Rape is an an act in which a victim is forced into sexual activity, in particular sexual penetration, against his or her will. The word originates from the Latin rapere: to seize or take by force. The Latin term for the act of rape itself is raptus.

Originally, the word rape was akin to rapine, rapture, raptor, and rapacious, and referred to the more general violations, such as looting, destruction, and capture of citizens that are inflicted upon a town or country during war, e.g. the Rape of Nanking. Today, some dictionaries still define rape to include any serious and destructive assault against a person or community. This article, however, focuses primarily on sexual assault. Rape is an issue of central concern to many feminists.

Violent rape


"Violent rape" is when violence beyond the rape itself is a part of the assault. This may include physical force or threat of harm, including death threat or threat against a family member. People who commit violent rapes include both strangers and people whom the victim already knows. Proportionally more violent rapes are likely to be reported. [1].

Statutory rape


National and/or regional governments, citing an interest in protecting minors, consider people under a certain age to be unable to give informed consent, and accordingly treat any sexual contact with minors as "rape", even if he or she agrees to the sexual activity. The age at which individuals are considered competent to give consent is called the age of consent. The age set by each state vary in accordance with local standards, and range from 12 to 21. Sex which violates age-of-consent law, but is neither violent nor physically coerced, is sometimes described as "statutory rape", the name of a legally-recognized category in the United States.

Acquaintance ("date") rape


The term, "acquaintance rape" (or "date rape") refers to rape or non-consensual sexual activity between people who are already acquainted, or who know each other socially — friends, acquaintances, people on a date, or even people in an existing romantic relationship — where it is alleged that consent for sexual activity was not given, or was given under duress. In most jurisdictions, there is no legal distinction between rape committed by a stranger, or by an acquaintance, friend or lover.

There is often more difficulty in securing conviction against an assailant who is known by the victim at the time. This is due to the "grey" nature of the situation. In what is colloquially described as a "grey rape" case, the victim is unable to demonstrate non-consent although he or she expresses displeasure at the encounter. The expression, "grey rape", refers to the absence of information — there is nothing "grey" in the act itself: if the act was non-consensual at the time it occurred, then it is considered rape, even if not actionably so. Contributing factors to "grey" rape include poor communication by either party, misleading or (deliberately) misreading body language, or the feeling by one party of being unsure or unable to express what one wishes (which may be due to many reasons). The standard of proof required for non-consensual sexual activity is often harder to meet (or easier to deny) than when two strangers meet, or where there has been violence.

In general, some evidence suggests that rapists are far more likely to know their victims than not. Other reports suggest that it can work both ways. Not only is acquaintance rape more common than previously thought, but situations of this kind can more often give rise to false allegations than had been expected (see False reporting).

Male rape


Men can also be raped. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, for 2003 [2], 9.9% of rape and sexual assault victims in the United States, age 12 and older, are male; therefore, nearly 17 out of every 100,000 males are victims. According to the data for 2004, this number has fallen to 2.95%; therefore, slightly more than 5 out of every 100,000 males are victims. Many of these male victims are likely children and there may be many more male victims under age 12 (not included in BJS figures).

Gang rape


Gang-rape (also known as "pack rape") occurs when a group of people participates in the rape of a single victim. It is far more damaging for the victim, and in some jurisdictions, is punished more severely than a rape by one person. "Gang bang" is also a slang term for consensual group sex. (It is not to be confused with the slang word "gangbanger" referring to a member of a criminal gang; the "bang" in that word refers to the sound of gunfire.)

According to Roy Hazelwood, a profiler of sexual crimes, gang rape "involves three or more offenders and you always have a leader and a reluctant participant. Those are extremely violent, and what you find is that they're playing for each other's approval. It gets into a pack mentality and can be horrendous."


  1. Bachman, R., & Saltzman, L. (1995). Violence against women: Estimates from the redesigned survey (No. NCJ-154348). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.