Archive for Friday, January 24, 1992


January 24, 1992


A British television crew canvassing North America for information on date rape visited Thursday in Lawrence for an interview with a Kansas University professor who has researched the topic extensively.

Charlene Muehlenhard, associate professor and director of women's studies, was the focus of the interview conducted by the British Broadcasting Company crew. The BBC will air part of the interview on a special report Feb. 14 on its "Public Eye" show, said correspondent Jenny Cuffe.

Date rape is emerging as a social issue in Great Britain, she said, but most research on it has been conducted in the United States and Canada. Cuffe said Muehlenhard's research was widely quoted in Britain.

The BBC also will visit Mary Koss, a University of Arizona professor, and Canadian researcher Howard Barbaree, who studies convicted rapists to see what made them commit their crimes.

THE INTERVIEW covered a number of aspects of date rape.

Muehlenhard said the recent trial of William Kennedy Smith on rape charges sent mixed signals to the public. One positive result, she said, was it raised public consciousness that forced sex is a crime.

"I think anything that brings this topic into the public eye would have the impact that maybe people talk about it and think about it," Muehlenhard said.

The not-guilty verdict and extensive media coverage, however, may make some women reluctant to come forward with rape charges, she said.

Muehlenhard said both men and women have the right to say "no" at any time before intercourse occurs. People need to understand that "no" means no, she said.

ONE WAY for people to clear up confusion about sexual intentions, Muehlenhard said, was to get permission before proceeding.

"A good policy is to get consent before you go ahead," she said.

Cuffe asked if a couple should draw up a contract, but Muehlenhard replied that an agreement need not be in writing.

The crew also filmed Muehlenhard teaching her class "Studies in Women and Violence." Muehlenhard and the class discussed Koss' research of 3,000 college students that showed 25 percent had been raped or involved in an attempted rape.

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Cuffe said she has become convinced of the seriousness of the problem, especially after attending the class.

"It's shocking, isn't it, to see so many young women have had that experience," she said. "I think when I started researching it, I was quite skeptical about the term `date rape.'"

Cuffe said she used to think women could control their own lives "in an intimate situation" and be able to stop a sexual attack by an acquaintance or friend from happening.

"I think that I've realized that is not so," she said. "A lot of women are put in situations where force is used, or even the thought of force is used, and that's very frightening, particularly for women who are young and may not be very experienced."

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