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About Abuse

Sexual Assault / Rape

Updated: 
August 20, 2021

What is rape? How common is it?

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. Approximately 21% of women (25.5 million) in the U.S. reported completed or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. Almost 3% of U.S. men (2.8 million) experienced completed or attempted rape victimization in their 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: 2015 Data Brief – Updated Release, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention