For purposes of this page, we use the term “rape” to mean all crimes of sexual violence, not just those crimes that would qualify as “rape”.
The exact definition of “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual abuse” and similar terms differs.
Please note that this definition is rather graphic, which is inevitable when describing crimes this violent.
“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."
Sexual assault victims may be forced through threats or physical means. In about 8 out of 10 sexual assaults, no weapon is used other than physical force. Anyone may be a victim of sexual assault: women, men or children, straight or gay.
So, how can you figure if what happened was rape? There are a few questions to consider.
There are three main considerations in judging whether or not a sexual act is consensual (which means that both people are old enough to consent, have the capacity to consent, and agreed to the sexual contact) or is a crime.
- Are the participants old enough to consent? “age of consent,” which is the minimum age someone must be to have sex. People below this age are considered children and cannot legally agree to have sex. In other words, even if the child or teenager says yes, the law says no.
- the age of consent is 16 or 18. The age of consent varies according to the age difference between the participants. Generally, “I thought she was 18” is not considered a legal excuse — it’s up to you to make sure your partner is old enough to legally take part.
- Do both people have the capacity to consent? Those with diminished capacity — for example, some people with disabilities, some elderly people and people who have been drugged or are unconscious — may not have the legal ability to agree to have sex.
- Did both participants agree to take part? Did someone use physical force to make you have sexual contact with him/her? Has someone threatened you to make you have intercourse with them? If so, it is rape.
- It doesn’t matter if you think your partner means yes, or if you’ve already started having sex — “No” also means “Stop.” If you proceed despite your partner’s expressed instruction to stop, you have not only violated basic codes of morality and decency, you may have also committed a crime.
- I didn’t resist physically – does that mean it isn’t rape?
- I used to date the person who assaulted me – does that mean it isn’t rape?
- I don’t remember the assault – does that mean it isn’t rape?
- I was asleep or unconscious when it happened – does that mean it isn’t rape?
- I was drunk or they were drunk - does that mean it isn't rape?
- I thought “no,” but didn’t say it. Is it still rape?