Have you ever heard of date rape? The answer is probably yes. And it’s just a guess but I’ll bet you heard about it in school, that’s where I heard about it. When it was taught, my teacher made it seem like date rape just happens when you are in a loud dance club with blue and green laser lights and fog. Then when you’re good and drunk, some sleazy, frat-boy lookin’ dude slips a roofie in your drink, next thing you know you’re waking up in a random bed, with no idea where you are. And you cry. So I heard that and said, “I’m a dude, that ain’t gonna happen. No frat boy is going to roofie me, and I’m not going to roofie anybody, especially a frat boy, at least not for sex”. So anyways, if I have gone through most of my life thinking that this is what date rape is, there are probably some of you out there who think the same thing. Am I about to shed some new light on the fairly misunderstood issue of date rape? Hopefully.

First off, the dictionary defines rape as, “the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.” For the most part I agree with this definition, all except for the word “lawful”. It really doesn’t matter that rape is illegal, if it were to become legal tomorrow; I really doubt that any of us would head out and take advantage of our new liberty. We don’t rape because we know it’s wrong. We would hurt somebody and we would feel terrible about it. Then you can throw the jail part in on top of that if you want but it’s kind of an after thought, at least for me. So what do you think of when you think of rape? I kind of imagine strangers sneaking into rooms, or popping out from corners in dark alleys. I know that rape can, and does happen differently, but that’s the imagery I put with the word.

So how does date rape differ from rape? It really doesn’t. Date rape is still rape, just a classification. So those kids dropping pills in drinks, or feeding girls alcohol until they can’t slur out a no, or looking for the drunkest girl in the room, are not “party guys,” they are rapists. They don’t have any game, they aren’t “good with the ladies”, they are criminals. The classification of date rape means that the victim and the attacker were acquainted, and it usually happens in social situations. An attacker is most likely a boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, friend, or a friend of a friend. Unfortunately many times with date rape, the victim doesn’t know, or recognize that they have been raped until after it has happened, and many times people end up blaming themselves for it. People can chalk it up to how drunk they were, what they were wearing, or if they were already hooking up with somebody and the other person took it too far. None of these mean that you were asking for it. If you didn’t want to have sex, and it happened anyways, that’s the end of it, you aren’t to blame.

I dated a girl in high school who was a victim of date rape. She told me what had happened to her but always said, “…but it was kind of my fault”. And at the time I just let it go. I knew that she got drunk really easily, and I knew she wasn’t the most conservative girl out there, so as bad as it sounds, the whole thing kind of just made sense. I thought maybe it was kind of her fault. I’m really embarrassed of that now, but honestly that’s how I thought. Looking back on it now, I really couldn’t have been more wrong. Seventeen year old me really deserves a fist in the face. By doing nothing I just became part of the problem. Action was required on my part and I did nothing. And by doing nothing I just affirmed her thinking that it was her fault, and that it isn’t a big deal. If I could go back as older, slightly less ignorant me, I would have at least told somebody who would take some sort of action. I would have told her dad, that dude would have been out for blood. My point is that when somebody comes and confides in you, and tells you that they are a victim of sexual abuse, you never walk away. If somebody is hurting because of sexual abuse, they will never get well by keeping it inside. A broken arm needs a cast, a deep cut needs stitches.

I have seen the effects of sexual abuse on too many people in my life. Three out of the six in my immediate family have been abused, some friends and ex-girlfriends. I’ve seen how difficult it can be for them to trust, how an unhealthy need for control is present. I have seen a damaged self-esteem lead to promiscuity, drug abuse and alcoholism. I think it is common to see date rape as a tame version of rape. I believe that because of its association with drugs, alcohol and the party scene that it is easy to dismiss because, “they were asking for it”. But rape, any kind of rape, literally ruins lives, if, of course, it is not dealt with. I firmly believe that every victim of abuse should talk to a counselor. The mind automatically wants to suppress traumatic experiences, which can seem like a good thing, but it will eventually take its toll on the mind and body if it is allowed.

My parents, who were each abused in their childhood, had learned how to live with their abuse for 45 or 50 years each. So the people I knew as parents were operating at less than full capacity like robots with glitches. In my teens, my mom was horrible to me and my brothers, (I hope you aren’t reading this Ma). It was only after she had gone through around four years of weekly counseling appointments, that we collectively realized that we used to hate our mom. She was controlling, over protective, and at times, straight up mean. We thought that it was just who she was, that was our mom and there was nothing that could be done about it. I don’t think she even knew that all of those things had their roots in her abuse, but we were literally able to watch a large portion of those things slowly fade away while she was getting help. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all a Cinderella story but my mom dealing with her abuse was the best thing that has ever happened to my family. The process is rough on everybody, my dad is going through it right now, and I can tell you it sucks, for all of us. But I have seen that there is hope, I can see improvement, and a truer happiness start to shine from his eyes.

I guess the light that I would like to shed on date rape is that it should be thought of without the word “date”. Because its rape. It steals life and ruins relationships. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, and nobody “deserves” to be raped. It should always be addressed, never dismissed. Like I said, a broken arm needs a cast. If it is left to heal on its own it won’t ever be what it was. If one does eventually want to get it back to normal, a doctor is probably going to have to re-break the arm, set it and put it in a cast. The same goes for a damaged spirit. Fix it before it sets in and your mind has to work its way around the hurt. Healing requires action. Lastly I want to say that I am deeply sorry, if you the reader have been sexually abused. It won’t translate in blog form but I absolutely hate that people can inflict such a deep injury on others. I hate that somebody can damage a soul with an action. I promise that whatever happened, it was not any fault of yours. Whoever did it to you is not right, and there is a very good chance that whatever they did has happened to them as well. But please, please tell somebody, and please ask for help. Bitterness brings death but forgiveness and reconciliation heals physically and mentally.