Sexual Assault and the Law

rape (in law)

rape, in law, the crime of sexual intercourse without the consent of the victim, often through force or threat of violence. The victim is deemed legally incapable of consenting if she or he is known to be mentally incompetent, intoxicated, drugged, or below the age of consent at the time of the rape. Such cases are known as statutory rape, and evidence of consent is not deemed relevant in court. Although the term rape has traditionally applied to the male use of force in sexual relations with females, applicable laws have been revised in many jurisdictions to include possibilities where a male is the victim.

Issues surrounding rape and the law have been fiercely debated for years in the United States, and recent efforts—particularly by feminist groups—have had marked success in expanding victims rights. One important reform, which has been in effect in most states in recent years, has been the removal of statutes requiring that rape victims physically resist the attack. Prior to this reform, victims of rape were required to display clear signs of injury in order to prove that they did not consent to sexual relations. Another reform has made marital rape a crime in many circumstances, with South Dakota becoming the first state to institute such law reforms in 1975. In the 1980s, "date rape," or acquaintance rape, became an important issue, particularly on college campuses. Victims of date rape contend that they were raped by an individual with whom they were acquainted. In many such cases, the establishment of guilt becomes difficult, particularly in cases where the victim displays no physical evidence of violence and there is only the testimony of the victim. In international law, rape was designated (2000) a war crime by the Yugoslav tribunal established by the United Nations at The Hague. Rape can cause profound psychological trauma in its victims.

See D. E. Russell, The Politics of Rape (1984); S. Tomaselli and R. Porter, ed., Rape (1986); Z. Adler, Rape on Trial (1987); S. Estrich, Real Rape (1987).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Sexual Assault and the Law: Selected full-text books and articles

A Layperson's Guide to Criminal Law By Raneta Lawson Mack Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Sexual Assault and Related Offenses"
A Most Detestable Crime: New Philosophical Essays on Rape By Keith Burgess-Jackson Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Part IV "Evaluating Rape Law"
Rape in the Criminal Justice System By Bryden, David P.; Lengnick, Sonja Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 87, No. 4, Summer 1997
The Trauma of Sexual Assault: Treatment, Prevention, and Practice By Jenny Petrak; Barbara Hedge Wiley, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Legal and Forensic Issues"
Rape and Society: Readings on the Problem of Sexual Assault By Patricia Searles; Ronald J. Berger Westview Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 19 "Discrediting Victims' Allegations of Sexual Assault: Prosecutorial Accounts of Case Rejections"
The Impact of Law Reform on the Processing of Sexual Assault Cases By Gunn, Rita; Linden, Rick The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, Vol. 34, No. 2, May 1997
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Feminism and the Power of Law By Carol Smart Routledge, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "Rape: Law and the Disqualification of Women's Sexuality"
To Catch a Sex Thief: The Burden of Performance in Rape and Sexual Assault Trials By Rayburn, Corey Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer 2006
Criminalizing Marital Rape: A Comparison of Judicial and Legislative Approaches By Fus, Theresa Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 39, No. 2, March 2006
Representing Rape: Language and Sexual Consent By Susan Ehrlich Routledge, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Institutional Coerciveness of Legal Discourse"
Sexual Violence and the Law in Japan By Catherine Burns RoutledgeCurzon, 2005
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