Writer | Ghostwriter

Quiet Reality of Rape

December 7, 2014

Tags: rape, acquaintance rape, campus rape

In the heat and noise surrounding a Rolling Stone article about a campus rape, and the publication’s later disavowal of certain details in the story, the reality of rape between people who know each other is once again being distorted and dismissed.

The article focused on an assault that fit the most sensational stereotype of college-based rape, involving multiple male assailants against a young female student in a rowdy fraternity or party setting. Yet, without doubt, most acquaintance rapes – on-campus and elsewhere, among people of all ages – happen in quieter, more private places.

These rapes occur between co-workers, neighbors, friends, classmates, dating partners and others, male and female. They get little media attention unless perpetrated by someone with local or national celebrity.

Years ago, I interviewed about 80 women who were raped by someone they knew. At the time of their rapes, they were young teens, college students or working women. The results of that reporting appeared in my book on acquaintance rape and date rape. Most of the women I interviewed were raped by only one man. Very few reported the rapes to police. Not one woman who reported to college authorities felt satisfied with the outcome of university proceedings.

A recent nationally representative survey from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that, for both women and men who were raped, only 15% or less of the rapists were strangers.

I understand why those who are raped by someone they know don’t want to tell their stories. In writing about acquaintance rape, I had to talk about being raped by an ex-boyfriend. Doing so caused me emotional and physical distress. To be honest, it sometimes still does.

So long as we continue to ignore that most rapes happen in quiet, personal and often unprovable circumstances, those who are raped will feel their rapes aren’t “good enough” to be believed. And, until the reality of acquaintance rape is recognized in our society, they will be right.