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Is Date Rape the Victim's Fault?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Jan 28, 2024
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Women who are victimized by date rape, or rape by a total stranger often blame themselves for the attack. One commonly hears statements like, “I shouldn’t have been drunk,” “I should have gone home with a friend,” I shouldn’t have worn that miniskirt.” Public perception and criticism of women who have experienced date rape when they are intoxicated, or when they flirted with a guy, or stayed with an abusive boyfriend exacerbates feelings of guilt over the rape. High profile media cases can add to guilt and shame as the public and the media may attack the victim for behavior that they believe may have risked rape.

However, date rape is not a punishment for risky behavior, or a consequence of it. It is a willful act of violence perpetrated upon a person who has declined sex or was unable to give consent due to incapacitation. What happened before the rape does not make it permissible for a person to force sexual intercourse upon another person.

Still most women who experience date rape blame themselves feel shame that they have been raped and try to rethink their actions. Guilt in one sense deflects other more intense feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, and despair related to experiencing trauma. Further, guilt may provide a person with a sense that the rape occurred because the person did not adequately control the situation. This illusion of control can give one the feeling that better control in the future would prevent random violent events from occurring.

Many who experience a traumatic event like this are liable to feel out of control. Blaming oneself suggests that control would have been possible. This is not true. No one really has control over someone who would perpetrate such a crime. The feeling of constant danger can have a detrimental impact on the victim-it shatters the illusion that bad things happen to others, but that one will somehow remain safe.

It helps to remember that date rape is never the victim’s fault. While there are situations a victim may be in that puts them at risk, these decisions do not influence a rapist. A rapist is going to rape regardless of the signals one sends or the actions one should or should not have performed.

That being said, the best way to help with feelings of guilt, which can be pervasive and last for many months or even years, is to get help. Private counseling, group therapy, and the many sexual assault hotlines available can help one learn not to place blame on oneself. Especially in group settings, it can be very therapeutic to know that many others are fighting the same battle against blaming themselves.

It is true that riskier behavior may put one in more vulnerable situations. To feel safer, many women feel comforted by pursuing self-defense courses, and by learning more about date rape and the circumstances under which it is most likely to occur. Many college campuses also offer advice on how to avoid risky situations as well as react to a potential attack. Deciding to press charges against a rapist may also enhance feelings of safety, and assign blame where it belongs, on the rapist.

Strong feelings about a date rape can recur for months and years after the attack, so having a good support network is one of the best aids for getting through this trauma. To start, those in the US can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. If you would prefer to talk in person with someone, one can also speak with a helpful member of the clergy, a trusted teacher, a school counselor or the local police department. All of these resources can give you assistance in finding the support you need to cope with feelings of guilt, and the other emotional pitfalls that occur after experiencing violent trauma.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon101256 — On Aug 02, 2010

Three years ago I became pregnant while my dad was dying of cancer in Baptist Hospital. I never left my dad's side. I lived in the hospital for two weeks, literally. The only two times I left were with my current new date and for two hours each time. We were dating for few months and active. I had never been with anyone else but him. I am not a cheater. Especially since it was a new relationship.

I was in love and my dad was dying. One was more than enough. One month before my daughter turned one year old my husband's "sister" decided to push him to do a DNA test and two of them came back he had 0 probability of being the biological father. We are in love and he loves our kids with a passion. I feel helpless. Please help.

I was hospitalized in Emergency one night before my dad was discharged who within weeks passed away. I am 31 years old. I was given Dilaudid which is stronger than morphine. Could I have been raped by someone in hospital? Please help me.

By anon52864 — On Nov 17, 2009

Please tell your wife that only time will heal her. I too, was raped over 20 years ago and never spoke about it. I was drugged and helpless. I held it inside until just yesterday. Do not give up on your wife as she will struggle with trust issues. Always be there for her, always.

By anon52461 — On Nov 14, 2009

my wife was just gang raped and she was drugged and has only flashbacks of what she believes might have happened. she can't tell what was real and what is in her head. she can't sleep and believes it was her fault. is there anything she and i can read that would help her understand it's not her fault and are others out there that also had this happen to them? please I'm looking for any help i can get. she will not go talk to anyone. she feels less-than. please help a hurting husband help his wife through this nightmare.

By smileswild — On Jul 06, 2009

I do believe you are right a date rape is never the victems fault for no one wants to be a rape victim or wants to be raped

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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