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Date rape: Familiar strangers

Muehlenhard, C.L. & Linton, M.A. (1987). "Date rape: Familiar strangers." Journal of Counseling Psychology, 34, 186-196.

OVERVIEW

How important is date rape? How widespread is it? Of what should a young woman most beware in dating? What factors make date rape more likely? What is your response to and what do you think should be done about violence and sexual aggression in dating?

DESIGN

Six hundred men and women college students were interviewed about their most recent dates, their dating history, and their worst experience of "sexual aggression" from forced kissing to intercourse.

FINDINGS

The statistics are compelling:

  • "More than three-quarters of women and more than half of men admitted to having an experience with sexual aggression on a date, either in high school or in college."
  • "15% of the women and 7% of the men said they had had intercourse against the woman’s will."

What factors make date rape more likely?

  • When the man initiates the date, provides transportation, and pays for the date.
  • When both parties get drunk, park, or return to the man’s room.
  • Those who say they hold traditional values and are more accepting of violence.
  • Those who have known each other almost a year.

CONCLUSIONS

Dr. Muehlenhard offers two suggestions:

  • "If women were more aware [that date rape takes place most often between those who know each other for some time], they might be less surprised and more prepared to deal with sexual aggression by someone they know well."
  • "Communication is often a big problem on dates during which there is sexual aggression...a woman saying ‘I don’t want to do anything more than kiss,’ might clear up confusion better than simply saying, ‘No.’ "

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Date rape may not be as vicious and senseless as the rape of a complete stranger. But it can leave long-lasting scars, and it is a crime—although difficult to prosecute.
  2. Society needs at least enough education and discussion of this matter to support victims and guilt perpetrators.
  3. Those who work with high school and college students neglect an important responsibility when they do not encourage young people to consider the widespread violence and sexual aggression in dating.

Dean Borgman cCYS