The Truth about Date Rape

Ebony, September 1997 | Go to article overview

The Truth about Date Rape


The young woman was devastated. She had been reluctant to see her former boyfriend again, but he begged and pleaded with her to go out with him one last time and end their one-year relationship on a positive note. She finally gave in and consented, though she knew in her heart there was nothing he could say that would change her mind. After dating for a year, she realized they simply were not compatible. She felt he was possessive, insecure and jealous, even envious, of her relationship with her sisters. At times he had exhibited a foul temper, and, being a few months away from college graduation, she just wanted to clear the air and get on with her life.

As usual, he was a gentleman when he picked her up at the dorm, but rather than driving to a restaurant in a trendy of town, where he said he had reservations, he drove to a motel. When she turned to him in surprise, he insisted that he just wanted to talk in privacy "one last time." He grabbed her by the arm, forced her into the room, which had an outdoor entrance, and then she realized his true intentions.

For the next several hours, he tore her clothes off, beat her, tied her to the bed, raped her repeatedly, even put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger several times in a crude game of Russian roulette. She thought she would die; at times she wanted to. The next morning, when he finally untied her, he cried on her naked, bruised body and begged for forgiveness.

The student did not report the rape and did not talk to anyone about it for many, many years. She was even too ashamed to tell her father and sisters about the assault, afraid they would blame her, as she blamed herself After all, he was her former boyfriend, she had previously been intimate with him, and she willingly had gone out with him. It was her fault, she felt.

"I was stupid. I never should have gone out with him after I told him it was over," she says today. "What came out were personality traits that I saw under the surface, but I never imagined he could be so brutal."

This young woman is one of thousands of Black women who are raped each year by men they know and willingly go out with. Date rape is of growing concern. With all the talk and media coverage of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, the question that begs an answer is whether date rape truly is on the rise, or whether women are just reporting and talking about it more today than they were 10 years ago.

It's hard to say whether there is an increase in the number of cases or just more talk about date rape cases in the media," says Adrienne Mebane, a prosecutor with the Cook County States Attorney's Office in Chicago. "We know that these things happen. We have reasonable individuals who are relating a terrible experience. You can see that it really happened to them. No exaggeration."

She concurs with others that the bold truth is that date rape is a real problem in Black America and in society in general, and something must be done.

The real problem, law enforcement officials and women counselors say, is the conspiracy of silence that clouds and cloaks the issue. For every rape and date rape that is reported to police, thousands more are perpetrated each year. While the crime and the perpetrator must be dealt with, experts also emphasize that victims must take more responsibility for their personal safety and for reporting the crime, which in the long run can act as a deterrent to others.

Dr. Gail Wyatt, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, says a recent study she conducted on rape reflects the finding she found in a similar late-1980s survey: Black women are the least likely to report sexual assault. "Things have not changed for African-American women. They still feel uncomfortable about reporting these kinds of experiences. Among the reasons is they don't feel they will be believed."

In addition, explains Dr. Wyatt, most date rapes are perpetrated by a man the victim knows, whether that is a past boyfriend or someone they recently met and with whom they had hopes of establishing a relationship.

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