Rape is a form of assault where one individual forces another to have sexual intercourse against that person's will. It may be defined as forcing a person to submit to any sex act, and is generally considered one of the most serious sex crimes, as well as sometimes very difficult to prosecute. Sexual violence can also be a war crime under international law. Consent may be absent due to duress arising from the use, or threat, of overwhelming force or violence, or because the subject's capacity to give consent is negated some way: such as developmental disability, intoxication or being underage. In some cases, coercion might also be used to negate consent.

There is no universally accepted distinction between rape and other forms of assault involving one or both participant's sexual organs. When the term "rape" is used, some criminal codes explicitly consider all kinds of forced sexual activity to be rape, whereas in others only acts involving penis penetration of the vagina. In recent years, women have been convicted of raping men; this is classed as either rape or sexual assault, or some other legal terminology. In some jurisdictions, rape may also be committed by assailants using objects, rather than their own body parts, against the sexual organs of their target. Some places, such as the state of Michigan, USA, do not use the term "rape" at all in criminal codes. Michigan uses the term "criminal sexual conduct" for acts which colloquially would be referred to as "rape" or "sexual assault".

The rape of women by men is by far the most frequent form of the assault, with an estimated 91% of rape victims being female and 9% being male while 99% of offenders are male.

History of rape

The word rape originates from the Latin verb '': to seize or take by force. The word originally had no sexual connotation and is still used generically in English. The history of rape, and the alterations of its meaning, is quite complex. In Roman law, rape was classified as a form of crimen vis, "crime of assault." Unlike theft or robbery, rape was termed a "public wrong" iniuria publica as opposed to a "private wrong" iniuria privita. Augustus Caesar enacted reforms for the crime of rape under the assault statute Lex Iulia de vi publica, which bears his family name, Iulia. It was under this statute rather than the adultery statute of Lex Iulia de adulteriis'' that Rome prosecuted this crime. Emperor Justinian confirmed the continued use of the statute to prosecute rape during the 6th century in the Eastern Roman Empire. By late antiquity, the general term raptus had referred to abduction, elopement, robbery, or rape in its modern meaning. Confusion over the term led ecclesial commentators on the law to differentiate it into raptus seductionis (elopement without parental consent) and raptus violentiae (ravishment). Both of these forms of raptus had a civil penalty and possible excommunication for the family and village receiving the abducted woman, although raptus violentiae also incurred punishments of mutilation or death.

Throughout parts of ancient history, the crime of rape was viewed less as a variety of assault on a female's autonomy, but rather a serious property crime against the man to whom she "belonged." This was especially true in the case of betrothed virgins, as the loss of chastity was perceived as severely depreciating her value to her husband. The law, in such cases, would void the betrothal and demand financial compensation from the rapist, payable to the woman's household, whose "goods" were "damaged". Under biblical law, the rapist might be married to the unmarried woman instead of receiving the civil penalty if her father agreed. This was especially prevalent in laws where the crime of rape did not include, as a necessary element, the violation of the woman's will, thus dividing the crime in the current meaning of rape and a means for a man and woman to force their families to permit marriage.

From the classical antiquity of Greece and Rome into the Colonial period, rape along with arson, treason and murder was a capital offense. "Those committing rape were subject to a wide range of capital punishments that were seemingly brutal, frequently bloody, and at times spectacular." In the 12th century, kinsmen of the victim were given the option of executing the punishment themselves. "In England in the early fourteenth century, a victim of rape might be expected to gouge out the eyes and/or sever the offender's testicles herself."

The English common law defined rape as "the carnal knowledge of a woman forcibly and against her will." The common law defined carnal knowledge as the penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ (it covered all other acts under the crime of sodomy). The crime of rape was unique in the respect that it focused on the victim's state of mind and actions in addition to that of the defendant. The victim was required to prove a continued state of physical resistance, and consent was conclusively presumed when a man had intercourse with his wife. "One of the most oft-quoted passages in our jurisprudence" on the subject of rape is by Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale from the 17th century, "rape...is an accusation easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, tho never so innocent." Lord Hale is also the origin of the remark, "In a rape case it is the victim, not the defendant, who is on trial." This propensity to "blame the victim" continues to this day, despite modern judicial reforms which have sought to eliminate this perception. Additionally, gender neutral laws have combated the older perception that rape never occurs to men, while other laws have eliminated the term altogether.

Many additional developments in law with regard to rape took place during the twentieth century. These included landmark decisions by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that defined rape as an institutionalized weapon of war and a crime of genocide.

The modern criminal justice system is widely known for being unfair to sexual assault victims. (Macdonalds, 2001) Both sexist stereotypes and common law combined to make rape a "criminal proceeding on which the victim and her behavior were tried rather than the defendant". (Howard & Francis, 2000) Since the 1970s many changes have occurred in the perception of sexual assault due in large part to the feminist movement and its public characterization of rape as a crime of power and control rather than purely of sex. However, a victim is still put on trial in most rape cases.Rape and Prosecution In some countries the women's liberation movement of the 1970s created the first rape crisis centers. This movement was led by the National Organization for Women (NOW) . One of the first two rape crisis centers, the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, opened in 1972. It was created to promote sensitivity and understanding of rape and its effects on the victim. In 1960 law enforcement cited false reporting rates at 20%. By 1973 the statistics had dropped to 15%. After 1973 the New York City Police Department used female officers to investigate sexual assault cases and the rate dropped to 2% according to the FBI. (DiCanio, 1993). False reporting rates are difficult to interpret, as it varies by location what constitutes "false". Whether that means the police or the DA did not feel their was enough evidence for an arrest or to take it to trial. Whether the case was dropped, or if a court rule not-guilty. Or whether a victim recanted. And all of these possibilities do not necessarily mean that a report is false, as they are often made as reactions to victim blaming.

An important part of the history of rape is the foundation of RAINN in 1994 by Tori Amos and Scott Berkowitz. RAINN is central to the modern history of the rape crisis movement as it founded the national sexual assault hotline and provides statistics and information to the media.

Male-male rape has historically been shrouded in secrecy due to the stigma men associate with being raped by other men. According to psychologist Dr Sarah Crome fewer than one in ten male-male rapes are reported. As a group, male rape victims reported a lack of services and support, and legal systems are often ill equipped to deal with this type of crime.

Most cultures worldwide have not considered the possibility that women can commit rape against men and women. Most legal codes on rape do not legislate for this as a crime, as rape is generally defined to include the act of penetration on behalf of the rapist. As of 2007, in South Africa a gang of women has reportedly been raping young men. However, the relevance of this issue has been overshadowed by more prominent instantiations of rape, and it is widely regarded, particularly by feminists and academics interested in feminist issues and sexual matters of intellectual interest, that until the more prominent issues of rape are addressed first, not much will come of the former, less common instances of rape, as addressed here.

Rape and war

Rape, in the course of war, also dates back to antiquity, ancient enough to have been mentioned in the Bible. The Israelite, Greek, Persian and Roman troops would routinely rape women and boys in the conquered towns. In the modern era, rape is considered to be a war crime when committed by soldiers in combat.

As many as 80,000 women were raped by the Japanese soldiers during the six weeks of the Nanking Massacre. The term "Comfort women" is a euphemism for the estimated 200,000 women who were forced into prostitution in Japanese military brothels during World War II. At the end of World War II, Red Army soldiers are estimated to have raped around 2,000,000 German women and girls. French Moroccan troops known as Goumiers, committed rapes and other war crimes after the Battle of Monte Cassino. (See Marocchinate.)

It has been alleged that an estimated 200,000 women were raped during the Bangladesh Liberation War by the Pakistani army, though this has been disputed by many including the Indian academic Sarmila Bose and at that at least 20,000 Bosnian Muslim women were raped by Serb forces during the Bosnian War. Wartime propaganda often alleges mistreatment of the civilian population by enemy forces and allegations of rape figure prominently in this, as a result it is often very difficult both practically and politically to an accurate view of what really happened.

Definitions of rape

In most jurisdictions, the crime of rape is defined to occur when sexual intercourse takes place (or is attempted) without valid consent of one of the parties involved. It is frequently defined as penetration of the vagina or the anus by a penis. In some jurisdictions, the penetration need not be by penis but can be by other body parts (e.g. one or more fingers, i.e. digital penetration) or by objects (e.g. a bottle), or may involve the forcing of a vagina or anus onto a penis by a female assailant.

Other jurisdictions expand the definition of rape to include other acts committed using the sexual organs of one or both of the parties, such as oral copulation and masturbation, for example, again enacted without valid consent.

The lack of valid consent does not necessarily mean that the victim explicitly refused to give consent. Generally, consent is considered invalid if it is obtained from someone who is:

Statutory rape refers to a sexual act that is considered rape by the law regardless of whether it was coercive or consensual. Such laws are common and exist in order to prevent adults from having sex with minors who are deemed legally unable to give effective informed consent.

Sexual activity involving a person below the age of consent is often known as statutory rape although some jurisdictions prefer terms such as "unlawful sexual intercourse" to avoid the forcible connotation of the word.

The Brazilian Penal Code defines rape as unconsensual vaginal sex. Therefore, unlike most of Europe and the Americas, male rape, anal rape, and oral rape are not considered to be rape crimes. Instead, such an act is a "violent attempt against someone's modesty" ("Atentado violento ao pudor"). The penalty, however, is the same.

In Scotland, rape is a gender-specific crime, meaning it can only be committed by males upon females. Oral, anal and male rape do not fall under rape, nor is digital penetration sufficient.

The definition used by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in its landmark 1998 judgment was "a physical invasion of a sexual nature committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive."

In certain jurisdictions, it is not possible to be guilty of the rape of a spouse, either on the basis of "implied consent" or (in the case of former British colonies) because of a statutory requirement that the intercourse must have been "unlawful" (which is legal nomenclature for outside of wedlock). However, in many of those jurisdictions it is still possible to bring prosecutions for what is effectively rape by characterizing it as an assault.

Causes of rape

Alcohol and/or other drug uses is frequently involved in rape. In 47% of rapes, both the victim and the perpetrator had been drinking. In 17%, only the perpetrator had been. 7% of the time, only the victim had been drinking. Rapes where neither the victim nor the perpetrator had been drinking were 29% of all rapes.

The issue of the rapist's motivation seems to be multifactoral and is controversial.

Most experts assert the primary cause of rape is an aggressive desire to dominate the victim rather than an attempt to achieve sexual fulfillment. "We can think of no other assertion in the social sciences, that has achieved such wide acceptance based on so little evidence," wrote Felson and coauthor Tedeschi, pioneers of the controversial Social-Interactionist Perspective which asserts that sexual desire can be a motivating factor in rape. They consider rape an act of violence rather than principally a sexual encounter. Cundiff (2004) argued that the inavailability of another outlet for male sexual desires, such as prostitution, may contribute to the prevalence of rape.

Most rapists do not have a preference for rape over consensual sex. Around 90% of rapists who participated in a 1986 study by Baxter et al. were more aroused by depictions of mutually enjoyable sex than violent rape. There are not significant differences between the arousal patterns of rapists and nonrapists.

Types of rape

There are several types of rape, generally categorized by reference to the situation in which it occurs, the sex or characteristics of the victim, and/or the sex or characteristics of the perpetrator. Different types of rape include but are not limited to: date rape, gang rape, marital rape, prison rape, acquaintance rape, and wartime rape.UCSB's SexInfo.

Though people tend to assume otherwise, rape by a stranger is by far the least common form of rape.

Rape by perpetrator

Perpetrator Frequency
Steady dating partner 21.6%
Casual friend 16.5%
Ex-boyfriend 12.2%
Acquaintance 10.8%
Close friend 10.1%
Casual date 10.1%
Husband 7.2%
Stranger 2%

Most rape research and reporting to date has been limited to male-female forms of rape. Research on male-male and female-male is beginning to be done. However, almost no research has been done on female-female rape, though women can be charged with rape.

Gang rape

The word tournante is a French adjective meaning "turning" and is used as a slang term to mean a gang rape. According to the testimony of numerous victims, young Muslim women who stray from traditional conduct in the immigrant neighborhoods, such as behaving and dressing like a westerner, or wanting to live as Europeans or refusing to wear the traditional clothing, have been considered by some to be "fair game" for tournantes. As Samira Bellil said in a CNN interview, there was a trial in Lille regarding a 13-year-old girl who was gang-raped by 80 men.


Contrary to widespread belief, rape outdoors is rare. Over two thirds of all rapes occur in someone's home. 30.9% occur in the perpetrators' homes, 26.6% in the victims' homes and 10.1% in homes shared by the victim and perpetrator. 7.2% occur at parties, 7.2% in vehicles, 3.6% outdoors and 2.2% in bars.

Rape statistics

A United Nations report compiled from government sources showed that more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries.

According to United States Department of Justice document Criminal Victimization in the United States, there were overall 191,670 victims of rape or sexual assault reported in 2005. Only 16% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police (Rape in America: A Report to the Nation. 1992). 1 of 6 U.S. women has experienced an attempted or completed rape.

Some types of rape are excluded from official reports altogether, (the FBI's definition for example excludes all rapes except forcible rapes of females), because a significant number of rapes go unreported even when they are included as reportable rapes, and also because a significant number of rapes reported to the police do not advance to prosecution.

In addition, rape by women is a barely understood phenomenon that is widely denied in most societies and one that usually causes surprise, shock, or utter revulsion.

In the United States, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the adjusted per-capita victimization rate of rape has declined from about 2.4 per 1000 people (age 12 and above) in 1980 to about 0.4 per 1000 people, a decline of about 85%. But other government surveys, such as the Sexual Victimization of College Women study, critique the NCVS on the basis it includes only those acts perceived as crimes by the victim, and report a higher victimization rate.

While researchers and prosecutors do not agree on the exact percentage of false allegations, they generally agree on a range of 2% - 8%. The belief that false allegations of rape are a problem is common. Unfortunately, that belief can discourage victims from reporting for fear of being put on trial themselves:SV Factsheet-Cleared

According to a report of the Defense Department Inspector General released in 2005, approximately 73% of women and 72% of men at the military service academies believe that false accusations of sexual assault are a problem.

From 2000-2005, 59% of rapes were not reported to law enforcement. One factor relating to this is misconception that most rapes are committed by strangers. In reality, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 38% of victims were raped by a friend or acquaintance, 28% by "an intimate" and 7% by another relative, and 26% were committed by a stranger to the victim. About four out of ten sexual assaults take place at the victim's own home.Bureau of Justice Statistics Home page

More than 67,000 cases of rape and sexual assaults against children were reported in 2000 in South Africa. Child welfare groups believe that the number of unreported incidents could be up to 10 times that number. A belief common to South Africa holds that sexual intercourse with a virgin will cure a man of HIV or Aids. South Africa has the highest number of HIV-positive citizens in the world. According to official figures, one in eight South Africans are infected with the virus. Edith Kriel, a social worker who helps child victims in the Eastern Cape, said: "Child abusers are often relatives of their victims - even their fathers and providers."

According to University of Durban-Westville anthropology lecturer and researcher Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala, the myth that sex with a virgin is a cure for AIDS is not confined to South Africa. "Fellow AIDS researchers in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have told me that the myth also exists in these countries and that it is being blamed for the high rate of sexual abuse against young children."

Effect of rape

After being raped it is common for the victim to experience intense, and sometimes unpredictable, emotions, and they may find it hard to deal with their memories of the event. Victims can be severely traumatized by the assault and may have difficulty functioning as well as they had been used to prior to the assault, with disruption of concentration, sleeping patterns and eating habits, for example. They may feel jumpy or be on edge. In the month(s) immediately following the assault these problems may be severe and very upsetting and may prevent the victim from revealing their ordeal to friends or family, or seeking police or medical assistance. This may result in Acute Stress Disorder. Symptoms of this are:

It can also cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However while the effects of rape can be truly horrible, and can impact some survivors' ability to function, it is important to remember that a survivor's response to rape is as unique and different as every person is. In fact a survivor may not have any of these responses to the rape, or they may have them, but not immediately following the assault. It's important to remember that there is no one correct way for a survivor of assault to respond to it.

In 1972, Ann Wolbert Burgess and Lynda Lytle Holstrom embarked on a study of the psychological effects of rape. They interviewed and counseled rape victims at the emergency room of Boston City Hospital and observed a pattern of reactions which they named Rape Trauma Syndrome.. They defined this as having two components which they called the Acute and Reorganization phases.

During the Acute Phase the survivor may experience shock and disbelief, or feel frozen, and may attempt to disconnect themselves from "the person who was raped". They may feel humiliated, confused, dirty, ashamed, or at fault for the assault, particularly if the assailant was an acquaintance. Extreme nightmares, heightened anxiety, frequent flashbacks, and a strong attempt to disconnect from one's emotions are common, as is denial - trying to convince oneself that the assault did not actually occur. If raped by an acquaintance the victim may try to protect the perpetrator.

Victims may respond to the rape in either an expressive or a controlled way. The expressive way involves obvious outward effects and emotions such as crying, shaking, rage, tenseness, ironic and uncomfortable laughter (part of their denial), and restlessness. The controlled way occurs when the victim appears to be quite calm and rational about the situation, even if facing severe internal turmoil. There is no single response to rape; every individual deals with their intensely traumatic emotions differently.

After the acute phase, the Reorganization Phase begins and the survivor attempts to recreate the world that they once knew. This stage may last for months or even years following the assault and despite their best efforts this phase is often riddled with feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety. Emotions such as anger, anxiety, denial, and loss (of security) surface. Development of an inability to trust is a frequent consequence of sexual assault. This loss of the fundamental need for security can wreak havoc on the survivor's life, causing them to feel powerless and not in control of their body. They may feel unsafe, which can cause a heightened state of anxiety as well as difficulty with intimate relationships. Victims may attempt to return to normal social interaction (i.e. go out to social engagements) and find themselves unable to do so and their attempts to re-establish themselves in relationships may be hindered by a lack of trust.

Survivors often isolate themselves from their support network either physically or emotionally. The survivor may feel disconnected from peers as a result of the perceived personal experience. The shattering of trust can adversely affect intimate relationships, as survivors may have a heightened suspicion of others' motives and feelings.

Another area of research referred to as "second victimization," has to do with the caustic and interrogatory way the police and medical staff sometimes treats people who allege rape or sexual assault.

Sexual assault can affect an individual forever, changing them into someone living in a constant state of turmoil. In extreme cases the outcome may be suicide.Gift From Within - Article: "Rape Trauma Syndrome: The Journey to Healing Belongs to Everyone"

Victim blame

"Victim blaming" is holding the victim of a crime to be in whole or in part responsible for what has happened to them. In the context of rape, this concept refers to the Just World Theory and popular attitudes that certain victim behaviours (such as flirting, or wearing sexually-provocative clothing) may encourage rape. In extreme cases, victims are said to have "asked for it", simply by not behaving demurely. In most Western countries, the defense of provocation is not accepted as a mitigation for rape. A global survey of attitudes toward sexual violence by the Global Forum for Health Research shows that victim-blaming concepts are at least partially accepted in many countries. In some countries, victim-blaming is more common, and women who have been raped are sometimes deemed to have behaved improperly. Often, these are countries where there is a significant social divide between the freedoms and status afforded to men and women. Despite longstanding feminist campaigns of activism and dedicated to the elimination of harmful rape myths (attitudes and beliefs conducive to sexual violence), virulent memes persist; many members of the public still contend that at least some women are prone to masochism and deception.

Self blame

There are two main types of self blame: undeserved blame based on character and undeserved blame based on actions. These are called Characterological and Behavioral.

Behavioral self blame

Behavioral self blame refers to victims feeling that they should have done something differently (therefore they feel it is their fault). This type of self blame is a way for the victim to maintain a feeling of control. If the victim can target specific (sometimes random) behaviors they create the illusion that they never lost control over their situation and can thereby avoid future victimization. If it was their own fault, their world was never outside their own control.

Characterological self blame

Characterological self blame applies when victims feel there is something inherently wrong with them (causing them to deserve to be assaulted). This type of blame occurs when the victim cannot think of anything they did wrong to cause the assault. They turn towards their 'soul' or essential person. This type of blame is associated with more psychological negative effects.

Self blame defined

Self blame is an avoidance coping skill which inhibits the healing process. The type of thought involved in self blame of victims is illogical thinking (known as counterfactual thinking) which can be remedied by a therapeutic technique known as cognitive restructuring. The main problem for victims is that feeling shame (stigma with the self) produces more psychological problems than feeling guilt (actions). It's easier to change an action than the self. Guilt promotes resolving action and shame promotes pulling away or wanting to be invisible. Withdrawing prevents the victim from seeking help and reporting. Feeling that you had control during the assault (past control or behavioral self blame) is associated with more psychological distress while believing you have more control now (present control or control over the recovery process) is associated with less distress, less withdrawal and more cognitive reprocessing.

Destructive effects of self blame

The leading researcher on shame, Tangney, lists five ways shame can be destructive: lack of motivation to seek care; lack of empathy; cutting themselves off from other people; anger; and aggression. Tangney says shame has a special link to anger. "In day-to-day life, when people are shamed and angry they tend to be motivated to get back at a person and get revenge."

In addition shame is connected to psychological problems- such as eating disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders as well as problematic moral behavior. In one study over several years shame-prone kids were prone to substance abuse, earlier sexual activity, less safe sexual activity, and involvement with the criminal justice system.


Counseling responses found helpful in reducing self blame are supportive responses, psychoeducational responses (learning about rape trauma syndrome) and those responses addressing the issue of blame. A helpful type of therapy for self blame is cognitive restructuring or cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive reprocessing is the process of taking the facts and forming a logical conclusion from them that is less influenced by shame or guilt.

Sociobiological perspectives

Some argue that rape, as a reproductive strategy, is encountered in many instances in the animal kingdom (i.e: ducks, geese, and certain dolphin species). It is difficult to determine what constitutes rape among animals, as the lack of informed consent defines rape among humans. See also Non-human animal sexuality.

Some sociobiologists argue that our ability to understand rape, and thereby prevent it, is severely compromised because its basis in human evolution has been ignored. Some studies indicate that it is an evolutionary strategy for certain males who lack the ability to persuade the female by non-violent means to pass on their genes.

American social critic Camille Paglia, and some sociobiologists, have argued that the victim-blaming intuition may have a non-psychological component in some cases. Some sociobiological models suggest that it may be genetically-ingrained for certain men and women to allow themselves to be more vulnerable to rape, and that this may be a biological feature of members of the species.

Loss of control and privacy

Rape has been regarded as "a crime of violence and control" since the 1970s. Psychological analysis literature identifies control as a key component in most definitions of privacy:

Control is important in providing:

Violation of privacy or "control" comes in many forms, with sexual assault and the resulting psychological traumas being one of the most explicit forms. Many victims of sexual assault suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, which also center around control issues. Therefore, some argue that it makes more sense to look at the issue of sexual assault as an invasion of privacy (Mclean, D. 1995):
The more comfortable a person is with talking about invasion of privacy and in insisting that he or she has privacy that deserves respect, the clearer that person's understanding of rape will be...

Approaching rape through the concept of privacy helps bypass certain social stigmas.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kansas v. Hendricks that a predatory sex offender can be civilly committed upon release from prison.

See also

Further reading

Academic and reference books

Reference books

Secondary victimization and victim blame

History of Rape

Self blame

Causes of multiple victimization

Male victims


Child rape and child sexual assault

Female Sex Offenders

Marital/Intimate Partner Rape

Male Sexual Offenders


External links

Further research and information

National organizations

Support resources

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This article is based on "Rape" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rape&action=history