Rape is a crime in which sexual intercourse is committed without consent, through force, threats, or fearful intimidation. In most jurisdictions, the actual crime of rape requires actual sexual penetration. Some states however, have included non-consensual penetration by objects in their rape laws. To explore this concept, consider the following rape definition.

Definition of Rape


  1. Sexual intercourse with, or sexual penetration of, a person who is unconsenting, or who is unable to give consent, for various reasons.


1250-1300           Middle English

What is Rape

In 2012, the FBI updated its definition of rape, which was originally “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will,” to:

“Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Each state has its own rape laws, which vary, though they all describe rape as sexual intercourse or penetration forced upon a person who is non-consenting. Modern laws, as illustrated by the FBI’s updated definition, also include unwanted fellatio, cunnilingus, and anal penetration as rape. In addition, rape applies to such sexual acts forced on any person, regardless of gender. The use of a weapon is not necessary. In fact, studies show that, in 8 out of 10 sexual assaults, no weapon is used, other than physical force.

For Example:

Jessica is sleeping in her bed when a masked man breaks into her home. He pulls out a knife and threatens to kill her unless she has sexual intercourse with him. The man threatens Jessica with the knife, forcing her to engage in sex acts. The man is guilty of rape.

Types of Rape

Rape is categorized in many ways, such as by the situation in which it occurs, or by the characteristics or relationship of the victim to the perpetrator. These categories are also referred to as “types of rape.” The most common types of rape include:

  • Corrective Rape – Corrective is a type of hate crime targeting non-heterosexual individuals as a punishment for defying traditional gender roles.
  • Date Rape – Date rape, also referred to as “acquaintance rape,” is committed by someone who knows the victim.
  • Gang Rape – Gang rape takes place when two or more perpetrators rape one victim.
  • Marital Rape – Marital rape, also referred to as “spousal rape,” or “partner rape,” occurs between a couple, when one partner is not consenting.
  • Prison Rape – Rape between prison inmates affects approximately 10 percent of prison populations. Although this is most commonly a same-sex crime, because prison populations are segregated, studies show most perpetrators do not identify themselves as homosexuals. Rape perpetrated on an inmate by a custodial individual, such as prison staff, or a police officer, is referred to as “custodial rape.”
  • Rape by Deception – Rape by deception occurs when a rapist gains consent from the victim through fraud, or false pretenses.
  • Revenge Rape – Revenge rape, also known as “payback rape,” or “punishment rape,” occurs when one or more people rape another person as revenge for acts committed by the victim or their family.
  • Statutory Rape – Statutory rape involves sexual intercourse or other sexual acts with an individual who is regarded by the law as not being able to give consent.
  • War Rape – War rape occurs when soldiers or civilians rape other individuals during armed conflict or war. This is seen as a means of psychological warfare. The term war rape is often used in reference to girls or women being forced into prostitution or sexual slavery by the powers occupying a country.

Statutory Rape

Statutory rape occurs when a perpetrator engages in sexual conduct with a minor. According to the law, people below the age of consent in each state, which ranges from 16 to 18 in the U.S., cannot legally consent to sex. Even if the minor is a willing participant, it is classified as rape. In most jurisdictions, exceptions are made for teens engaging in sex if the age difference between the parties is small. In such a case, the adult party may face misdemeanor, rather than felony, charges.

Date Rape

Date rape refers to a rape perpetrated by someone who has some relationship to the victim. Such a relationship may be a romantic or dating relationship, or it may be only an acquaintanceship, neighbors, or co-worker relationship. Date rape, or “acquaintance rape,” occurs in many situations, and is often facilitated by the use of drugs or alcohol. The act entails physical or psychological intimidation to force or coerce the victim to engage in sex against his or her will.

While the concept and recognition of date rape is relatively new, the term having been coined in the 1975 book, “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape,” by American author and activist, Susan Brownmiller, modern statistics show that 84 percent of rape victims know the perpetrator before the incident. While acquaintance rape is a serious and prevalent problem, it often goes unreported, as many victims fail to apply the concept of rape when they have been coerced or forced into sexual activity by someone they know. Many date rape victims feel that somehow the incident was their own fault, and others may worry about the stigma associated with rape.

For Example:

Amanda goes out to dinner with a group of friends. After the evening ends, John offers to take Amanda home. Upon arriving at Amanda’s home, John insists on coming inside, even though Amanda has told him no. After Amanda relents and allows him in the door, John begins making sexual advances, and Amanda tells him to stop repeatedly. John ignores Amanda, and engages in sexual activities by holding her down. Although there was no weapon involved, and Amanda allowed John into her home, he has committed rape.

Lack of Consent

Lack of consent is one of the first elements that must be proven in a rape case. Sexual conduct becomes a criminal act when the victim has not consented to it, either because the offender forces the victim to perform sexual acts against his or her will, or because the victim is incapable of giving consent. A person can be incapable of consenting for several reasons, including:

  • Being below the age of consent
  • Having a mental disability or mental illness
  • Being incapacitated due to the use of drugs, alcohol, medication, or being physically helpless

Penalties for Rape

The penalties for rape vary greatly depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime. Penalties for rape can range from a year in prison to life incarceration. In addition to imprisonment, a perpetrator may be ordered to pay fines, or make restitution to the victim. The perpetrator may also be required to complete a treatment program while in prison, or upon release.

What is the Sex Offender Registry

Every state has a sex offender registration and notification system designed to keep track of where sex offenders live, and to notify the public of sex offenders who may live near their homes or schools. When a person is convicted of a sex offense, he or she is required to register with sex offender registry in the state in which he or she resides.

The sex offender registry requires convicted offenders to provide their names, addresses, and the nature of the crime. The majority of the information provided to the sex offender registry is made available to the public. Registration has long-term consequences for the offender, as it can make obtaining employment or housing difficult.

Rape Statistics

Rape happens on a daily basis around the world, though the circumstances surrounding each act vary. While most people are aware that rape does exist, they may be surprised to learn that an average of nearly 300,000 rapes are reported in the U.S. each year, yet it is estimated that 68 percent of all rapes are never reported. On average, 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18, and 80 percent are under the age of 30. Other rape statistics include:

  • Approximately 98 percent of rapists are never jailed
  • Acquaintance rape, or date rape, accounts for 4 out of 5 sexual assaults
  • In the U.S., 1 out of 6 women has been the victim of rape at some point in their lifetimes
  • Only 11 percent of rapes involve the use of a weapon

College Football Players Rape Unconscious Woman

On June 25, 2013, the Vanderbilt police department was notified by the staff of Vanderbilt University, that a rape had taken place. The report came after Vanderbilt staff began reviewing surveillance tapes from the night of June 23rd, after Gillette Hall was vandalized. The staffers found more than they bargained for as they viewed three football players dragging an unconscious woman around, before one player, Robert Vandenburg, covered the camera with a towel. The day after the police were notified, they contacted the young woman involved, and the investigation began.

On July 23, 2013, Robert Vandenburg met a young woman, who worked at the Vanderbilt athletics department, at a local bar. At the bar, Vandenburg gave the woman several drinks, and she became intoxicated to the point that she could not remember anything that happened that night. Vandenburg ultimately took the woman to his dorm on campus, where he had a fellow player help him carry her to the second floor, where two more players joined them.

Within a couple of minutes after getting the woman to the dorm room, one of the other men, Corey Batey, raped the woman while the other three other men watched and photographed the incident. In addition to Batey’s sexual assault of the young woman, Brandon Banks penetrated her with a water bottle, and Batey urinated on her. While Vandenburg apparently did not actually rape the woman, he did slap her buttocks, and send photos to two friends in California.

Within the week, the four players involved were dismissed from the football team by the university, and on August 9th, Brandon Vandenburg, Corey Batey, Jaborian McKenzie, and Brandon Banks were indicted on charges of sexual battery and aggravated rape. All of the young men pled not guilty. On January 8, 2015, Vandenburg and Batey were convicted of raping an unconscious woman. Even though Vandenburg did not participate in the actual rape of the victim, the jury held him responsible for his role in delivering her to the other perpetrators, as well as tampering with evidence. At the time of the conviction, the other two defendants were still awaiting trial.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Criminal Act – An act committed by an individual that is in violation of the law, or that poses a threat to the public.
  • Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
  • Felony – A crime, often involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor. Felony crimes are usually punishable by imprisonment more than one year.
  • Fraud – A false representation of fact, whether by words, conduct, or concealment, intended to deceive another.
  • Hearing – A proceeding before the court at which an issue of fact or law is heard, evidence presented, and a decision made.
  • Incapacitation – The state of being disabled, or unable to move or to function normally.
  • Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
  • Misdemeanor – A criminal offense less serious than a felony; generally those punishable by a fine, probation, community service, or imprisonment of less than one year.
  • Perpetrator – A person who commits an illegal or criminal act.
  • Restitution – The restoration of rights or property previously taken away or surrendered; reparation made by giving compensation for loss or injury caused by wrongdoing.
  • Sex Offender – A person convicted of a crime involving sex, including rape, molestation, and production or distribution of child pornography.
  • Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to make a determination in a civil matter.