Legal Issues with Rape

What are the legal issues about sexual assault or rape? What to do if you are sexually assaulted.

"The attitude of some cops in the department about rape is that it is assault with a friendly weapon." -A San Diego Police detective1

Rape is a felony crime in which a person is forced to have sexual intercourse without giving consent. Some states substitute the term "aggravated sexual assault" for "rape," and many states include homosexual rape, incest, and other sex offenses in the definition of rape.

While most rapes are unreported, the number of cases reported in the U.S. more than doubled between 1970 and 1986. It is not actually known if the number of rapes has increased or if more victims have been willing to come forward. Shame, fear of revenge or rejection, and the trauma of a court trial are common reasons for failure to report a sexual offense.

Rape is most often motivated by extreme anger toward the victim or a need to overpower the victim. The motive is rarely sexual and violence is not always involved. Forced sex is intended to abuse, humiliate, and dehumanize the victim.

It's tough, but it's important to notify the police

Fifty percent of all rapists are under the age of 25 and most rapists average ten rapes before they are caught. Studies indicate that rape occurs most frequently with someone the victim already knows. Drug and alcohol abuse are frequently related to sexual offenses.

That's why it's important to get these rapists off the street and put in jail. If a person raped you, you may not be the last victim. By reporting the incident to the police, you may prevent the rapist from hurting another person or coming back to hurt you again.

The important thing though is to do what you feel is right for you. Everyone deals with trauma and shock in their own way. Because of my state of mind, I did not report it. There are no hard and fast rules about the "right" way to feel or behave.


Gathering Rape Evidence

If you are sexually assaulted, do not wash or douche. Call the police to report the incident, then go to a hospital. The doctor will give you a thorough physical exam, including a pelvic exam, to determine the extent of your injuries. The doctor will make special note of any cuts, bruises, or other injuries, especially in the genital area.

To collect potential evidence to use against the attacker, the doctor will look for specimens such as patches of torn clothing, blood, and strands of hair from the attacker. These specimens can be tested against body fluid or skin samples from suspects.

1. This detective was responding to charges of indifference brought against the San Diego Police Department by two rape victims (After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back. Nancy Venable Raine).

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 17). Legal Issues with Rape, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Last Updated: May 5, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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