|Classification and external resources|
The rape of noblewoman Lucretia was a starting point of events that led to the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom and establishment of the Roman Republic. As a direct result of rape, Lucretia committed suicide. Many artists and writers were inspired by the story, including Shakespeare, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Dürer, Artemisia Gentileschi, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Heywood and others.
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more people against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.
Internationally, the incidence of rapes recorded by the police during 2010 varied between 0.2 in Azerbaijan per 100,000 people and 92.9 per 100,000 people in Botswana with 6.3 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 underreported 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. 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 during international conflict, 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.
People who have been raped can be severely traumatized and may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder; in addition to psychological harm resulting from the act, rape may cause physical injury, or have additional effects on the victim, such as acquiring of a sexually transmitted infection or becoming pregnant. Furthermore, following a rape, a victim may face violence or threats thereof from the rapist, and, in some cultures, from the victim's own family and relatives.
- 1 Etymology of term
- 2 Definitions
- 3 Motivation of perpetrators
- 4 Effects
- 5 Prosecution
- 6 Prevention and treatment
- 7 Statistics
- 8 False accusation
- 9 History
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Etymology of term
The term rape originates in the Latin rapere, from raptus, "to snatch, to grab, to carry off". The term has come to mean, since approximately the 14th century, "to seize and take away by force". In Roman law in the carrying off of a woman by force, with or without intercourse, constituted "raptus". In Medieval English law the same term could refer to either kidnapping or rape in the modern sense of "sexual violation". The original meaning of "carry off by force" is still found in some phrases, such as "rape and pillage" or in titles, such as the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women or the poem The Rape of the Lock, which is about the theft of a lock of hair.
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 date rape, gang rape, marital rape, incestual rape, child sexual abuse, prison rape, acquaintance rape, war rape and statutory rape.
Penetrative and non-penetrative
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 Office on Drugs and Crime 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".
- "The perpetrator invaded the body of a person by conduct resulting in penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim or of the perpetrator with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body."
- "The invasion was committed by force, or by threat of force or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power, against such person or another person, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment, or the invasion was committed against a person incapable of giving genuine consent."
In 2012, the FBI changed their definition from "The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will." to "The 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." for their annual Uniform Crime Reports. The definition, which had remained unchanged since 1927, was considered outdated and narrow. The updated definition includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men, recognizes that rape with an object can be as traumatic as penile/vaginal rape, includes instances in which the victim is unable to give consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, and recognizes that a victim can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of ingestion of drugs or alcohol. The definition does not change federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the federal, state or local level; it rather means that rape will be more accurately reported nationwide.
Some countries, such as Germany, are now 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. Many other countries or 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. Scotland is among the countries that emphasizes penile penetration, requiring that the sexual assault must have been committed by use of a penis to qualify as rape.
In any allegation of rape, the absence of consent to sexual intercourse on the part of the victim is critical. Consent need not be expressed, and may be implied from the context and from the relationship of the parties, but the absence of objection does not of itself constitute consent. Lack of consent may result from either forcible compulsion by the perpetrator or an incapacity to consent on the part of the victim (such as persons who are asleep, intoxicated or otherwise mentally helpless). The law can also invalidate consent in the case of sexual intercourse with a person below the age at which they can legally consent to such relations with older persons. (See age of consent.) Such cases are sometimes called statutory rape or "unlawful sexual intercourse", regardless of whether it was consensual or not, as people who are under a certain age in relation to the perpetrator are deemed legally incapable of consenting to sex. Consent can always be withdrawn at any time, so that any further sexual activity after the withdrawal of consent constitutes rape.
Duress, in which the victim may be subject to or threatened by overwhelming force or violence, and which may result in absence of objection to intercourse, leads to the presumption of lack of consent. Duress may be actual or threatened force or violence against the victim or somebody else close to the victim. Even blackmail may constitute duress. Abuse of power may constitute duress. For instance, in Philippines, a man commits rape if he engages in sexual intercourse with a woman "By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority". The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in its landmark 1998 judgment used a definition of rape which did not use the word 'consent': "a physical invasion of a sexual nature committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive."
Marital rape, also known as spousal rape, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim's spouse. As such, it is a form of partner rape, of domestic violence, and of sexual abuse. Once widely condoned or ignored by law, spousal rape is now repudiated by international conventions and increasingly criminalized. Still, in many countries, spousal rape either remains legal, or is illegal but widely tolerated and accepted as a husband's prerogative.
In 2006, the UN Secretary-General's In-depth study on all forms of violence against women stated that (pg 113): "Marital rape may be prosecuted in at least 104 States. Of these, 32 have made marital rape a specific criminal offence, while the remaining 74 do not exempt marital rape from general rape provisions. Marital rape is not a prosecutable offence in at least 53 States. Four States criminalize marital rape only when the spouses are judicially separated. Four States are considering legislation that would allow marital rape to be prosecuted." Since 2006, several other states have outlawed marital rape (for example Thailand in 2007).
In the US, the criminalization of marital rape started in the mid-1970s and in 1993 North Carolina became the last state to make marital rape illegal. In many countries, it is not clear if marital rape may or may not be prosecuted under ordinary rape laws. In the absence of a spousal rape law, it may be possible to bring prosecution for acts of forced sexual intercourse inside marriage by prosecuting, through the use of other criminal offenses (such as assault based offenses), the acts of violence or criminal threat that were used to attain submission. Countries where the laws on rape exclude a husband as a possible perpetrator include several Asian countries which have inherited the 1860 Indian Penal Code (which states that "Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape") and several countries in the Commonwealth Caribbean region.
Throughout much of the history, in most cultures, sex in marriage was considered a 'right', that could be taken by force, if 'denied'. As the concept of human rights started to develop in the 20th century, and with the arrival of second wave feminism, such views have become less widely held. The legal and social concept of marital rape, has developed, in most industrialized countries, in the mid to late 20th century; and in many parts of the world it is still not recognized, socially and legally, as a form of abuse. Several countries in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia made marital rape illegal before 1970, but other countries in Western Europe and the English-speaking Western World outlawed it much later, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. In England and Wales, marital rape was made illegal in 1991. The views of Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century jurist, published in The History of the Pleas of the Crown (1736), stated that a husband cannot be guilty of the rape of his wife because the wife "hath given up herself in this kind to her husband, which she cannot retract"; in England and Wales this remained law for more than 250 years, until it was abolished by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, in the case of R v R in 1991. One of the last Western countries to criminalize marital rape was Germany, in 1997. In Canada, marital rape was made illegal in 1983, when several legal changes were made, including changing the rape statute to sexual assault, and making the laws gender neutral. In Ireland spousal rape was outlawed in 1990.
There have been various justifications historically for the "marital exemption", that is, a rule, statutory and/or in common law/case law, which precluded the prosecution of husbands for rape. In English common law, this was based on the idea of implied consent: when a woman was married she was deemed to be consenting to lifelong sexual intercourse with her husband, as such, if there was consent, there was no rape. Under Roman Dutch law, a wife was subjected to the marital power of her husband. A husband had a right to sexual intercourse with his wife, his status afforded to him by the marital power gave him the right to use "moderate chastisement" to force his wife into performing marital duties - sex was a marital duty, and, as such, he could force her into doing it, this was not rape.
Historically, most religions were interpreted as tolerating or ignoring forced sexual relations in marriage. Judaism has been considered an exception to this way of thinking; in Israel, in 1980, when the Israeli Supreme Court affirmed that marital rape is a crime, it was mostly religious arguments based on the Talmud that were given by the judges.
In 1924, in G v G, a case involving the annulment of a marriage because the wife had refused to have sexual intercourse with her husband, Lord Dunedin expressed his view that "gentle violence" in order to enforce sex would have been desirable. Such views were by no means extreme at that time; the view that if a husband desires to have sex with his wife, there must be full consent from her, and that if he ignores her refusal and forces himself on her, he is committing a crime, is a modern view, which is, or at least has been until very recently, largely restricted to the Western world; in many parts of the world marital rape is a very new concept that is only now being introduced and discussed. In many parts of the world, where women have very few rights, it is considered unthinkable for a woman to refuse her husband's sexual demands: for instance one survey found that 74% of women in Mali said that a husband is justified to beat his wife if she refuses to have sex with him.
Because traditionally forced sex was considered a right of a husband, it was not considered a form of abuse or a wrongdoing, and therefore it was not considered a ground for divorce for the wife. An exemplification of these views can be seen in an 1985 Tokyo district court decision which denied a woman’s request for divorce on grounds of the husband having compelled her through physical force to have sex with him; the judge ruled:
- "The marriage presupposes sexual union between both sexes. It is in no way illegal for a husband to demand sexual intercourse from a wife, nor does a wife have any rights to deny such a request. Because of the plaintiff's [wife] complete refusal of a sexual relationship for no reason, the defendant [husband] became sexually frustrated, could not tolerate it, and forced sexual intercourse upon the plaintiff.(...) Although it involved a certain degree of violent acts, it is within the range of the degree of force used in fights among ordinary married couples, and thus, it does not warrant a special consideration [by court]."
In cultures influenced by Christianity, the religious concept of "marital debt" (explained in the Bible at 1 Corinthians 7:3-5), that is, a duty to have marital sex with one's spouse (in sharp opposition with the prohibition of premarital/ extramarital sex) has played a role in precluding husbands from being prosecuted with rape. The verse "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another (...)" has been central in the religious debate on marital rape.
The concept of marital rape is controversial in Islam, too, due to certain religions teachings, such as: "Allah's Apostle said, 'If a husband calls his wife to his bed [i.e. to have sexual relations] and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning'."
Motivation of perpetrators
- beliefs in family honor and sexual purity;
- ideologies of male sexual entitlement;
- weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.
There is no single scientific theory that conclusively explains the motivation for rape; the motives of rapists can be multi-factorial and are subject to debate. Several factors have been proposed: anger; a desire for power; sadism; sexual gratification in tandem with evolutionary proclivities.
Victims of rape 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. After being raped, it is common for the victim to experience acute stress disorder, including symptoms similar to those of posttraumatic stress disorder, such as intense, sometimes unpredictable emotions, and they may find it hard to deal with their memories of the event. In the months immediately following the assault, these problems may be severe and upsetting and may prevent the victim from revealing their ordeal to friends or family, or seeking police or medical assistance. Additional symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder include:
- Depersonalization or dissociation (feeling numb and detached, like being in a daze or a dream, or feeling that the world is strange and unreal)
- Difficulty remembering important parts of the assault
- Reliving the assault through repeated thoughts, memories, or nightmares
- Avoidance of things, places, thoughts, and/or feelings that remind the victim of the assault
- Anxiety or increased alertness (difficulty sleeping, concentrating, etc.)
- Avoidance of social life or place of rape
For one-third to one-half of the victims, these symptoms continue beyond the first few months and meet the conditions for the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder. In general, rape and sexual assault are among the most common causes of PTSD in women.
Rape may result in the transmission of HIV/AIDS, and this is especially a problem in parts of the world where the disease is endemic, such as Sub-Saharan Africa. The extent of the problem is disputed. In 2005, some aid industry organizations stated that around 60% of combatants in the Second Congo War were HIV-infected, and that the disease was being spread by systematic rape perpetrated by these soldiers. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo Demographic and Health Survey (EDS-RDC) in 2007, 1.3 percent of the population age 15–49 years is HIV-positive. The prevalence is 1.6 percent for women and 0.9 percent for men.
Rape acts both as a direct factor, as the virus can be transmitted through the forced sexual intercourse, and as an indirect factor, as victims of rape are at higher risk of suffering psychological problems, which may lead to victims being more likely to engage in behaviors that create risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, such as injecting drugs.
In parts of Africa, there is a myth that sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS; as such, girls and women are raped because of it. It is not known how common the myth is and to what degree rapes happen because of the belief in it. The claim that the myth drives either HIV infection or child sexual abuse in South Africa is disputed by researchers Rachel Jewkes and Helen Epstein.
"Victim blaming" is holding the victim of a crime to be in whole or in part responsible for the crime. 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,[which?] 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. Amy M. Buddie and Arthur G. Miller, in a review of studies of rape myths, state:
Rape victims are blamed more when they resist the attack later in the rape encounter rather than earlier (Kopper, 1996), which seems to suggest the stereotype that these women are engaging in token resistance (Malamuth & Brown, 1994; Muehlenhard & Rogers, 1998) or leading the man on because they have gone along with the sexual experience thus far. Finally, rape victims are blamed more when they are raped by an acquaintance or a date rather than by a stranger (e.g., Bell, Kuriloff, & Lottes, 1994; Bridges, 1991; Bridges & McGr ail, 1989; Check & Malamuth, 1983; Kanekar, Shaherwalla, Franco, Kunju, & Pinto, 1991; L'Armand & Pepitone, 1982; Tetreault & Barnett, 1987), which seems to evoke the stereotype that victims really want to have sex because they know their attacker and perhaps even went out on a date with him. The underlying message of this research seems to be that when certain stereotypical elements of rape are in place, rape victims are prone to being blamed.
They also state that "individuals may endorse rape myths and at the same time recognize the negative effects of rape." A number of gender role stereotypes can play a role in rationalization of rape. In the case of male-on-female rape, these include the idea that power is reserved to men whereas women are meant for sex and objectified, that women want forced sex and to be pushed around, and that male sexual impulses and behaviors are uncontrollable and must be satisfied. In the case of female-on-male rape, the victim may either be perceived as weak or, in cultures where men acquire status by sexual conquest, as fortunate.
It has been proposed by Dr. Roxanne Agnew-Davies, a clinical psychologist and an expert on the effects of sexual violence, that victim-blaming correlates with fear. "It is not surprising when so many rape victims blame themselves. Female jurors can look at the woman in the witness stand and decide she has done something 'wrong' such as flirting or having a drink with the defendant. She can therefore reassure herself that rape won't happen to her as long as she does nothing similar."
Honor killings and forced marriages
In many cultures, those who are raped are at very high risk of suffering additional violence or threats of violence after the rape. These acts may be perpetrated by the rapist or by friends and relatives of the rapist, as a way of preventing the victims from reporting the rape, of punishing them for reporting it, or of forcing them to withdraw the complaint; or they may be perpetrated by the relatives of the victim as a punishment for "bringing shame" to the family. This is especially the case in cultures where female virginity is highly valued and considered mandatory before marriage; in extreme cases, rape victims are killed in honor killings.
In some places, girls and women who are raped are often forced by their families to marry their rapist. Because being the victim of rape and losing virginity carry extreme social stigma, and the victims are deemed to have their "reputation" tarnished, a marriage with the rapist is arranged. This is claimed to be in the advantage of both the victim - who does not remain unmarried and doesn't lose social status - and of the rapist, who avoids punishment. In 2012, the suicide of a 16-year-old Moroccan girl - who, after having been forced by her family to marry her rapist at the suggestion of the prosecutor, and who subsequently endured abuse by the rapist after they married - sparked protests from activists against the law which allows the rapist to marry the victim in order to escape criminal sanctions, and against this social practice which is common in Morocco.
While penetrative rape generally does not involve the use of a condom, in some cases a condom is used. This significantly reduces the likelihood of pregnancy and disease transmission, both to the victim and to the rapist. Rationales for condom use include: avoiding contracting diseases (particularly HIV), particularly in cases of rape of sex workers or in gang rape (to avoid contracting diseases from fellow rapists); eliminating evidence, making prosecution more difficult (and giving a sense of invulnerability); giving the appearance of consent (in cases of acquaintance rape); and thrill from planning and the use of the condom as an added prop. Concern for the victim is generally not considered a factor.
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). In 2003, a study by Rape Crisis Network Europe found that Ireland had the lowest rate of conviction for rape (1%) among 21 European states.
Prevention and treatment
As sexual violence affects all parts of society, the response to sexual violence is comprehensive. The responses can be categorized as: individual approaches, health care responses, community-based efforts and actions to prevent other forms of sexual violence. Recovery from sexual assault is a complicated and controversial concept, but support groups, usually accessed by "umbrella" organizations (see List of anti-sexual assault organizations in the United States) are prevalent, including some on-line.
In 2007, 40% of the 90,427 forcible rapes reported were cleared by arrest or "exceptional means." Exceptional means refers to situations where the person refuses to provide information or assistance necessary to obtain an arrest, the defendant dies before being arrested, or the defendant cannot be extradited from another state.
Most rape research and reporting to date has been limited to male-female forms of rape. Research on male-male and female-male rape is beginning to be done. According to psychologist Dr. Sarah Crome, fewer than one in ten male-male rapes are reported. As a group, males who have been raped by either gender often get little services and support, and legal systems are often ill equipped to deal with this type of crime. Denov (2004) states that societal responses to the issue of female perpetrators of sexual assault "point to a widespread denial of women as potential sexual aggressors that could work to obscure the true dimensions of the problem." Due to these reasons, it is likely being substantially under-reported, with the probable cause being the double standard. Some legal codes on rape do not legislate against women raping men, as rape is generally defined to include the act of penetration on behalf of the rapist. In 2007, the South Africa police investigated instances of women raping young men. Little research has been done on female-female rape.
The humanitarian news organization IRIN claims that an estimated 500,000 rapes are committed annually in South Africa, once called ‘the world’s rape capital.’ The country has some of the highest incidences of child and baby rape in the world with more than 67,000 cases of rape and sexual assaults against children reported in 2000, with welfare groups believing that unreported incidents could be up to 10 times higher.
The largest and most rigorous study was commissioned by the British Home Office and based on 2,643 sexual assault cases (Kelly, Lovett, and Regan, 2005). Of these, 8% were classified by the police department as false reports. The researchers noted that some of these classifications were based simply on the personal judgments of the police investigators and were made in violation of official criteria for establishing a false allegation. Closer analysis of this category applying the Home Office counting rules for establishing a false allegation and excluding cases where the application of the cases where confirmation of the designation was uncertain reduced the percentage of false reports to 3%. The researchers concluded that "one cannot take all police designations at face value" and that "[t]here is an over-estimation of the scale of false allegations by both police officers and prosecutors." Moreover, they added:
The interviews with police officers and complainants’ responses show that despite the focus on victim care, a culture of suspicion remains within the police, even amongst some of those who are specialists in rape investigations. There is also a tendency to conflate false allegations with retractions and withdrawals, as if in all such cases no sexual assault occurred. This reproduces an investigative culture in which elements that might permit a designation of a false complaint are emphasized (later sections reveal how this also feeds into withdrawals and designation of 'insufficient evidence'), at the expense of a careful investigation, in which the evidence collected is evaluated.
Another large-scale study was conducted in Australia, with the 850 rapes reported to the Victoria police between 2000 and 2003 (Heenan & Murray, 2006). Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the researchers examined 812 cases with sufficient information to make an appropriate determination, and found that 2.1% of these were classified by police as false reports. All of these complainants were then charged or threatened with charges for filing a false police report.
FBI reports consistently put the number of "unfounded" rape accusations around 8%. The unfounded rate is higher for forcible rape than for any other Index crime. The average rate of unfounded reports for Index crimes is 2%. “Unfounded” is not synonymous with false allegation and as Bruce Gross of the Forensic Examiner explains,
This statistic is almost meaningless, as many of the jurisdictions from which the FBI collects data on crime use different definitions of, or criteria for, "unfounded." That is, a report of rape might be classified as unfounded (rather than as forcible rape) if the alleged victim did not try to fight off the suspect, if the alleged perpetrator did not use physical force or a weapon of some sort, if the alleged victim did not sustain any physical injuries, or if the alleged victim and the accused had a prior sexual relationship. Similarly, a report might be deemed unfounded if there is no physical evidence or too many inconsistencies between the accuser's statement and what evidence does exist. As such, although some unfounded cases of rape may be false or fabricated, not all unfounded cases are false.—
Other studies have suggested that the rate of false allegations in America may be much higher. A nine-year study of a small metropolitan area in the Midwestern United States found that 41% of rape accusations were false. A report by the National Institute of Justice found that DNA evidence excluded the primary suspect in 26% of rape cases and concluded that this "strongly suggests that postarrest and postconviction DNA exonerations are tied to some strong, underlying systemic problems that generate erroneous accusations and convictions."
Definitions and evolution of laws
The word rape itself originates from the Latin verb rapere: 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 complex. In Roman law, rape, or raptus was classified as a form of crimen vis, "crime of assault." The concept of raptus was applied to the abduction of a woman against the will of the man under whose authority she lived, and sexual intercourse was not a necessary element. Like theft or robbery, rape was originally considered a "private wrong" iniuria privita, a crime between the abductor and the legal guardian of the woman in question.
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.
The legal view of the concept of rape began changing gradually in the late Middle Ages. 12th century Codex of Gratian clearly distinguished between abduction and rape, and considered forced sexual intercourse a necessary element. By the mid-1500s, European courts began recognizing the concept of age of consent, namely, that minors under a certain age, such as 12, would be incapable of consenting to intercourse.
Virtually all societies have had a concept of the crime of rape. Although what constituted this crime has varied by historical period and culture, until quite recently, the definitions tended to focus around an act of forced vaginal intercourse perpetrated through physical violence or imminent threat of death or severe bodily injury, by a man, on a woman or a girl, not his wife. These definitions differ significantly from the modern definitions of rape in Western countries today. For example, the actus reus of the crime, was, in most societies, the insertion of the penis into the vagina, and, until the 19th century, many jurisdictions required ejaculation for the act to constitute the offense of rape. Acts other than vaginal intercourse did not constitute rape in common law countries and in many other societies. In many cultures, such acts were illegal, even if they were consensual and performed between married couples (see sodomy laws). In England, for example, the Buggery Act 1533, which remained in force until 1828, provided for the death penalty for "buggery". Today, in many countries, the definition of the actus reus has been extended to all forms of penetration of the vagina and anus (e.g. penetration with objects, fingers or other body parts) as well as insertion of the penis in the mouth. Throughout much of the history, rape was a crime that could only be perpetrated by a male on a female. The way sexuality was conceptualized in many societies rejected the very notion that a woman could force a man into sex - women were often seen as passive while men were deemed to be assertive and aggressive. Sexual penetration of a male by another male fell under the legal domain of "sodomy".
One of the most distinctive feature of rape historically was the fact that not all incidents of forced intercourse constituted this crime. An incident could be excluded from the definition of rape due to the relation between the parties, such as marriage (until a few decades ago wives were nearly universally excluded, and in many countries they continue to be so) or due to the background of the victim (in many cultures forced sex on prostitute, slave, war enemy, member of a racial minority, etc., was not rape). For instance, in 17th century Scandinavia, Christian V's law of 1687 stipulated that rape could only be committed on three categories of women: somebody else's wife, a widow, or an honest virgin. Women who did not fit in any of these categories were not considered legal victims of the crime of rape.
American radio host, author, and political commentator Thom Hartmann has asserted that, during the colonization of the Americas, the rape of native women was not held to be a crime under Spanish Law as the persons in question were pagan and not Christian. In 1814, Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt wrote of his travels in Egypt and Nubia, where he saw the practice of slave trading: "I frequently witnessed scenes of the most shameless indecency, which the traders, who were the principal actors, only laughed at. I may venture to state, that very few female slaves who have passed their tenth year, reach Egypt or Arabia in a state of virginity."
Rape historically was understood as a very violent attack, the victim had to offer the utmost resistance; threats of violence, if accepted, had to be of a very severe nature. Other forms of non consensual intercourse, such as sex with a victim who cannot defend herself, various forms of threats other than the most extreme threats of violence (even these were often not accepted by themselves in absence of physical resistance of the victim), or other forms of coercion or exploitation were not considered rape, and most often were not covered by other laws either (although the traditional crime of seduction could be applied in some circumstances, provided the victim was of "good morals").
In the United States, the 1962 Model Penal Code defined rape as follows: "A male who has sexual intercourse with a female not his wife is guilty of rape if:(a) he compels her to submit by force or by threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain or kidnapping, to be inflicted on anyone; or (b) he has substantially impaired her power to appraise or control her conduct by administering or employing without her knowledge drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance; or (c) the female is unconscious; or (d) the female is less than 10 years old." Rape was classified as a felony in the second degree. If aggravated circumstances existed, which were defined as either inflicting serious bodily injury upon anyone, or when the victim was not a voluntary social companion of the actor upon the occasion of the crime and had not previously permitted him sexual liberties, then rape was a felony in the first degree.
Social views and constructs
In ancient history, rape was viewed less as a type of assault on the female, than a serious property crime against the man to whom she belonged, typically the father or husband. The loss of virginity was an especially serious matter. The damage due to loss of virginity was reflected in her reduced prospects in finding a husband and in her bride price. This was especially true in the case of betrothed virgins, as the loss of chastity was perceived as severely depreciating her value to a prospective husband. In such cases, the law 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 compelled to marry 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 body, 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. (See Deuteronomy 22:28–29.)
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." Despite the harshness of these laws, actual punishments were usually far less severe: in late Medieval Europe, cases concerning rapes of marriageable women, wives, widows, or members of the lower class were rarely brought forward, and usually ended with only a small monetary fine or a marriage between the victim and the rapist. In the 15 and 16th centuries, rape in the Basque charters (Enkarterri, Durangaldea) was punished with death for the offender and the person who was helping him.
Adult women were often extremely reluctant to bring up charges of rape: public admission of having been raped was severely damaging to one's social standing, courts tended to be skeptical of the charges, conviction rates were low, and, in the event that the accusation could not be proved, the victim could then be accused of committing adultery with the rapist (traditionally a serious offense that could have been punished by mutilation or even death). Certain classes of women, such as prostitutes, were banned from raising accusations of rape altogether.
The ius primae noctis ("law of the first night") is a term now popularly used to describe an alleged legal right allowing the lord of an estate to take the virginity of his serfs' maiden daughters. Little or no historical evidence has been unearthed from the Middle Ages to support the idea that such a right ever actually existed.
The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas argued that rape, though sinful, was much less sinful than masturbation or coitus interruptus, because it fulfilled the procreative function of sex, while the other acts violated the purpose of sex.
In Medieval Europe, a woman could be legally married by her parents to a stranger without her consent, and, once she was married, she could no longer refuse to consent to sex: the medieval concept of rape did not allow for the possibility of being raped by one's husband. In 1563, the Council of Trent expressly declared that legal Catholic marriages had to be done with consent of both parties, but did not require parental consent, essentially declaring forced marriages invalid. This was not universally accepted: for example, in France, women were not granted the right to marry without parental consent until 1793.
The criminal justice system of many countries was widely regarded as unfair to sexual assault victims. 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". Additionally, gender neutral laws have combated the older perception that rape never occurs to men, while other laws have eliminated the term altogether.
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. In some countries the women's liberation movement of the 1970s created the first rape crisis centers. 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%.
From time immemorial, rape has been regarded as spoils of war. Now it will be considered a war crime. We want to send out a strong message that rape is no longer a trophy of war.
Rape, in the course of war, dates back to antiquity, ancient enough to have been mentioned in the Bible. The Israelite, Persian, Greek and Roman armies reportedly engaged in war rape. The Mongols, who established the Mongol Empire across much of Eurasia, caused much destruction during their invasions. Documents written during or after Genghis Khan's reign say that after a conquest, the Mongol soldiers looted, pillaged and raped. Rogerius, a monk who survived the Mongol invasion of Hungary, pointed out not only the genocidal element of the occupation, but also that the Mongols especially "found pleasure" in humiliating women.
The systematic rape of as many as 80,000 women by the Japanese soldiers during the six weeks of the Nanking Massacre is an example of such atrocities. During World War II an estimated 200,000 Korean and Chinese women were forced into prostitution in Japanese military brothels, as so-called "Comfort women". French Moroccan troops known as Goumiers committed rapes and other war crimes after the Battle of Monte Cassino. (See Marocchinate.) French women in Normandy complained about rapes during the liberation of Normandy. Soldiers raping women and girls was common in many areas occupied by the Red Army. A female Soviet war correspondent described what she had witnessed: "The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty. It was an army of rapists."
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 Indian academic Sarmila Bose), and that at least 20,000 Bosnian Muslim women were raped by Serb forces during the Bosnian War. Wartime propaganda often alleges, and exaggerates, 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 assemble an accurate view of what really happened.
Commenting on rape of children and women in recent African conflict zones, UNICEF said that rape was no longer just perpetrated by combatants but also by civilians. According to UNICEF, rape is common in countries affected by wars and natural disasters, drawing a link between the occurrence of sexual violence with the significant uprooting of a society and the crumbling of social norms. UNICEF states that in Kenya reported cases of sexual violence doubled within days of post-election conflicts. They state that rape was prevalent in conflict zones in Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is estimated that more than 200,000 women living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today have been raped in recent conflicts. A recent study says more than 400,000 women are raped in the DRC annually.
In 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found that systematic rape was used in the Rwandan genocide. The Tribunal held that "sexual assault [in Rwanda] formed an integral part of the process of destroying the Tutsi ethnic group and that the rape was systematic and had been perpetrated against Tutsi women only, manifesting the specific intent required for those acts to constitute genocide." An estimated 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
The Rome Statute, which defines the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, recognizes rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, "or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity" as crime against humanity if the action is part of a widespread or systematic practice.
Rape was first recognized as crime against humanity when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia issued arrest warrants based on the Geneva Conventions and Violations of the Laws or Customs of War. Specifically, it was recognized that Muslim women in Foča (southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina) were subjected to systematic and widespread gang rape, torture and enslavement by Bosnian Serb soldiers, policemen and members of paramilitary groups after the takeover of the city in April 1992. The indictment was of major legal significance and was the first time that sexual assaults were investigated for the purpose of prosecution under the rubric of torture and enslavement as a crime against humanity. The indictment was confirmed by a 2001 verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia that rape and sexual enslavement are crimes against humanity. Amnesty International stated that the ruling challenged the widespread acceptance of the torture of women as an intrinsic part of war.
- Anti-rape movement
- Corrective rape
- Courtship disorder
- Criminal transmission of HIV
- Emergency contraception (the morning after pill)
- Factors associated with being a victim of sexual violence
- Special Victims Unit (also known as the Sex Crimes Unit)
- Rape by gender
- Rape culture
- Rape fantasy
- Rape of college women
- Rape shield law (shields rape victims from scrutiny)
- Sexual grooming
- Sexual violence by intimate partners
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