What is Rape?

**Please note this is possibly triggering to rape victims.

Many definitions of rape/sexual assault have been offered by a variety of sources--some credible, some questionable.

State laws generally define rape as vaginal, anal, or oral penetration involving force or threat of force. Nicholas Groth in Men Who Rape defines rape as "some form of sexual intercourse against the will of the victim or by threat of bodily injury". Other literary sources define rape as "any form of forced sexual contact". Perhaps the most accurate definition of rape is found in the dictionary. Webster's dictionary also defines rape as the crime of forcing another person to submit to sexual intercourse, however, the dictionary also describes rape as "the act of seizing or carrying off: abduction, violation".

The importance of including Webster's latter definition of rape lies within the trauma that resonates beyond the act itself. Rape is not just forcing sexual intercourse without consent. Rape also represents a robbery of the mind--of one's psychological safety and one's sense of security. It is the ultimate act of seizing the victim's power, control, and autonomy against her will--the effects of which can last a lifetime. If you can remember only one thing from this piece of literature, remember: RAPE IS NEVER THE VICTIM'S FAULT. Nobody, under any circumstances, has the right to violate the body and mind of another person against their will.

Rape is a crime that affects everyone! It is an act that harms:

  1. Women: Victims of rape suffer physical pain and emotional effects may include:
    • Loss of Trust
    • Low self-esteem
    • Fear of Men
    • Depression
    • Many other Problems
  2. Men: Spouses, partners, family members, and friends suffer with the victim. Their relationship with the victim may change permanently. Men can also suffer as victims of rape.
  3. The Community: Costs for investigation, arrest, and prosecution are high. Rape can also affect the quality of life in a community by creating fear among residents.
  • Rape is NOT about sexual gratification. Rape is a crime of violence, anger, and power. It is NOT motivated by sexual desire.
  • Rape is NOT about the perpetrator's losing control over his sexual urges--a rapist chooses to rape and it is always within his control NOT to rape.
  • Rape occurs at all times of the day and in all seasons.
  • Rape occurs in various places--in cities, towns and rural areas. Rape may occur:
    • In a home
    • On the street
    • In a parking lot, office building, or school
    • In any place where the victim can be trapped or isolated.
  • Rapists are not easily identifiable--they can be anyone--there are no racial, economic, religious, or class distinctions among rapists.



Please note: anger, power, and sadistic rape are defined in terms of the primary motivation of the perpetrator.

Anger Rape: In cases of anger rape, the rapist uses sexuality as a means of expressing and discharging feelings of pent-up anger and rage. The assault is characterized by physical brutality. Far more actual force is used in the commission of the offense than would be necessary if the intent were simply to overpower the victim and achieve sexual penetration (Groth and Birnbaum, p. 12). The victim is almost always beaten, usually severely: The rapist often approaches his victim by striking or beating her, tears her clothing, and uses profane and abusive language (Groth, Burgess, and Holmstrom, p. 1241). The assault is often impulsive and spontaneous, rather than premeditated (Groth and Birnbaum, p. 14).

Power Rape: In this type of rape, the offender "seeks power and control over his victim through intimidation by means of a weapon, physical force, or threat of bodily harm. Physical aggression is used to overpower and subdue the victim… (Groth, Burgess, and Holmstrom, p. 1241). The rapist uses whatever force or threat is necessary to gain control over her and overcome her resistance. Power rape represents the offender’s attempt to demonstrate his "conquest" and mastery over the victim. The victim may be tied up, held down by physical force, or otherwise rendered helpless (Groth, Burgess, and Holmstrom, p. 1241).

Sadistic Rape: In this case, physical force (anger and power) becomes an erotic stimulant for the rapist. He takes intense pleasure in her torment and suffering (Groth and Birnbaum, p. 44). The offender is usually intensely excited; excitement is directly connected to the pain which he is inflicting upon his victim (Groth and Birnbaum, p. 45).

The following types of rape are defined in terms of the relationship between the perpetrator and victim and can include elements of power, anger, and sadistic rape.

Acquaintance Rape: Rape committed by a perpetrator known to the victim. Teenagers and young women are especially vulnerable to acquaintance rape. Many acquaintance rapes are initiated by the perpetrator, with the intention of having sex. When the victim resists the perpetrator's advances, the perpetrator uses more aggressive measures to ensure compliance.

Marital Rape: Yes--rape can and does occur in many marriages. This is often a difficult fact to reconcile with the traditional view of marriage which asserts that a wife cannot deny sexual relations with her husband. Until recently, many state rape statutes excluded spouses, making it legal for a husband to rape his wife. Presently, it is against North Carolina law for a husband to force his wife to have sex.
The perpetrator of marital rape often justifies his actions by asserting that he has a "right" to have sex with his wife, even without her consent. The marital rapist often feels deep rejection if denied sex by his wife. He then must reassert his "manhood" by forcing her to have sex. Once the rape has been committed, the offender feels vindicated and "in control" again. Marital rape poses additional problems for the victim in that she may feel financially, or otherwise dependent on her husband. Religious or family values may not permit divorce, under any circumstances, therefore, she may feel she does not have a choice about whether to stay or escape her situation. She is then left to suffer alone, in shame and silence.

We must ask ourselves: just because one is married, does this mean it is not rape when a husband forces his wife to have sex against her will? NO! Rape is rape is rape--married or single, stranger or acquaintance--Nobody, under any circumstances, has the right to violate the body and mind of another person against their will.

Stranger Rape: A rape by a person who is a complete stranger to the victim. Contrary to popular belief, statistics show that stranger rape occurs with substantially less frequency than acquaintance rape.

Gang Rape: This type of rape is perpetrated by a group of offenders that "take turns" assaulting a victim. Group members may also participate by forcing the victim to submit (by physical force or threat) while other group members commit the rape. The motivation for the gang rapist is to assert his "manhood" and power, and to gain acceptance by a group of his peers.

After Rape, How to Begin Moving On

What to do After a Rape or Assault

Women will react differently after sexual assault or rape. It is important to trust and validate your feelings and do what you need to do in order to recover. This may entail telling a friend, going to a place where you feel safe or having a bath or shower or crying.

In order to cope with the trauma of the event many women will just try to carry on as normal and not tell anyone for a long time. However, often distress can surface a considerable time after the event. No matter how much later, a woman can always seek help from counsellors, GPs etc. Do not feel you have to cope on your own simply because you did not report the incident soon after it happened.

Reporting to the Police

Sexual violence is a criminal offence and you can, if you wish your perpetrator to be prosecuted, report the crime to the police. It is your choice. You can do this later if you wish but the reason for reporting a sexual assault immediately is so that forensic evidence can be taken. Evidence will be collected by means of a medical examination by a police surgeon - who will be a GP employed part-time by the police.

If the attack was physically violent the police forensic team may also wish to visit the scene of the crime to collect more evidence.

When you go to the police station you can take someone with you, such as a friend or professional worker. Ask for an officer who has had special training (this would usually be a woman). An officer who has had special training with sexual offences will be called.

Today the police are trained to use tact and sensitivity. No one has the right to ask you to disclose any personal details about your previous relationships and sexual life.

If you have reported a sexual offence you have the right to withdraw the complaint at any time. The police may require clothing to be left for forensic examination. The police station can provide you with other clothing, but it is a good idea to take a change of clothes with you.

If you are very traumatised after the assault you may arrange another time for a statement to be made. If English is not your first language the police can arrange for an interpreter to be present. The police officer will explain police procedures to you and give you advice and information of the next stages including the court process.

A Letter to Abuse Victims

Dear Victim Of Abuse,

I am writing this letter to tell you that you deserve better. It isn't your fault! No matter how hard you try to please an abuser, no matter how many times you try to do better, sooner or later more than likely they will abuse you again. It's not your fault!

Part of you wants to believe that if you could somehow change yourself the emotional/physical beatings would stop. If only you were a better person that this would not be happening to you. Despite the logical part of your brain telling you that it isn't your fault, the emotional part of you is probably saying that 'if" only you did something different the abuse would stop. Don't believe it!

There are millions of people around the world, just like you, many of them sweet, caring wonderful people, who feel that they are doing something wrong, that if they somehow change their behavior that their abuser will stop punishing them. No matter what they do, no matter how hard they try, as long as they stay with an abusive person, the abuser will 'find" something to get angry at them for. The abuser will find a reason to hurt them emotionally/physically, and afterwards the abuser will say "I didn't want to hurt you, you made me do it, if you are more careful and do things better it won't happen again".

Abuse, is a cycle of emotional/physical violence. Think of it as a circle where things go around and around. The victims does something that the abuser gets mad about. The abuser takes out their anger on the victim. Then they apologize. Then they say they are so sorry, that it won't happen again. Soon after they start saying that it was your fault. That you made them do it. Then they start warning you not to make them do it again. Sooner or later something happens (they come home in a bad mood, etc) and they find an excuse to hurt you (again). The circle starts again apologize (I'm sorry), promise (I'll never do it again), blame (if only you had...), threats (be good so I don't have too..), violence... You have to decide for yourself, no one else can do it for you, are you being realistic, will the abuse stop or are you making excuses because you are afraid to leave.

If you want to change your life, if you want the abuse to stop, first you have to accept that "It wasn't your fault!" If you make the decision to leave, then you should also decide, am I leaving and then going to come back or am I going to leave and never come back. If you believe that the abuse would just start again (be honest with yourself) perhaps you need to make a decision such as "there are no second chances, that you are leaving and never come back".

This is your decision, no one else can or should make it for you, all we are suggesting is that when you make a decision, one way or the other, that you should also decide to stick with it, that constantly changing your mind may only make things worse.

Leaving and never coming back sounds scary. As terrible as abuse is, sometimes leaving is too scary. Things like where do I go, where will I live, how will I find a job, how will I eat, etc... can be so scary that you may try to convince yourself to give the abuser one more chance. Then one more chance after that. Then one more chance. Etc.

Stop a minute. Ask yourself, How many times have I given him/her one more chance? If it's more than one, it's probably too many. Yes, a few abusers do change, but for everyone that promises to change and does, there are hundreds that promise to change and don't.

Want to leave, but afraid? There are people all over the world that want to help. The people who wrote this letter wrote it because they cared. Hundreds of people researched all kinds of things to help you, because they care. There are hundreds of agencies and organizations just waiting for a chance to help you, because they care. Because they feel you deserve better.

Only one person can make the decision to leave, that is you. What we are trying to do is make it an easier choice for you, to show you that there are people and places you can go for help. We are offering you a place to start, the first step towards a new life, but it's up to you to decide whether to take that first step or not. If you are ready to change your life, start by understanding your fears and what you can do about them.

Let's start "not" by addressing your fears of the abuser, but may be a bigger fear. Your biggest fear is may actually be "Where will I go, who will I talk to and how will I survive if I do leave?"

First, there are all kinds of places on the Internet you can go to find out about the causes, effects and feelings associated with being a victim of abuse.

If you have reached the conclusion that you deserve a better life, and that you want to leave, your first concern is where will I go? If you don't have friends or family that can offer you a place to stay, there are abuse shelters, that will offer you a safe place to start your life over. There are abuse agencies and organizations that can offer you call kinds of advice from where to go to how to protect yourself. Some of your concern might have to do with what if the abuser tries to stalk you.

Whether the victim is you, or a child that you believe is being abused there are things you can do. There are state and federal laws to protect you and you can find them (they are called STATE STATUTES) by visiting the library and asking the librarian to show you the STATE STATUTES ON ABUSE. These are the exact laws on abuse, the responsibilities of the police and the courts to help protect you. Maybe you need to find a lawyer, a good place to start is at the American Bar Association Website or by finding bar associations in your state.

You may also have financial concerns. You can go to an abuse shelter for a few weeks or a few months, the people there will assist you in finding work, but what about money? If you, and you children, need financial assistance there are many public assistance programs that can help. These programs can help with everything from food, shelter, school lunch for the kids, to assistance for those with medical and disabilities. There are even programs to assist the poor with free medications. If you are a senior citizen you might need help with programs like social security. If you buried your emotions (sadness/anxiety/depression) in an addiction such as food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or even coffee there are addiction recovery programs and organizations that can help.

Maybe you need information on the cheapest way to travel by bus, plane or train across the country (online maps) to a safe place and hotels or campgrounds along the way. Maybe you need advice on how to save money on things like cars, homes, apartments, utilities, etc. Perhaps you would like to go back to school but need advice on how to get scholarships, etc... Whatever it is, you can either find it find it here, or you can contact us and we will put the information on the website for you and everyone else.

If you need someone to talk to in an emergency situation or just a listening ear you can call one of the hotlines listed in our Rape/Abuse/Violence Resources Section, or you can look in one of the online yellow page directories and type in your city, state and what information you are looking for (abuse, police, suicide, etc) and a listing of local and national numbers will appear on your computer.

Help is a click or a call away, now you know that people care about you, that there are others just like you, that you are not alone and you now have information on how to overcome your biggest fear in life (leaving the abuser and starting over on your own). The decision is yours, and yours alone, no one can do it for you, but if you are ready to start a new life, there are good and caring people all over the world willing to provide you with information on how to begin a new life.

You are not alone, people do care and you deserve better.

If You Have Been Raped or Abused Please Don't Be Afraid To Tell Someone About It

Like the title says, if you have been a victim of rape or sexual abuse, please don't be ashamed to open up and tell someone. Be it here on HelpingTeens, by calling a hotline from our Rape Resources section, talking to a friend, or opening up to a family member.

You have NO reason to be embarrassed or to feel like people will judge you. Rape and abuse are NEVER the victims fault. No matter what the circumstances. It's your body. And no means no. Even if you've said yes before, even if you said yes when it started, you can always change your mind. No matter what anyone tells you, you CAN.

After rape, girls tend to feel like it is their fault and like they are dirty and no one will understand and that everyone will judge them. Ladies, it's not true. Though some people may handle it wrong, those who love you will see you through with love and support.

And to any males who have been a victim of rape, I know that you will feel embarrassed, like men never get raped. It's not true. You are NOT alone in your experiences. No one is going to blame you or tell you that it's all your fault since you're a guy. Because that's simply not true.

So victims, this is my full hearted attempt to tell you that it is OKAY to open up about what has happened to you and to get help. You deserve that.

I hope this helps even just one victim to talk to someone. Talking helps, it begins the healing process.

We're always around if any of you need to talk. Please don't keep it bottled up because you're afraid of how people will react.

It Was My Fault

If you have been abused or raped, you may question yourself was this my fault?  It must of been my fault or this would have never happened!  The thing is WHO was the one who did the wrong doing? Was it you or your assaulter?

No one deserves to be abused or raped.  You did absolutely nothing wrong no matter how bad the thing was that resulted.  There are NO good excuses for rape or abuse.  Even killing someone isn't a reason for being abuse or rape.  If you are one of the ones who are saying "It is my fault" trust yourself.  I promise you it was NEVER you fault.  I was sexually abused all my life and my assaulter would tell me I was a "bad" little girl and by molesting me he said it would teach me to be "good".  So I thought that I was bad enough to deserve everything that happened to me.  Now I realize that I did nothing to deserve it.  You have to believe that too.  No matter what ANYBODY says to you it is NEVER EVER EVER the victims fault.