Definition of rape
- IPA: /ɹeɪp/, SAMPA: /reIp/
- Rhymes: -eɪp
From Latin rapiō (“to abduct or seize by force”).
rape (plural rapes)
- The act of forcing sexual intercourse or other sexual activity upon another person, without their consent and/or against their will.
rape (third-person singular simple present rapes, present participle raping, simple past and past participle raped)
- To force sexual intercourse or other sexual activity upon another person, without their consent.
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The term is most often defined in criminal law. A person who commits an act of rape is known as a rapist.
Internationally, the incidence of rapes recorded by the police during 2008 varied between 0.1 in Egypt per 100,000 people and 91.6 per 100,000 people in Lesotho with 4.9 per 100,000 people in Lithuania as the median. According to the American Medical Association (1995), sexual violence, and rape in particular, is considered the most under-reported violent crime. The rate of reporting, prosecution and convictions for rape varies considerably in different jurisdictions. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (1999) estimated that 91% of U.S. rape victims are female and 9% are male, with 99% of the offenders being male. Rape by strangers is usually less common than rape by persons the victim knows, and several studies argue that male-male and female-female prison rape are quite common and may be the least reported forms of rape.
When part of a widespread and systematic practice, rape and sexual slavery are recognized as crimes against humanity and war crimes. Rape is also recognized as an element of the crime of genocide when committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a targeted ethnic group.
The definition of rape varies both in different parts of the world and at different times in history. It is defined in many jurisdictions as sexual intercourse, or other forms of sexual penetration, of one person by another person without the consent of the victim. The United Nations defines it as "sexual intercourse without valid consent," and the World Health Organization defined it in 2002 as "physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration - even if slight - of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object." Some countries such as Germany are now, however, using more inclusive definitions which do not require penetration and the 1998 International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda defines it as "a physical invasion of a sexual nature committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive". In some jurisdictions, the term "rape" has been phased out of legal use in favor of terms such as "sexual assault" or "criminal sexual conduct".
Some jurisdictions continue to define rape to cover only acts involving penile penetration of the vagina, treating all other types of non-consensual sexual activity as sexual assault. In Brazil, for example, the legal code defines rape as non-consensual vaginal sex. Thus male rape, anal rape, and oral rape are not included. The FBI uses the following definition of rape in compiling their annual Uniform Crime Reports: "The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will." This has been interpreted to mean only forced penile-vaginal penetration.
Sexual violence, and rape in particular, is considered the most under-reported violent crime (American Medical Association, 1995). Thus, the number of reported rapes is lower than both incidence and prevalence rates (Walby and Allen, 2004).
The legal requirements for reporting rape vary by jurisdiction - each U.S. state may have different requirements while other countries may have less stringent limits.
Since the vast majority of rapes are committed by persons known to the victim, the initiation and process of a rape investigation depends much on the victim's willingness and ability to report and describe a rape.
Biological evidence such as semen, blood, vaginal secretions, saliva, and vaginal epithelial cells (typically collected by a rape kit) may be identified and genetically typed by a crime lab. The information derived from the analysis can often help determine whether sexual contact occurred, provide information regarding the circumstances of the incident, and be compared to reference samples collected from patients and suspects.
In the United Kingdom, figures on reported rape cases show an ongoing decline in the conviction rate, putting it at an all time low of 5.6% in 2002. The government has expressed its concern at the year-on-year increase in attrition of reported rape cases, and pledged to address this "justice gap" (Home Office, 2002a).
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