About Abuse

Sexual Assault / Rape

Updated: 
February 17, 2017

What is rape?

Rape is a form of sexual assault.  Again, legal definitions are different in every state, but generally, rape is forced sexual intercourse.  Force doesn’t always have to be physical force where the perpetrator physically overpowers the victim; force could include psychological coercion (being "talked into it"), threats to cause harm to the person or a loved one if the person doesn’t submit to the sexual intercourse, or other circumstances in which the victim feels that there is no other option than to submit to the unwanted sexual activity.  Rape can also include situations where the victim may be drunk, drugged, asleep, unconscious, or for any reason unable to consent.  One in five women and one in 77 men has experienced rape in her/his lifetime.1

Most legal definitions of rape include vaginal, anal or oral penetration by a body part or an object.  In every state, spousal rape is also a crime, so even if you are married, it is illegal for your spouse to have sexual intercourse with you without your consent.

Legal definitions for crimes related to rape vary by state.  We list some (not all) of the crimes related to rape in each state on our Crimes page.

1The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.