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What is Rape?

by | Jun 22, 2009 | Rape/Abuse

**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.

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