Rape is legally defined as a criminal act that is generally classified as a violent felony. Each state has its own laws about rape which define the act, although the wording may vary across the states. Rape is unlawful sexual intercourse without a person’s consent, regardless of the victim’s gender identity and/or presentation.
There are many different circumstances in which a person may be charged with rape, including:
- When a person engages in sexual intercourse against another person’s will, or without their consent, by using:
- fear; and/or
- When a person is considered to be too intoxicated to consent, and another person engages in sexual conduct with them;
- When a person engages in sexual conduct with someone else who is mentally and/or physically disabled, which prevents them from being able to consent to the sexual conduct; and
- When a person engages in sexual conduct with another person who is legally incapacitated, meaning that the victim was unaware that they are engaging in a sexual act. An example of this would be a person who is asleep.
There are different types of rape which may be categorized according to the factors that are present, including the ages and relationship of the rapist and the victim. Different types of rape charges commonly include:
Statutory rape occurs when someone who is over the age of consent has sex with someone who is below the age of consent, or a minor. This remains true regardless of whether the sexual act was actually consensual. The age of consent may vary by state, generally ranging from 16 to 18 years of age. Even a person who is 19 years of age and has sexual intercourse with another person who is two years younger, when that state’s age of consent it 18, could face statutory rape charges.
The age of consent, as well as the ability of parents to consent for their children, are issues that are governed differently in many jurisdictions. When a person who is under the age of consent initiates sex with someone who is over the age of consent, the law still considers it to be statutory rape because the that younger person has no legal right to give consent.
To further clarify the difference between rape and statutory rape in a legal context, rape occurs when someone forces another person to have sex against their will. Statutory rape occurs when the government has passed laws saying that in certain situations, even when both people consent, it is still against the law.
In some jurisdictions, anyone can press charges for statutory rape. If someone who is over the age of consent has sex with someone who is under the age of consent, the older person can still face rape charges even if the only person who is pressing charges is the arresting officer. Additionally, even if the younger person lies about their age, the older person is generally still charged with statutory rape. This is because it is the older person’s responsibility to determine the real age of the younger person, and to ensure that their actions are legal.
Date rape occurs when unlawful sexual intercourse is committed during a social engagement between the rapist and the victim. Date rape may also occur when a victim has been drugged and the rapist has sexual intercourse with them.
Martial rape is rape that occurs in a marriage, such as when one spouse forces a sexual act on the other spouse without their consent. Martial rape has not always been recognized as an offense; however, it is now considered to be a serious crime. and the defendant is not permitted to use marriage as a defense in a rape case.
Additionally, some states divide rape into degrees based on the seriousness of the offense. First degree rape may include severe physical injuries, and as such carries considerably harsher punishments than second degree rape. Second degree rape may not involve any physical injuries beyond the incident itself.