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If I consented to intercourse under duress, was I raped?

By November 7, 2009 - 3:30pm
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When I was in my twenties, I had lots of dates who insisted upon pushing things ahead quickly in terms of physical intimacy. Much more quickly than I would have liked. But I went along with it to avoid conflict. Was this date rape? I am having terrible problems in my current relationships, though I am now 39. I feel very threatened by sex and feel awfully ashamed and depressed afterward. What does this mean? What should I do?

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HERWriter Guide


Thank you so much for your question and welcome!

We can't say if what you experienced was rape or not, whether by legal definition or moral definition. We would have to know a lot more about the circumstances and what 'duress' really means. A lot of people have sex before they are ready - whether it's peer pressure or pressure by a boyfriend, feeling that it's expected or fear that they will lose their boyfriend if they don't make the relationship sexual.

If you felt internally that you didn't want sex, but had it anyway, (to avoid conflict, as you say) it's really not 'rape' if the man didn't know you felt that way inside. If you were physically consenting but emotionally not ready, it couldn't be classed as rape because you were over age (if you were underage, this would be classed as statutory rape whether you consented or not) and if you verbally and physically consented. But if he did, and physically forced you or made you feel threatened in some way, then of course this was rape.

But something is wrong either way and it seems like therapy would be a great idea for you. Along with a trained therapist (who specializes in this area) you will able to sort out what happened and your reaction to it. One way or the other, you are traumatized by sex, and sexual activity in the past so some kind of healing is necessary. Don't use labels like 'date rape' yet or you may find that you will live as a rape victim (or survivor) when it isn't clear yet.

We can't tell you why you feel shame and depression after sex but we can tell you that you shouldn't have to feel that way. And it may be due to your upbringing (being made to feel ashamed of your sexuality or guilty for even thinking of it) or it may absolutely because you were pushed into sexual relationships before you were ready.

Please do set up counseling for yourself. You should never feel ashamed or guilty about sex or your own sexuality and everyone deserves a happy life and a healthy attitude toward sex. Counseling with a trained professional in this area will be able to guide you through your past and clear the way for you to recognize (and clarify) what happened to you.

I am so sorry you are feeling (or have been made to feel) like you do. Working with a therapist will allow you to work through this and put it behind you. You deserve happiness.

I'd also like to put you in touch with RAINN - the Rape,Abuse and Incest National Network. They may also be able to help. You can click here for their website : http://www.rainn.org/ or call them toll free at 1.800.656. HOPE

Please make an appointment and let us know how you get along. We wish you the best.

November 7, 2009 - 4:48pm
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