Rape is a crime that is generally classified as a violent felony. While the wording may slightly vary, each state has rape laws that define the act of rape as unlawful sexual intercourse without a person's consent, regardless of the victim’s gender.

There are many different scenarios where an  individual can be charged with rape, including the following:

  • When an individual engages in sexual intercourse against another person’s will or without that person's consent using force, violence, duress, menace, fear, or fraud;
  • When a victim is too Intoxicated to consent and someone engages in sexual conduct with the victim;
  • When a person engages in sexual conduct with someone who suffers from a mental or physical disability that prevents them from being able to consent to the sexual conduct; and
  • When a person engages in sexual conduct with someone that is incapacitated, meaning that the victim was unaware that they are engaging in a sexual act. An example of this is someone who is sleeping.

What are Some Different Categories of Rape?

The act of rape can be categorized differently depending on the factors present. This can include age and relationship. Some categories of rape are:

  • Statutory Rape: This is referred to as unlawful sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent, regardless of whether the sexual act was actually consensual. The age of consent may vary from 16 to 18 years of age, depending on the state. Even someone who is 19 years old having sexual intercourse with someone two years younger (if the state’s age of consent is 18) could face statutory rape charges;
  • Date Rape: This is when unlawful sexual intercourse is committed during a social engagement between the rapist and victim. Date rape can also occur where the victim has been drugged and the offender has sex with them; and
  • Marital rape: Rape can still occur within a marriage. This occurs when one spouse forces sexual acts on the other spouse and does not obtain their consent. Historically, marital rape was not recognized. Marital rape is now considered a serious crime and a defendant can not generally use marriage as a defense in a rape case.

Keep in mind that this criminal act can occur in many different scenarios if the relevant factors are met, not just in those situations listed above.

What Happens After Someone is Accused of Rape?

After someone reports a rape to the authorities, the police will start an investigation into the matter. If there is enough evidence, the offender will be charged with rape and arrested. Bail may or may not be set depending on the situation. If the parties do not reach a plea agreement then the case will proceed to trial.

In order to convict a defendant charged with rape, the prosecution will generally carry the burden beyond a reasonable doubt to prove the following elements:

  • The defendant was engaged in some form of sexual act or intercourse with the victim. Full penetration of sexual intercourse is not required;
  • The sexual intercourse or sexual act was against the other person’s will or without their consent; and
  • The defendant engaged in the sexual intercourse or act through an act of force, violence, duress, menace, fear or fraud.

If these elements are proved and the defendant is convicted, serious penalties will follow.

What are the Penalties for a Conviction of Rape?

Rape is considered to be a serious and violent felony. The penalties of rape convictions vary in each state and depend on the circumstances proved at trial, but will undoubtedly result in a prison sentence.

The length of prison time ordered during the sentencing phase will depend on the severity of the crime and if the defendant has any prior convictions of rape. In some cases, a rape conviction can result in a life sentence depending on the factors proved at trial.

The potential penalties and prison time will increase if the rape involved a minor or if the rape resulted in death of the victim.

What Should You Do If You Were Raped?

If you were raped, you should contact authorities and seek medical attention immediately. Even if you do not feel or see any symptoms of physical injuries, a medical examination, also known as a “rape kit,” is necessary to help prevent any sexually transmitted infections. A medical exam may also help to gather evidence of sexual assault.

If you were raped, you should take the following actions to ensure as much evidence as possible is collected and preserved:

  • Do not shower, bathe, or change your clothes before a medical examination. Otherwise, incriminating evidence could be destroyed.
  • If you suspect a date rape drug has been used, tell your doctor immediately. Traces of date rape drugs can often disappear quickly from the body.
  • Gather all the evidence that you may have and try to write down as much information that you can remember about the circumstances of the incident including a detailed description of the person that you believe was the attacker.
  • Contact a friend, family member or counselor that you trust who can give you the support you need.

Do I Need an Attorney for a Rape Case?

Rape is a serious charge with many factors that need to be taken into account and proven if a case ensues. A skilled criminal defense lawyer familiar with your state’s rape laws can explain your options and help formulate possible defenses if you have been charged with rape. If you are the victim, you will need to cooperate with the police and prosecuting attorneys to help get a conviction against your rapist.