What is Rape?

Rape is defined as "nonconsensual oral, anal, or vaginal penetration, obtained by force, by threat of bodily harm or when the victim is unable of giving consent" (Koss, 1993, p. 1062)

Rape is a serious sex crime.  It is a traumatic and life-threatening experience--one that cannot be easily forgotten.  It may leave a survivor full of fear, doubt, and anger.  Not only does it affect the survivor, the pain ripples through her family, friends, and other significant others if the survivor chooses to tell them.  The memory of being raped and the fear experienced during and after the occurrence may never completely diminishes and vanishes.  With help and over time, however, many survivors are able to integrate the experience into their lives and once again take control over their lives.  Most survivors are able to recover with help but others remain severely traumatized. 

Date Rape

Although most people imagine rape to be committed by strangers in dark alleys at night, this is just a myth; in all actuality, the majority of rapes are committed by someone that the survivor knows and perhaps even trusts.  Date rape and acquaintance rape are defined as forced or unwanted intercourse with someone that the survivor knows. Both are acts of violence, violations of the survivor’s body and rights, and are subsequently crimes.  Rape is a way for one person to exert power and control over another person.  Most rapists are sexually aggressive to make up for their various insecurities.  Forcing sex on another person may make them feel stronger and feed their egos.

Gang Rape

While acquaintance rape and date rape, which are commonly referred to as being the same, are the most common types of rape, there are also several other types of rape that may occur.  The first is gang rape, which occurs when a survivor is sexually assaulted by more than one person.  This type of rape tends to take place where there are pre-existing male bonds, such as on athletic teams, in fraternities, and within military units.  According to a study done in 1991 by Boeringer, Shehan, and Akers, gang rapes tend to include more alcohol and drug use, fewer weapons, more night attacks, less survivor resistance, and more severe psychological outcomes than individual rapes.

Marital Rape

The next kind of rape is marital rape, which, like all other forms of rape, is seriously underreported and takes place in society more often than most people believe.  This occurs anytime a spouse is forced to have sex with his/her spouse when he/she does not want to and does not give consent to.  Survivors of marital rape also tend to be survivors of verbal and physical abuse from their spouses.  Some people blame survivors for the abuse they endure because they failed to eagerly provide sex to their spouses as they "should.”  Until recently, there was no legal basis in the United States for a survivor to claim marital rape.  Defining and making marital rape illegal was a positive step in reducing its occurrence and empowering its survivors.  As in all instances of rape, it is important that the survivors are not blamed for being raped or expected to have sex with their spouses just because they are married to them.

Prison Rape

A third type of rape is prison rape.  This type of rape usually involves male on male forcible contact.  It is believed that prison rape may occur for several reasons, which include asserting dominance, “proving manhood," satisfying sexual needs, and exerting power and control over other inmates.  In most cases the assailant considers himself to be heterosexual and he may even have a partner outside of prison.  Unfortunately, most perpetrators are usually not prosecuted for these offences.

Wartime Rape

Another type of rape is wartime rape. Since ancient times it has been a common military war tactic for an attacking army to invade a village or city and rape the women there to establish dominance over, as well as humiliate their enemy.  Along with that, soldiers may rape in order to feel powerful and in control because they are a part of the very uncontrollable and terrifying situation of war.  Nearly every war has had a history of women being raped by opposing soldiers.  In most countries, it is now a punishable offence to carry out acts of rape on enemies as a means of gaining a militant advantage.

Motivations for Rape

While it is unclear what motivates a person to commit an act of rape, there are certain motives that have been classified.  The first is power.  Power rape is motivated by the desire to control and dominate the survivor.  Most often the intent in these kind of rapes are not to injure the survivor, but more to gain control by using just enough force to get the survivor to comply with the rapist's wishes.  The perpetrator usually does not use enough force to actually hurt a survivor more than the pain of being raped.  What we mean to say is they do not also “beat up” the survivors on top of raping them.

The next motivation for rape is anger.  Anger rape is generally very spontaneous, as emotions take over the rapists and make them do things they normally would not do if they had a chance to calmly think about it.  Sexual gratification is typically never sought by the rapist; instead the rapists are consumed by a resentment towards others, usually women, that makes them feel as though something should be done to punish them and achieve some type of revenge. Anger rape is more violent than power rape, and more often than not, it occurs between two total strangers.

Sadism rape is another motivation for rape.  Sadistic rapes are usually preplanned and have a history of being the most brutal rapes that use tactics such as torture, bondage, and sexual abuse involved.  This is the least common type of rape, which is fortunate because it is the most gruesome, with the rapist getting pleasure from hurting and degrading the survivor.

Finally, there is rape as a means of sexual gratification.  Most acquaintance rapes and date rapes fall into this category where only enough force is used to compel the survivor to comply.  Violence only occurs if the survivor offers resistance of some sort.  This is the most common type of rape.

Common Rape Situations

Rape usually occurs when a man and woman are alone together, but this is not always the case.  Some rapes occur in bedrooms at parties or when roommates are in the other room. Complete isolation is not needed for a rape to occur.

Alcohol and drugs are usually significant factors in date rape situations.  These substances affect the judgment of both the rapist and the survivor.  The man might not hear "No" and the woman might have difficulty expressing her negative feelings about the situation because she is too inebriated.  Roofies are drugs that can make a person pass out which could put him/her at risk of being raped.  If a person is under any type of drug or alcohol influence and is subsequently not capable of giving consent, sexual encounters are actually defined as rape.  It is important to use moderation when using alcohol to reduce the chances of being raped, or raping someone else.

Causes of Rape

There are three main causes of rape: socialization, mixed signals (miscommunication), and changing times.  Socialization explains how men and women are raised to have different gender roles.  Some men are socialized to be aggressors and some women are socialized to be the nonassertive peacemakers.  These roles often play out in date rapes if men become more aggressive and women become more passive--because that is their "role".

Date rape sometimes results from mixed signals and miscommunication. This can occur if one person does not know what he/she wants and changes his/her mind as time continues. It is beneficial for people to set clear boundaries before any sexual interactions begin, as well as to know that "No" means "No."  Some males think that they just need to persuade the woman if she says "No.” This is not true.  If a woman says "No," she means "No" and he should stop there.

The changing times have altered society’s ideas about sex in general.  Women are beginning to engage in sexual activities at a younger age.  More women are using birth control and having sex.  These factors combined may cause men to have a general assumption that they are going to have sex on the first date.  This assumption, when turned down, can cause the male to get upset.  Some men may believe that they are entitled to sex after a certain number of dates. However, women always have the right to say "I do not want to. I do not know you well enough," or "I do not love you" to prevent an unwanted situation or event to happen.


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