Skip Navigation

Main sections

Skip section navigation (navigation may have changed)

Section navigation

girlshealth.gov logo

http://www.girlshealth.gov/

What is rape and date rape?

Get help 

National Sexual Assault Hotline 

800-656-4673 

The hotline is free, private, and available 24 hours a day.

Rape is sex you don’t agree to, including forcing a body part or object into your vagina, rectum (bottom), or mouth. Date rape is when you are raped by someone you know, like a boyfriend. Both are crimes. Rape is not about sex — it is an act of power by the rapist and it is always wrong.

Date rape drugs, which often have no smell or taste, can be given to you without you knowing at parties or in a club — especially where alcohol is served. Alcohol can make you less aware of danger and make you less able to think clearly and resist sexual assault. If you are given date rape drugs, you may not be able to say "no" to unwanted sex and you may not be able to clearly remember what happened.

Remember: even if you were drinking, it is NOT your fault.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault and abuse is any kind of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including:

  • inappropriate touching
  • vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • sex that you say ‘no’ to
  • rape
  • attempted rape
  • child molestation

Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Examples of this are voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public), incest (sexual contact between family members), and sexual harassment. It can happen in different situations, by a stranger in an isolated place, on a date, or in the home by someone you know.

What should I know about date rape drugs? arrow top

Date rape drugs are most commonly used to sexually assault a person. The drugs often have no color, smell, or taste and are easily added to drinks without the victim’s knowledge. These drugs usually cause a person to become helpless — they can hardly move and are not able to protect themselves from being hurt. People who have been given date rape drugs say they felt paralyzed or couldn’t see well, and had black-outs, problems talking, confusion, and dizziness. Date rape drugs can even cause death.

It’s hard to know whether a party, club, or concert you plan to go to will be dangerous. Drugs may not be at every party you go to, but you should still have a plan for keeping yourself and your friends safe no matter what.

  • Say "NO" to alcohol. Have water or soda instead.
  • Open your own drinks.
  • Don’t let other people hand you drinks.
  • Keep your drink with you at all times, even when you go to the bathroom.
  • Don’t share drinks.
  • Don’t drink from punch bowls or other large, common, open containers. They may already have drugs in them.
  • Don’t drink anything that tastes, looks, or smells strange. Sometimes, GHB tastes salty.
  • Always go to a party, club, or concert with someone you trust, such as a friend or an older brother or sister.
  • Stay away from "party drugs." They can be pills, liquids, or powders. These drugs can also leave you disoriented and vulnerable.
top green border

If you think that you or someone you know has been raped:

  • Don’t blame yourself. The rape was not your fault.
  • Talk to an adult and go to the police station or hospital right away! If you don't have an adult to talk to first, just go to the police station or hospital.
  • Don’t urinate (pee) before getting help. Get a urine test as soon as possible. A urine test can tell if someone gave you a date rape drug. But these drugs can leave your system in as little as 12 hours.
  • Don’t douche, bathe, or change clothes before getting help. Doing these things can remove possible evidence of the rape, such as semen (fluid from a man) or hair belonging to the person who assaulted you.
  • Get medical care right away. Tell the doctor or nurse if you think you were drugged. He or she will give you a urine test right away because date rape drugs leave your body quickly. You will also get a medical exam to make sure you don’t have other injuries. The doctor or nurse will test you for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS, and offer you emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. If the doctor or nurse does not mention testing for STDs or emergency contraception, ask for them.
  • Get emotional support. You may feel terribly shocked, afraid, or even emotionally numb. Whatever you are feeling, talk to people who care about you. Get help from a mental health professional. The hospital usually can put you in touch with a counselor or support group. You can also talk with a hotline counselor. (See below.) Read more about handling your feelings.
  • Talk to your parents or guardians. A counselor can help you talk with your parents or guardians. They may be upset, but that's just because they care about you.
bottom green border

Who can I call for help? arrow top

Girl on the phone.There are free hotlines that you can call 24 hours a day to get help if you have been sexually assaulted or if you need advice on how to leave an unhealthy relationship.

You can also find local resources, including women's shelters or other services, through your local phone book, a religious center, your school counselor or nurse, or a doctor's office.

What about self-defense?

Stranger rape and date rape are never the victim’s fault. But there may be some things you can do to protect yourself.

  • Stay Calm and think. If someone surprises you with an attack, don’t focus on fighting back. Focus on getting away. If you stay aware of your surroundings, you may be able to get away before something even happens. For example, say you are jogging and have a feeling that someone is watching you. Don’t ignore your instincts! Immediately leave the area and move toward people.
  • Make some noise — a lot of it! If someone approaches you and you feel uncomfortable, don’t stay silent. Shout “No!” or “Get Away!” You could also shout “Help me!” or even “Fire!” Use your voice even if you don’t think other people will hear you — it may startle an attacker long enough for you to run or drive away.     
  • Carry a cell phone, if possible. Make sure it’s programmed with your parents’ phone number, and don’t be afraid to call 9-1-1 if you feel threatened. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t be afraid to shout “I’ve already called the police!” if someone is approaching you.

Sometimes girls worry about being “nice” or don’t want to draw attention to themselves. Some girls may fear making a big deal out of nothing, even if their gut tells them to worry. But the most important thing is for you to be safe. Don’t worry about what other people think. Do whatever it takes to stay safe!

What are some other things I can do to stay safe?

What are some ways to practice self-defense?

 

Content last reviewed September 22, 2009
Page last updated March 25, 2015

top