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What is date rape?

If someone has sex with you when you don't want to, it is rape


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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If you're forced into any sort of unwanted sexual contact this is sexual abuse. Abuse has nothing to do with love. It’s about aggression and power, the power of one person over another.

Anybody regardless of age and/or gender can be sexually abused.

Date rape is a form of sexual violence. If someone has sex with you when you don’t want to it is rape.

What is date rape?

  • A date rape is a rape by someone who is not a complete stranger to you that you’ve had a romantic or sexual interest in.
  • It can happen on a first date or with someone you have had a couple of dates with.
  • It could happen at something like a party with someone that you know, you like, or you are just interested in.
  • Nobody should ever force you to have sex, under any circumstances.

Consent in sexual relationships

Unless your partner is 100% sure that you consent to having sex with them, they should not have sex with you. Likewise, they should stop if at any point you decide you don't want to go further.

  • It doesn't matter if you had sex with them before - that doesn't mean you consent to having sex now.
  • It doesn't matter if you are naked or doing everything apart from sex. If you don't want to go further nobody should try to force you.
  • It's still rape even if they try to tell you later “I couldn't stop”, “I thought you wanted to” or “I didn't mean to hurt you”. It's not your fault and they shouldn't try to put the blame on you or say you asked for it.
  • If you didn’t want to have sex but gave in or went along with it because you thought you had no other choice due to pressure or fear, this is rape.
  • If you felt pressured to say yes this does not necessarily mean you consented. Learn more about consent here.

If you didn't have sex but the other person forced you to go further than you wanted, this is sexual assault. If you were touched or made do something sexual that you didn't want, you may feel confused, upset, shocked, distressed or you could feel calm and detached. Just remember that people react in different ways to being raped or sexually assault. There is no such thing as a ‘typical reaction’.

What to do if you've been raped or sexually assaulted by someone you are in a relationship with

If you have been raped by someone you are seeing, don’t blame yourself. The rape was not your fault.​

  • It may be very confusing to deal with a situation where someone you trusted has done this to you. You may feel disloyal talking to anyone else about it.
  • Find someone you trust to talk to. You may want to ring a rape crisis centre or the domestic violence helpline in confidence to talk over your feelings, responses and concerns.
  • The fact that you are/were in a sexual relationship with the abuser does not mean this isn’t a crime.
  • There are Rape Crisis Centres throughout the country where you can speak to someone confidentially if you’ve been raped or abused. The centres give support to victims of rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment or child sexual abuse. They will listen, offer support  in any way they can, which can include going with you to the Gardai and/or to the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) for a forensic medical examination..
  • If you think you’ve been drug raped you should contact the guards or a rape crisis centre who will arrange to take you to a SATU so that the evidence can be collected.
  • Click here to find out more about reporting a sexual assault or rape.

The National 24 Hour Helpline 1800 77 88 88 is available to anyone who has experienced rape, sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse. The telephone counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, to listen, provide information or direct you to your nearest rape crisis centre where they can organise counselling if that’s what you want.

Your feelings after being raped or sexually assaulted

How you react to sexual abuse or rape is different for everyone and it can take time for you to deal with what happened. When someone you trusted intimately has done this to you that can be particularly difficult.

  • You might feel disbelief, numb, frightened, powerless, ashamed, disgusted with yourself or humiliated.
  • You might feel guilty and responsible for what happened or blame yourself for letting it happen, or you may feel angry with the person who did this to you
  • You might want to be alone and feel unable to tell anyone that you were sexually abused.
  • You might have nightmares or flashbacks about what happened and find it difficult to get involved with anyone else.
  • You might self harm or develop addictions to alcohol, drugs or food.

The effects will vary from person to person because everyone reacts differently to trauma and crisis and sometimes a person will not react in the way they themselves might have expected. Remember there are rape crisis centres throughout the country to listen and offer support.

Staff at a Rape Crisis Centre can help you find out what supports are available and decide what to do. The 24 Hour Helpline 1800 77 8888 offer a confidential, listening and support service for women and men who have been raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually abused at any time in their lives.

Click here for more on what to do after rape or sexual abuse.

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Published January 9th, 2013
Last updated May 21st, 2018
Tags date rape abuse sexual abuse
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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