Rape & Sexual Violence

Rape is unwanted sexual coercion against someone. It is about power and control and is not about sex. It is largely an underreported violent crime that harms anyone, regardless of age, sex, race, class, sexual orientation and disability. It affects everyone, including family and friends and the general community. – KidsHealth.org, Rape What To Do

Key topics:

  • Myths & Facts
  • Some Ways to Reduce the Risk of Rape (Plan for Safety)
  • Resources
  • Suggested Reading

Myths & Facts

Myth: Rape is usually committed by someone you don’t know.

Fact: Many rapes happen with someone the victim knows. People have been raped by their spouses, intimate partner, teachers, neighbors, mothers, fathers, uncles, and other relatives and acquaintances. About 75% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Spousal rape is a crime in the State of California. Any form of sexual behavior to which a woman doesn’t consent is rape, regardless of her relationship. Read More.

Myth: Rape only happens to females.

Fact: While most rape victims are females, males can also be raped. Rape crosses all boundaries of age, race, class, sex, sexual orientation, and disability. Statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18 years old. Read More.

Myth: Rape only has to do with sexual satisfaction.

Fact: Rape and sexual assault are tactics used to gain power and control over someone. Rapists use rape to hurt and humiliate their victims. Rape is more about power and less about sexual desire.

Myth: Women want/ask to be raped, especially when wearing seductive clothing.

Fact: No one wants or asks to be sexually assaulted. It is painful and humiliating, no matter what she wears. In our society, rape is still glamorized in movies, literature, and music and these mediums do not take responsibility for what rape does to the victims.

Myth: Rapes are only committed by a few crazy men.

Fact: There is no typical rapist. Rapists belong to all social groups and classes ranging from unemployed to corporate presidents. All men in our society are exposed to attitudes that condone or encourage rape. Men who rape choose to be sexually violent and they are responsible for their own actions.

Myth: Many women falsely report rapes to get back at men.

Fact: Usually the opposite is true, most rapes go under-reported because victims feel ashamed or afraid no one will believe them.

Myth: Women often say no when they mean yes.

Fact: When a woman says no then she means no. It should never be interpreted another way. If a woman initially says yes and then changes her mind, her decision of “no” must be respected

Some Ways to Reduce the Risk of Rape (Plan for Safety)

At home

Avoid Isolated Places.
This includes elevators, laundry rooms and garages, or when you are alone or feel uncomfortable with someone there.

Change the Locks on Your Doors/Windows.
Make sure doors are locked even when at home.

Leave Lights On.
Leave some lights on when you are out and have your keys ready when you return. Consider installing outdoor lights as well.

Install a Peephole and/or Quality Deadbolt Locks.
Do not open the door to strangers, and have police and service people slip their identification under the door. Call the station or home office to verify the person’s business.

Vary Your Routine.
Don’t be so predictable, change it up!

In social situations

Be Aware of Red Flags Your Date Might Display.
Avoid people who disrespect you or ignore your feelings or try to make decisions for you or act in an intimidating way.

Establish a Buddy System.
When going to a party, go with a group of friends and don’t be afraid to let a friend know when someone is making you feel uncomfortable

Avoid Alcohol and Other Drugs.
They can impair judgment.

Don’t Leave Your Drink Alone.
This includes drinking something you didn’t get yourself. “Date rape drugs” can be mixed in drinks and put you at risk.

Be Clear About Your Boundaries.
Make your limits clear before you get into a sexual situation.

Have Your Own Ride.
As you are trying to get to know your date, having your own ride or driving yourself might be a good option to ensure you get home safely. You may also go with another couple and arrange your own transportation, especially if you don’t know your date well.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings and Avoid Secluded Places.
This includes parks or deserted beaches. Meet in public where help will be nearby.

Avoid dangerous situations

Walk Confidently and Plan Your Route.
If you are being followed, go into a store or an area with people or knock on a door for help. Avoid alleys and isolated spots. Don’t wear headphones because staying alert is important.

Keep Your Keys in Hand When Going to Your Car.
Check the backseat and underneath the car (from a distance) before getting in. Keep your doors locked and consider carrying a cell phone for extra safety. Never hitchhike or pick up a hitchhiker.

Stand Near Others While Waiting for Public Transportation.
Stand near others in well-lit areas. Sit near the driver or conductor. Avoid isolated subway cars and bus or train stops.

If You Are Attacked

Trust Your Instincts and Act Quickly.
The greatest chance for escape is usually when an attack begins. Depending on your situation, you can run or scream for help or kick, hit, bite or scratch, etc.

Remember, Your Goal is Survival.
If you believe resisting would put your life in greater danger, cooperate. Don’t blame yourself later for what you did or did not do. It’s never the victim’s fault.

Go to a Safe Place.
Call a friend or rape crisis center so someone can be with you.

Get Medical Attention.
Go to the hospital as soon as possible. Don’t shower, brush your teeth, douche or change your clothes. Doing so might destroy medical evidence.

Report the Rape if Possible.
You may report to the police or sheriff. This includes if you are at least 18 years old.

Get Continued Help and Support.
Go to a therapist or a rape crisis center or visit some support groups if they are available.

About Self-Defense
It is not a good idea to carry a weapon unless you are properly trained to use it. Weapons can be turned against you. If you decide to carry a weapon, follow state laws. A course in self-defense can help you think clearly and react quickly.


Alameda County Resources

Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR)
Phone: 510-430-2579
Website: Bawar.org

Family Justice Center
Phone: 510-267-8800

Suggested Reading


The Rape Recovery Handbook: Step-by-Step Help for Survivors of Sexual Assault
by Aphrodite, Ph.D. Matsakis

Child Sexual Abuse

The Courage to Heal-Third Edition-Revised and Expanded: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
by Ellen Bass, Laura Davis


Safety for Stalking Victims: How to Save Your Privacy, Your Sanity, and Your Life
by Lyn Batesx

Male Survivors

Victims No Longer (Second Edition): The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse
by Mike Lew, M. Ed.

Ritual Abuse

Safe Passage to Healing: A Guide for Survivors of Ritual Abuse
by Chrystine Oksana

Significant Others

Family and Friends’ Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk and Take Action When Someone You Care About is Being Abused
by Elaine Weiss Paperback

What About Me? A Guide for Men Helping Female Partners Deal with Childhood Sexual Abuse
by Grant Cameron

When You Are the Partner of a Rape or Incest Survivor: A Workbook for You
by Robert Barry Levine

Families in Recovery: Healing the Damage of Childhood Sexual Abuse
by Beverly Engel, Beverly Engel MFT