The purpose of this topical examination is to explore occurrences of acquaintance or date rape on college campuses and to connect instances of this crime to the use of alcohol by students. In addition to making this connection, related issues such as definitions of this crime and matters related to reporting will also be evaluated. Achieving some level of familiarity with the topic of acquaintance or date rape is important for all students at the college level since most crimes of this nature that occur take place within this each group. This particular subject was chosen because of its complexity in terms of when and how it occurs, how alcohol influences risk factors, and how reporting of the crime is managed, especially when the victim, the attacker, or both are under the influence.

Through focused exploration of the topic a viable plan of action can be composed; one that attempts to raise awareness about risk factors such as alcohol use as well as about the crime itself. While detailed safety and prevention information about more blatant instances of rape on campuses where the victim does not know the attacker is often available, there is a lack of general knowledge about acquaintance rape among the average college student population. With this in mind, the secondary purpose of this paper is to offer information that can be passed along to students who may not be familiar with some of the issues that will be addressed.

“Rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses today. Women ages 16 to 24 experience rape at a rate four times higher than the assault rate of all women, making the college years the most vulnerable for women" (Sharma 2007). With such an alarming difference in the ages at which women are most susceptible to becoming victims or acquaintance or date rape, one must give serious consideration to why this age group is so much more affected than others. While one can offer the assertion that the dramatically increased number of cases in this age range is due to the fact that it is during this time that many young people are most sexually active and that they are still determining what their attitudes toward sex are as they do not have as much life or, for that matter, sexual experiences as older persons, this does not appear to fully explain the statistics. In order to gain a more developed understanding of what is leading to the relatively high number of date and acquaintance rapes in this college age group, it is more useful to examine some of the behaviors of this age group as well as consider how date rape is conceived and even handled in terms of reporting and punishment. With this said, one must be careful when making these behavioral considerations as one does not wish to ever imply that someone “deserved" to be a victim because of engaging in behavior that puts at risk, most notably drinking alcohol, but rather the alcohol factor should be considered within the larger context of the problem of acquaintance or date rape in the college setting.

Throughout the literature available on the subject of date rape among college students, the use of alcohol is almost always mentioned, if not often the main focus. The reasons for this extended focus on the issue of alcohol are the statistics on acquaintance or date rape cases in which drinking is often present. According to one study, “In a general sample of victims and perpetrators of date rape, 73% of assailants and 55% of victims were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the attack" (Louiselle 2007). This study focused entirely on college students and although the exact situations in which the drinking occurred were not revealed (i.e. whether it was at a party, a bar, or elsewhere) one can assume it was in a social situation that probably involved some degree of mixed cues from either the victim or attacker at some point. . “One of the mechanisms by which alcohol use may contribute to elevated risk of sexual assault is through the impairment of a women’s ability to detect risky sexual cues, one of the first steps in taking preventative and protective action" (Louiselle 2007). It is important to note that the risky sexual cues can come from either the male or female in any given situation and because of the impaired judgment, mild flirtation that might have been an innocuous gesture during times either party has not been drinking can turn into a dangerous and escalating situation.

In addition to being a high risk factor, the consumption of alcohol by college students, especially in social or dating situations can also lead to confusion about the crime itself. More specifically, if the victim had been drinking before the attack occurred, it would be quite easy for her to blame herself and to choose not to report it, considering it to be a bad situation she placed herself in. Throughout much of the literature on acquaintance and date rape, it is clear that there are many blurred lines that exist in terms of the reporting of rape cases when the attacker was known by the victim. For instance, a “sample of 200 women at one college indicated that although 5% had been date raped, none reported the rapes to authorities due to feelings of self-blame and embarrassment. That rapes are not reported perpetuates a self-fulfilling prophecy that rapes do not occur" (Sharma 2007). This finding by Sharma touches on two very important points about this issue on college campuses. First of all, the fact that so many women blame themselves might have something to do with their consumption of alcohol and subsequent reduction of inhibitions that might have sent an unclear message to the attacker. While this might be based on conjecture since no available studies offered statistics on alcohol use, date rape and the reporting issue, it seems reasonable to suggest, given the high number of alcohol-involved date rape cases, that the involvement of alcohol might make the victim less likely to report and more likely to be a victim also of self-blame for the crime. An additional interesting point Sharma makes is that this lack of reporting of these crimes further contributes to the myth that date rapes are some kind of myth—that they are much-discussed crimes that do not occur. Certainly the only way to change this paradigm and “self-fulfilling prophecy" about acquaintance or date rape is to undergo a wide scale effort to increase awareness about how often this crime does take place and more importantly, that even if one was drinking at the time of the attack, it was a still a crime and still should be reported without self-blame or guilt.

These issues about the influence of alcohol use and the instances of as well reporting of acquaintance or date rape bring up another overarching about responsibility and this crime. In addition to discussing the role of alcohol and the way it is a risk factor because of the mixed cues, lessened inhibitions, and impaired judgment, it is also necessary to examine the underlying attitudes about acquaintance or date rape that influence the number of cases and the way they are viewed by the victims, attackers, and society in general. While it seems logical to posit the argument that the crime is wrong and should not occur, there are subtle but even dangerous differences in the ways men and women view the crime. According to one study of college students who were interviewed and questioned following a set of films and texts describing and depicting various date rape scenarios, men had a far higher tendency to blame the woman for what eventually happened to her. The findings of this study concluded that “although men tended to blame the victim of date rape more than women, both men and women tended to blame the victim of date rape more than the victim of stranger rape. Researchers speculated that this may be due to an inaccurate perception that both the perpetrator and victim shared responsibility for the event and its outcome" (McDonald 2004).