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Blog Published By Kenneth Padowitz, P.A.

Date Rape: What It Is, the Law and the Consequences

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Date Rape

The difference between ‘date rape’ and standard ‘rape’ in the legal context is restricted to the legal meaning of the terms. Thus, they carry the same serious consequences. ‘Date rape’ is a specific form of rape where the victim knows the rapist, as opposed to the average idea that the perpetrator is a stranger to the victim.

History

The legal definition of rape has evolved over the years. According to common law, rape refers to the crime of having sexual intercourse without the consent of one of the participants. In time past, a required element of date rape is illegal | Kenneth Padowitz | Lawyerthe definition of rape was physical force or threats of force. Currently, many states have eliminated this condition as a mandatory element of rape. The improved definition stipulates that rape occur when the perpetrator goes ahead to engage in sexual intercourse after the victim:

  • Says “no”
  • Refuses to give consent
  • Is unable to consent due to physical or mental constraints that results from either being
    • Physically disabled; or
    • Under the influence of alcohol or drugs

However, under common law, if the victim was the spouse of the offender, then the law exempted the offender from being charged with rape. The reasoning behind this exception was the archaic viewpoint that women were the property of their husbands, and as such, the every act that was sexual intercourse with one’s spouse was consensual. Today, clauses in rape laws to account for when the perpetrator is the spouse of the victim still exist in the rape laws of some states. However, the rape laws of most states have done away with such distinctions.

The Prevalence and Characteristics of Date Rape

To the average person, the perpetrators of rape are mainly strangers, and only a few percent of rape cases involve a rapist who knows the victim. The stats speak in a different voice. Statistics show that around 50% to as much as 80% of all rape cases are date rapes. The perpetrators of date rape fall into a vast number of categories. The offender may simply be a friend, a relative, a coworker, or some other acquaintance. Furthermore, the “date rape” label also applies to cases where the perpetrator believed that the potential of a romantic relationship existed, even though it never materialized.

Disabling Drugs

Around the end of the 20th century, a trend developed. Repeatedly, victims reported rape cases where their rapist used disabling drugs to impair them. The drugs include GHB, ketamine, and rophenol. The common tactic was for the rapist to smear the victim’s drink with the drugs while the victim was not looking. The usual symptoms were weakness, confusion, passing out, and short-term memory loss. Intake of some date rape drugs can lead to death, especially when taken in combination with alcohol. The authorities responded swiftly by enacting laws that targeted this act directly. The penalties were stiffer and charges were more serious in nature. In addition, a rapist who used disabling drugs on his or her victim may also stand for drug-related crimes.

Consent

In spite of the advances in generalizing the definition of rape as well as making punishments stiffer, hurdles remain, especially in disproving the position of a defendant that the victim wanted to engage in sexual intercourse. The expectations of women to resist a man’s sexual advances and that of men to be more sexually aggressive while pressing for romance still hold sway in the minds of majority of the population. These archaic expectations complemented by gender biases plague prosecutors, juries, and judges. For example, difficulty in proving the victim’s assertion that he or she was uninterested in sex would occur if the victim willingly invited the perpetrator in, or went out with the perpetrator, or admits to engaging in some form of sexual act. Even more confounding for the juries would be if the victim had previously consented to sex with the offender. This is despite the interpretation by the law that previous consent to a sexual act does not override the need for consent for every future sexual act.

Legal Help

Affected parties in a date rape case would need to contact a lawyer to have full knowledge of their rights and options at their disposal. For individuals on the receiving end of a date rape charge, serious consequences lie in the horizon. They include fines, jail time, and entering the sex offender blacklist. For victims, you have the opportunity to prosecute the offender and/or pursue civil damages for sexual assault.