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As date rape makes headlines, a look at rape's ugly picture
By Pat Andrews
posted Feb 4, 2014 - 12:50:06pm
Charges of rape against Deltona firefighter Terry Freeman are bringing attention to “date” or “acquaintance” rape, which has become such a prevalent crime that even the White House has focused on it.
The White House Council on Women and Girls issued a report in January called “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.”
Nearly one in five women, or almost 22 million nationwide, have been raped in their lifetime, according to the report.
Most of the victims know their attackers: 51 percent of female victims were raped by a current or former intimate partner, and 41 percent of female victims were raped by an acquaintance.
In Volusia County, 93 forcible rapes were reported in 2012, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) statistics. The number of rapes reported has declined from a high of 222 in 2002. These reports do not distinguish between date or acquaintance rape and other forms of rape.
Neither FDLE nor the federal government differentiate.
“Rape is rape,” said Victim Advocate Coordinator Jo Taubman at Rape Crisis Services. Her agency serves Volusia County with a hotline, counselors and other assistance for rape victims.
Rape Crisis Services is a program of the Children’s Advocacy Center.
Rape numbers may be going back up. Taubman said 10 rape kits — medical kits used by law enforcement to document the fact that a rape took place — were used in December, and the number will be higher for January.
But statistics don’t tell the whole story, because so few rapes are reported or prosecuted.
Taubman referenced the national Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which says 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police, and 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
Women don’t come forward, Taubman said, because they think nobody will believe them. This is especially true, she said, in cases of date rape, and especially if the rapist is a firefighter, a policeman or other person respected in the community.
Sometimes the victim has been raped before, and doesn’t think anyone will believe her a second time, or she just doesn’t want to deal with police and the legal system again.
Contrary to some perceptions, cases where a charge of rape has been fabricated by a woman seeking some kind of revenge are few and far between, and are usually spotted pretty quickly, Taubman said.
Taubman urged all rape victims to call the Rape Crisis Services hotline at 800-940-7273. When a woman says, “No,” it’s rape, even when it’s her husband, Taubman said.
The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Taubman added, allowing women to come forward and get services, including tests and medications they may need, right away.
On the other end of the line will be someone who says, “I believe you,” she said.
Evidence is collected via the rape kit, which can be stored for 90 days, while the victim decides what she or he wants to do. The victim is assigned a confidential advocate, free of charge, who will be beside her or him every step of the way, whether or not the victim presses charges.
Victims should call, even if it’s 20 years after the rape, Taubman said. Sometimes the effects of the trauma surface years later.
“There are a lot of pieces to pick up,” she said.
When the assailant is a family member or someone the victim trusted, the emotional trauma can be even worse, and family dynamics can come into play.
Family members may be unwilling to believe the rape really happened, or may hold the victim to blame. That’s why Rape Crisis Services counselors prefer to include the family in counseling, whenever possible.
Rape Crisis Services will even help the victim relocate in cases where the assailant lives nearby and the victim continues to feel afraid.
The White House Council paper states that sexual assault is rampant in our culture because it is allowed to persist. To put an end to this violence, it must be seen for what it is: a crime.
According to the paper, rape is “Not a misunderstanding, not a private matter, not anyone’s right or any woman’s fault.”
Date rape is particularly prevalent among young adults and college students.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Piccinini of the FDLE Orlando Office, which covers Central Florida, said there are precautions victims, who are mostly female, can take to avoid being raped.
In many instances, a woman goes out with a man on a first date. She doesn’t really know him. The victim is often offered alcohol, which decreases her abilities to make good decisions and protect herself. Alcohol can be adulterated with Flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol or “roofies,” which is used as a hypnotic or sedative. It can also cause amnesia, leaving the victim to wake up much later with no clear recollection of what happened.
Piccinini encouraged women on a first date to drink little, and to pour or get their own drinks.
“Be sure to follow your instincts,” he said. If a woman feels uneasy about a date, say so right away, and don’t let the date progress — get out of the situation immediately.
On a blind date, take along a friend, or let someone know where you will be.
Do not go to isolated places. Meet in public, and have your own transportation, Piccinini said. Take some money and a cellphone with you so you can leave any time you want.
Going out with someone whose friends you know is helpful. You can check out the date — get references, so to speak — beforehand.
Be upfront about how far you are willing to go, or not. If the date makes bad jokes about sex or women, don’t hesitate to object. Sometimes women, conditioned to be pleasant, are not emphatic enough about stating their desires — or lack of desire.
Carrying pepper spray or a loud noisemaker can be a form of self-defense, and taking a self-defense class may be a good idea, Piccininni said.
Taubman said on college campuses, date rape often happens at parties where large quantities of alcohol are involved, and perhaps roofies, too. The victim can wake up in the middle of the lawn in pain the next morning, and not even know who raped her.
“It’s pain on top of pain,” Taubman said.
“Be aware of your surroundings, and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said.
Call the Rape Crisis Services hotline at 800-940-7273, which is open 24 hours a day, or call Taubman directly at 386-238-2002. Visit the website at www.rapecrisisinterventioncenter.com.
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