Question: What is rape? Definition of rape
While the legal definition of rape varies widely from state to state, new federal guidelines put in place in early 2012 define rape as "The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim." This definition includes:
- any gender of victim
- any gender of perpetrator
- any instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including incapacity due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. Physical resistance from the victim is not required to demonstrate lack of consent.
This broader definition of rape -- announced by US Attorney General Eric Holder on January 6, 2012 -- supplanted a decades-old and long outdated definition. The previous definition of rape, first established in 1927, was "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will" and included only forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina. The old definition excluded the following (which are now included in the current definition of rape):
- oral and anal penetration
- rape of males
- penetration of the vagina and anus with an object or body part other than the penis
- rape of females by females
- non-forcible rape
This revised definition of rape is now part of the Uniform Crime Report, a method of information collection used by the FBI to summarize and report on crime in the U.S.