Myths about rape must be dispelled

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 1, 2009

Violence, including rape, stalking and battering is also on the rise on college campuses and among young women in general. One form of violence especially prevalent among young women is as misunderstood as it is common.

Reports that over 50 percent of rapes are assaults by men who know their victims. This includes any case that involves previous, nonviolent interaction between the people involved, so it includes rapes by acquaintances, co-workers and others, as well as a high number of these assaults happen between dating couples.

There are two factors that make it difficult to stop this form of abuse. First, many people think it is less traumatic or serious than rape by a stranger; that it is not “real rape.”

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In fact, it may be more damaging to a woman’s long-term psychological health to be treated brutally and violated in the most intimate way possible by someone she knows and trusts.

Studies show that these women often suffer guilty, self-blame and social isolation and doubt their ability to determine who can be trusted.

Second, when a woman is raped by a stranger, the main issue in the criminal prosecution is the identity of the rapist — the assumption being of course she was raped — but is the accused the one who did it?

A woman raped by someone she knows must face additional questions regarding whether she was raped at all.

The most common defense for this type of rape is that it was consensual.

If sexual assault between dating couples is to be treated as the serious crime that it is, certain myths about rape — particularly rape by husbands or boyfriends — must be shattered.

Everyone must learn what rape is and what it is not. Rape is not sex. The goal of rape is not an expression of love, desire or affection.

Rape is an act of violence. It is about control, degradation, hatred, humiliation and terror.

Men do not rape because they cannot find a willing sex partner. They rape a woman to hurt and degrade her. Some men complain that charges of date rate are “unfair” because many women play games, say no when they mean yes because they think a struggle adds to the excitement, or “nice girls” can’t just consent and they have to be persuaded.

No means no.

Carolene Britt is a counselor at Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex’s Alcohol and Drug Office. She can be reached at 601-446-6634 or at 200 S. Wall St., Natchez.