WAS I RAPED?
Working to end violence
The exact definition of “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual abuse,” and similar terms differs by state. The wording can get confusing. For a precise legal definition, you need to check the law in your state. But here are some general guidelines based on the definitions used by the U.S. Justice Department. Please note that these definitions are a bit graphic, which is inevitable when describing crimes this violent.
Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.
- Rape victims may be forced through threats or physical means. In about 8 out of 10 rapes, no weapon is used other than physical force. Anyone may be a victim of rape: women, men or children, straight or gay.
Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.
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People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically does not mean it wasn’t rape – in fact, many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be express (saying “no”) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the statutory age of consent, or if you had a mental defect, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened you with serious physical injury).
Rape can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger, and it does not matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is nonconsensual this time, it is rape.
Just because you don’t remember being assaulted does not necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of “rape drugs” and from excessive alcohol consumption. That said, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may not be possible to pursue prosecution (talk to your local crisis center or local police for guidance).
Rape can happen when the victim was unconscious or asleep. If you were asleep or unconscious, then you did not give consent. If you didn’t give consent, then it is rape.
Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse – or an alibi. The key question is still: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape. If you were so drunk or drugged that you passed out and were unable to consent, it was rape.
It depends on the circumstances. If you didn’t say no because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it may be rape. Sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally – for example, when someone has a knife or gun to your head, or threatens you or your family if you say anything.
If you have been sexually assaulted, or even if you are not sure, please call our Hotline at 203.731.5206 for free, confidential help and to look at all of your options.