Date/Acquaintance Rape

Daisy Rogozinsky
January 30, 2023

Date (or acquaintance) rape is a colloquial term referring to sexual assault under a certain set of circumstances. In this article, we define the term “date rape” and explain its legal penalties.

Key Takeaways

  • Date rape occurs when a person is forced or coerced into having sexual intercourse with an acquaintance, especially a person with whom they have had a romantic or potentially sexual relationship
  • Most states consider rape a felony with a minimum penalty of one year in prison 
  • Victims of date rape may also choose to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator in order to recover damages 

What Is Date/Acquaintance Rape?

Date rape, alternatively referred to as acquaintance rape, is when a person is forced or coerced into having sexual intercourse with an acquaintance, during or after a voluntary social engagement. This is often seen with two parties between whom there has been a romantic or potentially sexual relationship. 

It is estimated that over half of all rapes are committed by people the victim knew such as a relative, spouse, lover, or partner. It is often the case that date rape trials focus on disputing whether or not the alleged victim consented to the sexual activity. 

Date rape is especially common on college campuses, usually involving the use of alcohol or date rape drugs as a means of coercion or restraint. Several drugs are so often involved in date rape that they have been classified as date rape drugs, including Rohypnol, Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), and Ketamine. Evidence of a date rape drug in a victim’s system is strong evidence of the defendant’s guilt. 

Date/Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Assault Law

Most states consider rape (which is often referred to in the legal context as sexual assault) to be a felony offense, making it punishable by a minimum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The circumstances of the crime play a significant role in the punishment, with increased penalties often associated with the following:

  • Victims who are developmentally or mentally disabled
  • Rapes involving date rape drugs
  • Rape of minors
  • A defendant who was in a position of authority over the alleged victim such as a teacher, therapist, or religious leader

It is common for a person convicted of rape to also have to register as a sex offender in addition to receiving time in prison and fines. 

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal law that gives female sexual assault victims the right to file a federal lawsuit for damages against their assailants. In a civil lawsuit, the standard of proof used is called a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it has to be more likely than not that the crime occurred. In criminal law, the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that it must be nearly certain that the crime occurred. For this reason, a victim is more likely to win a civil date rape lawsuit than a criminal one. 

If you have been the victim of sexual assault, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced sexual assault lawyer in order to receive a review of your case and advice as to the best way to proceed, whether that is with a civil or criminal lawsuit.

Featured Sexual Assault Lawyers

Jackman Law

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Law Firm of Roger 'Rocky' Walton, P.C.

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Theory Law APC

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