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General Characteristics of Rape

The potential for stranger rape is a problem on college campuses. The concentration of buildings, parking lots and people create characteristics similar to the downtown area of a small- to medium-size city. Many students (and staff) ignore this potential because these conditions are counteracted by a false sense of security stemming from a familiarity with the surroundings and a long-standing belief that college campuses are sanctuaries untouched by the social problems present in the rest of society. Everyone should practice protective behaviors such as not walking alone, parking in well lighted areas, not propping doors open, etc.

Acquaintance Rape

Though most go unreported, acquaintance rapes are much more common on college campuses. The most common element in most (but not all) acquaintance rape is excessive alcohol consumption by the victim or the assailant or both. Researchers have found that date rape is most likely to occur in the victim’s first year in college. While stranger rapes occur at all times, acquaintance rape clusters on weekends and generally on the assailant’s turf. The acquaintance rapist seldom uses lethal weapons but rather uses verbal threats and physical strength to intimidate and overpower the victim. Date rape is more likely to occur on the second or third date since social defenses are higher on the first date. There are few personality factors which predict vulnerability to acquaintance rape. Research has shown that less assertive women are more likely to be victimized.

Contributing Factors

Low self-esteem may also be a contributing factor in victimization. Factors which appear common in those who become date rapists include a tendency to be less responsible or concerned about the effect of their behavior on other people. They tend to have less regard for formal laws. They believe in an adversarial sexual system “women are manipulative and sneaky” and sex roles are competitive. “Men who rape have no experience of relationships based on sharing, reciprocity, mutuality or attentiveness to another person’s needs” (Keller, 1989).

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