Skills for Youth
Reducing Your Risk of Date RapeUnfortunately, date and/or acquaintance rape is an all-too-common experience for today's young people. It is estimated that 54% of all sexual assault victims have been assaulted before age 18, and 75% of these sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim. (Tjaden, 1998) While rape cannot always be prevented, being aware of what date rape is and having strategies for preventing it can help reduce an adolescent's potential risk. Therefore, this month's student skill will teach male and female youth three steps for avoiding date rape.
- Step #1: Learn what date rape is.
- Step #2: Identify specific behaviors for reducing one's risk.
- Step #3: Practice identifying risky situations and develop possible strategies for avoiding them.
This information is followed by tips for processing the lesson.
Step #1: Learn what date rape is.Help youth define date rape using the definitions found in the Topic in Brief on sexual assault. To deepen their understanding, ask youth to brainstorm what they have heard about date and/or acquaintance rape. Write their responses on a flip chart or the blackboard. Review each of their statements and clarify whether it is a myth or fact. See Topic in Brief for a list of common myths and facts about sexual assault. If someone in the group makes a statement that you or the group is unsure about, have youth contact one of the resources listed in Topic in Brief to research the correct information.
Step #2 Identify specific behaviors for reducing one's risk.
Read the following scenario and ask youth to identify behaviors in the situation that could be warning signs that a date rape might occur. Assign half the group to listen for Monique's risk behaviors and half the group to listen for Sean's risk behaviors.
Monique and Sean's Story
On their third date, Monique and Sean had a great time at Mia's party. They laughed, they danced and even had a few beers. Monique felt sexy in her black halter top. She was also excited because her parents were not going to be home until very late, so she would have some time to be alone with Sean after the party.
When they got to Monique's house, they began kissing. Monique wanted to stop and talk about their relationship and how they felt about each other. "Sean," she said a little nervously, "Wait. Let's talk." Sean just continued to kiss her. Monique finally got up enough courage and said, "I really like you — more than anyone I have ever liked before, but ..."
Sean stopped for a minute and said, "I like you too." Then he started kissing Monique again and put his hand on her breast. Monique froze. They had talked before about Sean pushing her too fast. Monique had said she resented the pressure from Sean to do more sexually than she was ready for. She liked Sean and liked kissing him but, didn't like what was happening now. Finally she said, "No, please, Sean stop!"
Sean said, "It's okay. If you really like me, you'll want to have sex as much as I do."
Monique could only repeat, "Please, please don't." Sean felt that Monique was just resisting because she was supposed to keep her "good girl image." Sean and Monique had sex. Sean thought they had a good time. Monique felt like she was raped and didn't know what to do.
Ask the youth to identify the behaviors or warning signs that indicated there might be trouble or a misunderstanding about what Monique and Sean wanted from the evening. Write their ideas on the board or a flip chart. Summarize the discussion by reviewing the following guidelines:
Prevention Behaviors for Young Women:
- Know Your Sexual Limits. Don't wait until the "heat of the moment" to think through how far you do and do not want to go with your partner.
- Be Assertive. State your limits clearly. Use words like STOP!, NO! and repeat if necessary. Move physically away from the person if possible. If necessary, walk away or get out of the situation.
- Be Aware of Non-verbal Cues. Know that if you dress sexy and flirt, some men may think you want to have sex. This doesn't mean your dress or actions are wrong, but know that they may create misunderstanding.
- Pay Attention to Your Surroundings. Trust your intuition. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is. Get out of the situation as soon as you can.
- Avoid Excessive Use of Alcohol and Drugs. Alcohol and drugs cloud your judgment and make you unaware of what may be happening around you.
Prevention Behaviors for Young Men:
- Know Your Sexual Limits and Communicate Them. Be aware of sexual pressures to "score." It's okay to say no or to wait to have sex.
- Being Turned Down is Not a Personal Rejection. Being turned down for sex doesn't mean your partner doesn't like you. It's much more a statement about her not feeling ready for sex at this time.
- Accept a Woman's Decision. "No" means just that —No. Don't continue sexual pressure if a woman says no.
- Don't Assume a Woman Wants to Have Sex. Even if she is wearing sexy clothing or has been flirting with you a lot, it doesn't mean she wants to have sex with you.
- Avoid Excessive Use of Alcohol and Drugs. Alcohol and drugs cloud your judgment and are never an excuse for aggressive behavior.
Step #3: Practice identifying risky situations and develop possible strategies for avoiding them.In small groups of 3 or 4, have youth review the following scenarios and identify the behaviors of both the male and female that might make the situation a risky one. If they get stuck, tell the youth to refer back to the prevention behaviors from Step #2.
Once groups have reviewed each situation, have them identify 1-2 ways to prevent the date rape. If time allows, have groups share their prevention strategies with the rest of the group.
Vanessa is at a party with several of her friends. There are a lot of cute guys there from a local college. She has had a few drinks and begins to flirt with Larry, one guy she finds very attractive. Larry gets her another drink, and they dance and talk with one another. She notices that Larry likes to tease people and act competitive with his friends. Larry offers to give Vanessa a ride home, and she agrees even though she has promised her parents she'll ride home with her friends. Larry doesn't take her right home immediately. Instead, he goes to a well-known "make out" spot. Vanessa is very uncomfortable and asks Larry to take her home. Larry starts to tease her saying, "What's the matter baby, are you scared? You've been flirting with me all night. I know you want it as bad as I do." Larry rapes Vanessa.
- Vanessa and Larry have been drinking.
- Vanessa can't control her surroundings once she accepts a ride from Larry.
- Larry ignores Vanessa's wishes.
- Vanessa ignores a promise she made to her parents.
Possible Prevention Behaviors:
- Vanessa and Larry could decide not to drink any alcohol.
- Vanessa could keep her promise to her parents and go home with her friends.
- Larry could respect Vanessa's refusal not to have sex.
Mitch and Kim have been going out for six months. Two months ago, they had sex a couple of times. Kim never felt right about it. She told Mitch she really liked him and wanted to continue going out but didn't want to have sex any more because she was scared she'd get pregnant and that her parents would find out. Mitch really liked Kim and said okay, but he really believed that if he just pressured her a little, she would have sex with him again. One night, after a ball game, they go back to his house for pizza. Mitch's parents are out for the evening, and Mitch sees his chance. He starts kissing Kim and trying to undress her. Kim says, "No, I don't want to do this." Mitch says, "What's the big deal? We did it before. My friends will think I'm a sissy if I let you say no." Mitch has sex with Kim. Kim feels raped.
- Kim can't control her surroundings at Mitch's house with his parents gone.
- Kim doesn't communicate her limits assertively.
- Mitch takes the rejection personally and worries about what his friends will think.
- Mitch doesn't accept Kim's refusal.
Possible Prevention Behaviors:
- Mitch and Kim could go to a pizza parlor after the ball game instead of to Mitch's home alone.
- Kim could be assertive when setting her limits by saying, "I know we had sex before, but I've told you I'm not ready to take that kind of risk right now."
- Mitch could respect Kim's decision.
Tips for Processing the Lesson
- Be sure to emphasize that rape is never the victims' fault even if they miss warning signs or take risks that put them in a situation in which they are raped. No one has the right to force sex on another person under any circumstances.
- As a result of teaching this skill, a student might tell you she or he has been a victim of date rape. To prepare for such a disclosure, be sure to review the Guidelines for Handling Disclosures in the Educator Skill section of this website.
- Know your local sexual assault prevention and treatment resources in case issues come up that you don't feel prepared to deal with.
- When discussing date rape, it is easy to make the male the "bad guy." Balance the discussion by pointing out the social pressures that guys feel to "score" or "be a man." While these pressures don't make date rape acceptable, they help both males and females understand some of the dynamics that lead to date rape. In addition, point out that males can also be victims of sexual assault. See the statistics on sexual assault for more information.