Contrary to popular opinion, women who are raped by acquaintances suffer as much psychological harm as women who are sexually assaulted by strangers, speakers at a forum said Tuesday.
"Often people think acquaintance rape isn't serious," said Charlene Muehlenhard, assistant professor of psychology and women's studies at Kansas University.
"But in fact, the best research suggests that the effects of acquaintance rape are as bad as the effects of stranger rape," she said. "And with acquaintance rape, the woman tends to be blamed more."
Muehlenhard was one of three people who spoke about the effects of rape and attempted rape during the forum, held Tuesday afternoon at Kansas University. The forum was sponsored by the women's issues committee of KU Mortar Board.
CARMELA Sibley, a volunteer at Douglas County Rape Victim Support Services, said only about 10 percent of all rapes are reported.
"It's very difficult for many victims to go through with the prosecution," she said.
However, Sibley said more women are reporting rape than in years past.
"We are finding that more women are willing to come forward than in the past, but there is still a big problem out there," she said.
Jayme Jones, a KU graduate student in psychology who has been working at the university's psychology counseling clinic, said many women initially experience anxiety and emotional crisis shortly after being raped or sexually assaulted.
"It depends on the individual women as to how long this crisis period can last . . . but many problems may go on for years and years after the rape has occurred," she said.
MUEHLENHARD said 80 to 90 percent of all rape is acquaintance rape.
She said society is less likely to believe a woman who says she was assaulted by an acquaintance than by a stranger.
"People say, `Oh, at least it was someone you knew,' as if it is not as bad if the women knows the person," Muehlenhard said.
"Women who are raped by strangers get more social support than women who are raped by acquaintances . . . because women are led to believe that they may have led the man on, or that they let things get out of hand especially if they know the person."
The speakers said enhanced education and awareness can best reduce the number of sexual assaults.