A lot has changed since the term “date rape” was first established in 1990 by then-18-year-old Virginia college student Katie Koestner.
Koestner experienced an unwanted sexual advance by someone she knew. At the time, America was not convinced that rape could happen on a date. The media hype was focused on “stranger danger.”
“That’s not the case anymore,” said Daniele Dreitzer, executive director at The Rape Crisis Center , 801 S. Rancho Drive, No. 2 . “Now, we call it ‘acquaintance rape’ because we see way more instances of sexual assault between two people who know each other (though are not necessarily dating) than strangers.”
The legal definition of date rape in Las Vegas is the same as sexual assault under NRS 200.366, prohibiting one person from “subjecting another to sexual penetration … against the will of the victim or under conditions in which the perpetrator knows or should know that the victim is mentally or physically incapable of resisting or understanding the nature of his or her conduct,” according to the Las Vegas Defense Group’s website shouselaw.com.
Dreitzer said an acquaintance can be a friend or someone you meet at a club or party. She said it is estimated that less than 20 percent of all rapes are committed by a stranger.
“It’s usually someone that a person has had a social interaction with,” she added.
The statistics are dire: One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network — an anti-sexual assault organization that works with local rape crisis centers across the U.S . As of Aug. 27, there have been 757 cases of sexual assault (which includes rape) reported to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Sexual Assault Unit, according to Metro Lt. David Valenta.
Out of those cases, 51 were committed by a stranger, he said.
The most at-risk age group for sexual assault is 18- to 24-year-olds, mainly due to their social environment. They’re typically in college, going to parties and constantly having social interactions, Dreitzer said.
Sometimes the assaults involve drugs such as Rohypnol, a strong sleeping and anti-anxiety pill; Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a sedative that can produce a high feeling; or ketamine, a sedative and animal tranquilizer. These drugs have been known to slow down the brain and nervous system and make it difficult for a person to think, move or speak. They can also make people feel more relaxed, lower inhibitions, cause blurred vision and nausea, cause numbness, and a loss of consciousness and memory.
Typically, they take between 15 and 20 minutes to work, and effects can last five to 12 hours.
Dreitzer warns that even if a person has a drink with them at all times, they can still be drugged. Perpetrators use simple tricks, such as reaching over to grab something and slipping a pill into a drink.
“The No. 1 drug is alcohol,” Dreitzer said. “People must remember that this crime is all about power and control, and one way of getting control over someone is to get them overly intoxicated.”
Sometimes, people do not remember what happened because there are multiple-hour gaps in their memory. If they find their clothes are on differently or are missing, it’s an indicator there was a sexual assault, and the victim should be examined.
If people find themselves or a friend in a situation where they have been drugged or are highly intoxicated, seek help immediately or call attention for help if the perpetrator is lurking nearby. Victims of rape or sexual assault should report it to Metro’s Sexual Assault Unit by calling 911 or the non-emergency number of 702-795-3111. All other cases beyond the 72-hour window can be reported in person to any Metro Area Command.
The Rape Crisis Center also has a campaign called the Party Smart Campaign that urges people to make the promise to arrive together, stick together and leave together.
“That really is the best advice — friends need to stick together,” Valenta said. “Don’t lose track of your friend, especially if they are intoxicated.”
“People are programmed to be nice and think the best of people,” Dreitzer said. “Someone can seem like the greatest person in the world, but it’s not a good idea to leave your friend with them. It’s OK to say no to someone.”
On the flip side, Dreitzer added that people need to hold their friends accountable for bad behavior and remind them that sexual assault is a serious crime that can ruin lives .
The root of the problem, according to Dreitzer, traces back to childhood.
“Young children learn a lot about relationships early on,” Dreitzer said. “I’m going to use gender-specific terms here. When a boy pulls a girl’s ponytail, the teacher may tell her it’s probably because he likes her. People will tell teenagers, ‘Oh, she’s just playing hard to get. You have to keep trying and don’t take no for an answer.’ Or sometimes, younger children will be forced to hug their uncle, who may be a heavy smoker and smell funny, which teaches them to ignore their own boundaries.
“We have to empower children to set their own body boundaries, respect them and not force them to engage with someone they don’t want to.”
People must also remember that no means no, silence means no and being intoxicated or blacked out means no, she said.
“Sexual assault can happen with people we know and trust. Sometimes it’s the people closest to you that take advantage … Although we don’t work directly with perpetrators, my guess is that, in many cases, there is some element of planning prior to the (attack),” Dreitzer said.
Visit rcclv.org. For The Rape Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline, call 702-366-1640.
To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.
Sexual assault: Numbers to know
To reach The Rape Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline, call 702-366-1640.
To report a sexual assault to Metro’s Sexual Assault Unit, call 911 or the non-emergency number of 702-795-3111.
All other cases beyond the 72-hour window can be reported in person to any Metro Area Command.