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Beware, date rape cases rising

THE UNDERWORLD
By | December 21st 2011

Grace Wangechi, the Executive Director of the Gender Violence Recovery Centre at Nairobi Women’s Hospital, spoke to NJOKI CHEGE on date rape What is date rape and how does it occur?

Date rape is a non-domestic rape committed by someone who knows the victim. It can occur between two people who know one another usually in social situations, between people who are dating and have had consensual sex before or between two people who are starting to date. It can also occur between mere friends or acquaintances. This is a crime that can happen anytime, anywhere and not just during the festive season.

What is the difference between date rape and other kinds of rape?

Not much difference with normal rape except that the other is committed by an unknown attacker. Date rape tends to occur when a woman or a man is out on a date, meeting or outing with a person they are dating or an acquaintance they are getting to know. Date rape takes place in private and public settings, such that one can actually be raped at their home, perpetrator’s home or be drugged while in a public place and then raped. Date rape can be either a complete rape or an attempt. Date rape that involves the use of drugs to assist the attacker is becoming common. The drug can be any substance that is physically or mind altering.

How frequent is date rape in Kenya and which age group is most vulnerable?

Most victims are women in their late teens and mostly those in their 20s and 30s. Date rape is the most unreported crime especially in college campuses. College and universities are prime locations for date rape due to the high volume of students interested in sexual relationships. It should be noted that many survivors know the perpetrators, and normally they are people close to the survivor like relative, neighbour, acquaintance, friend, colleague, father, brother or otherwise. This resonates well with the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008-2009 that indicate strangers account for only six per cent of sexual violence.

What are the warning signs that a woman should be on the lookout?

It is very difficult to have warning signs, as this is someone you are acquainted to or is already dating. Generally, one should be careful of the places to "hang out", socialise and avoid being in private places alone with the "date".

Some tell tale signs include the perpetrator insisting on being alone with you and even insisting on you having a drink, especially of alcoholic nature. You should note that even non-alcoholic drinks like juices are also spiked. Also be on the lookout for people who lack general respect and always push for sex. It is important not to ignore the instinctive ‘bad feeling’ or gut feeling about a situation.

What precautions must a woman take to avoid date rape?

When meeting someone for the first time for a date, make sure your friends know where and who you are with, and if not comfortable being alone with the person, have a friend accompany you for safety reasons. For students, avoid discussions in student rooms, but do so in public places. Choose a comfortable and safe, well lit venue for your "outing". Always have some money and a mobile phone.

Most critical, memorise some key telephone numbers to avoid getting stranded. Finally, refuse to engage in sexual intercourse as payback or as gratitude for favours extended by your date. When going out, take care of your drinks. If you have to visit a washroom, or leave the table for any reasons, always insist on a new bottle or glass of whatever you were taking. Never take any drink you left unattended and avoid getting drunk and always know the good time to leave.

What steps should one take when date rape occurs?

First do not shower or change clothes. Wrap the clothes in a brown paper bag or newspaper, to avoid contamination of evidence that results from storing clothes in plastic paper bags.

Secondly, find a safe place immediately and if you are in an unknown place (normally this happens when one has been drugged), seek help, call a friend or family member to pick you up. Report to the nearest Police Station or Chief’s camp. Seek medical treatment immediately or at least within 72 hours to ensure you get emergency contraceptives, medication to prevent HIV infection among other treatments. This is the crucial time to enable collection and preservation of evidence like traces of semen, torn clothes, hair, saliva or blood. Finally, seek professional counselling.

How does the victim ensure complete healing?

The psychological trauma is enormous. The survivor must seek counselling to help deal with it. For most survivors, dealing with the loss of the relationship/friendship is hard. They also feel betrayed by the person they considered a friend or someone they were interested in.

People should realise date rape is a criminal offence and should be reported. Survivors should know that there is ready support and help and that the perpetrators would be reprimanded.

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