A-Z Health Topics

Return to Index
by Woods M

Dating Safety: Reducing the Risk of Date Rape

IMAGE Thinking about your next date should conjure up warm images, not dangerous ones. Unfortunately, there are situations that may occur if you find yourself out with a friend.
Date rape, also called acquaintance rape, hidden rape, or drug-facilitated rape, can happen to both women and men. It involves being subjected to any unwanted sexual contact (intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, or other sexual contact) through the use of force or the threat of force. In this case, the victim knows the rapist, and the act often occurs on a date. So, how well do you really know the person you are going out with?
Date rape appears more common in the young. Nearly 20% of women and 15% of men who had experience with rape, physical harm, or stalking had their first experience with it between the ages of 11 and 17.
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of assault.

Common Traits of Date Rapists

It is important to remember that date rape can happen to anyone by anyone. Again, date rape is by someone you know. Here are some of the more common traits in people who have been charged with date rape. Remember that just because someone may have these traits, it does not make them a date rapist, nor should you let down your guard if they do not have them.
  • Youth (lack of experience with intimate relationships)
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Previous victim of sexual assault
  • Accepting gender-based stereotypes, such as men dominate women

The Role of Alcohol

More than half of date rapes involve drinking or drugs before the attack. Drinking can impair your judgement as well as the judgment of the person you are with. It can increase the risk of sexual assault because it creates a sense of false well-being. It can also allow someone a better chance of taking advantage of you, especially if you know each other. Just be aware of how much you are drinking and stay in control.
Excess alcohol:
  • Interferes with clear thinking
  • Interferes with ability to set limits
  • Blurs your sense of danger
  • Makes it harder or impossible to fight off an offender
  • Causes blackouts and gaps in your memory about what you did or what happened
Controlling your drinking is one way you can monitor your behavior. Know your limits when you drink.

Common Date Rape Drugs

Certain drugs have become known as date rape drugs. Most are colorless and odorless, making detection difficult. They are used to reduce your ability to control situations and create memory loss. Here is a list with some of their more common nicknames:
  • Rohypnol (roofies, forget pill, circles mind erasers). Some rohypnol is now colored. Some drinks may turn blue, but do not use that as a standard rule.
  • GHB (cherry meth, bedtime scoop, G, G-Juice, Gamma 10, Liquid E, Liquid Ecstacy). GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is marketed as Xyrem for the treatment of narcolepsy.
  • Ketamine (Special K) is an anesthetic that is used in humans and animals.
Besides knowing about risks of drugs and alcohol, there are some things you can do in any situation.

Protect Yourself

Not every situation is completely unavoidable. To help you stay safe:
  • Do not accept drinks from other people and do not accept opened drinks.
  • Do not leave your drink unattended.
  • If something does not seem right, do not drink it.
  • Be clear about your expectations.
  • If possible, go out with a buddy or a group of friends.
  • Do not be afraid to say no or ask for help.

How to Seek Help

If you are assaulted, or feel like you may have been assaulted, seek help right away. Keep in mind drugs you may have been given are meant to impair your memory, so it is possible to not know right away if something happened to you. If you have been assaulted or suspect an assault:
  • Get medical help right away. Call emergency medical services or have a friend take you to the emergency room, then contact the police.
  • Ask for a urine test to see if a drug is in your body.
  • Do not clean up where you think you were assaulted.
  • Do not wash your clothes or yourself.
  • Write down as much as you can remember about the person and your surroundings.
  • Call a rape crisis center or other agency that can help you.
Rape is a crime no matter who assaulted you. It is physically and emotionally damaging. Take time to learn about rape resources in your area. Ask your doctor about counseling or guidance through the criminal process.
Most did not expect a date rape because they were with someone they believed they could trust. The best defense is to keep a level head. Arm yourself with knowledge before you go out, learn about your surroundings, and protect yourself from harm.


National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network


Canada Safety Council
Health Canada


Date rape drugs fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/date-rape-drugs.html. Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed July 20, 2016.
Dating violence. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/types-of-violence/dating-violence.html. Updated September 30, 2015. Accessed July 20, 2015.
Fitzgerald N, Riley KJ. Drug-facilitated rape: Looking for the missing pieces. National Criminal Justice Reference Service website. Available at: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/jr000243c.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2016.
Date rape. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your%5Fmind/problems/date%5Frape.html. Updated April 2011. Updated October 2014. Accessed July 20, 2016.
Perspectives on acquaintance rape. American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress website. Available at: http://www.aaets.org/article13.htm. Accessed July 20, 2016.
Sexual violence and adolescents. National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women website. Available at: http://www.vawnet.org/summary.php?doc%5Fid=421&find%5Ftype=web%5Fdesc%5FAR. Accessed July 20, 2016.
Teen dating voilence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teen%5Fdating%5Fviolence.html. Updated May 25, 2016. Accessed July 20, 2016.

Revision Information