Date rape among adolescents and young adults

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 1998 Nov;11(4):167-75. doi: 10.1016/s1083-3188(98)70137-8.


Background: Adolescents and young adults are four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than women in all other age groups. In the vast majority of these cases, the perpetrator is an acquaintance of the victim. Date rape is a subset of acquaintance rape where nonconsensual sex occurs between two people who are in a romantic relationship.

Methods: We conducted a MEDLINE and Current Concepts search for articles relating to date rape and then systematically reviewed all relevant articles.

Results: Lifetime prevalence of date or acquaintance rape ranges from 13% to 27% among college-age women and 20% to a high of 68% among adolescents. Demographic characteristics that increase vulnerability to date rape include younger age at first date, early sexual activity, earlier age of menarche, a past history of sexual abuse or prior sexual victimization, and being more accepting of rape myths and violence toward women. Other risk factors include date-specific behaviors such as who initiated, who paid expenses, who drove, date location and activity, as well as the use of alcohol or illicit drugs such as flunitrazepam (Rohypnol). Alcohol use that occurs within the context of the date can lead to: the misinterpretation of friendly cues as sexual invitations, diminished coping responses, and the female's inability to ward off a potential attack.

Conclusions: Longitudinal research designs are needed to further our understanding of sexual violence among adolescents and young adults and the most effective ways to eliminate it. Understanding and comparing research findings would be easier if consensus regarding the definitions of date rape, sexual aggression, and sexual assault was obtained. Finally, primary and secondary date and acquaintance rape prevention programs must be developed and systematically evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior* / psychology
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Courtship*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Love
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Prevalence
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Rape / prevention & control
  • Rape / psychology
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications