ‘However, the numbers suggest that the alarm is louder today.’

Yes, ladies.  Let’s keep that alarm sounding loudly.

1) Name It

Merriam Webster defines date rape as the crime of forcing someone you know to have sex with you, especially while on a date.

Easy enough.

To define anyway.

1. It’s a crime.  That means the person who did this is at fault.  It’s their fault.  Not your fault.  They broke the law.

2. They knew you.  I like the ‘especially on a date’ part, because even the dictionary knows we all define 'date' differently these days, so to avoid the semantics of was it a date or not, they just say 'especially,' meaning sometimes, but not always.  But the part that always holds true is it was someone you know.  And for the record, about half of all people who are raped know their attacker.  Scary, huh?

3. They forced you to have sex with them.  The definition doesn’t say they tied you up or that they had a gun.  It just says, 'forced.'  As in they made you do something sexually you didn’t want to do.

If you said, 'no' and someone had intercourse with you anyway, then you were raped.  Period.  It doesn’t matter what you wore or what you drank or how much you liked them or even if you loved them.

2) Communicate

If this happened to you, talk to someone you trust—a best friend, an aunt, a pastor, your mom.  Someone you know will listen, who will hold your hand, who will hold your heart.  If someone dear comes to you saying they were raped, listen to them.  Don’t judge.  Don’t ask what they did to try to stop it or why they were there.  It doesn’t matter.  A valuable person (that’s all of us) was violated, and they need support.

3) Get Help

This is too big an issue to tackle on our own, whether it happened to us or to someone we know.  Fortunately, there are amazing organizations out there who know how to help you.  RAINN, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.  Go to their website.  It’s packed with resources, research, and advice.  Cities throughout North America have local foundations set in place to help, like RVA (Rape Victim Advocates) in Chicago, the YWCA in Vancouver, and DARCC in Dallas, which all offer crisis intervention, medical and legal advocacy, and counseling services for anyone in need of support.  To find the center nearest you, click here.

If you said, 'no' and someone had intercourse with you anyway, then you were raped.  Period. 

4) Spread Awareness

Keeping quiet doesn’t solve problems.  So use your voice.  Follow RAINN on Twitter and retweet their posts.  Attend local events that support victims and educate the public, such as Chicago’s annual Soiree in the City or your local RAINN day events.

National RAINN day is on Thursday, September 15.  This has nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with raising awareness and fighting against sexual violence on college campuses, high schools, and in local communities.  Check out what RAINN day events are going on near you and see how you can pitch in.

Sexual assault is real and even though it frightens us and sickens us, it is affecting you and the ladies you care about.  But there is help—help for you, help for someone you love.

Name it.  Confide in someone.  Tap into great resources.  Then spread awareness.  Do this, and you can remind yourself and help others to get through this painful journey, and to remember their value, their worth, and who they were made to be.

 

Laura L. Smith writes real stories for real girls. She is the author of several popular fiction books, including the Status Updates series and the False Reflection series. As a mother, blogger and sought-out speaker, she emphasizes the importance of embracing true beauty and longs to help others discover their true reflections.

 

 

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