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For the domesticated crop plant called "rape", see rapeseed.

Rape is a serious sexual assault that is regarded as one of the most serious crimes. The technical definition of rape includes any serious and destructive assault against a person or people, but in contemporary English the term is overwhelmingly associated with sexual assault.

In criminal law, the term refers to a sexual assault in which an offender forces an unconsenting victim to engage in sexual acts, primarily sexual intercourse. Some jurisdictions use terms such as "sexual assault" or "sexual battery". Some define rape as sexual assault with penetration. Rape can also refer to sexual acts with a consenting person that the law defines as too young to legally consent; this is statutory rape. Colloquially, the term "date rape" or "acquaintance rape" is used to refer to rape which occur between individuals which are dating or are acquaintances. Date rape drugs like flunitrazepam or GHB are sometimes used. "The Uniform Crime Reports use "forcible rape" to refer only to rapes against females, by males. Laws defining rape and associated issues, such as the "age of consent", vary greatly between different governments.

Rape is considered a loathsome crime in most cultures, and is sometimes severely punished by the law. Castration has been used as a punishment for habitual offenders in some countries. There is a small number of countries where rape has and still is considered to be tolerable or even honorable and encouraged. Also in some cultures, a female victim of rape can be punished as a criminal sex offender, even when it is acknowledged that sexual intercourse was forced on her. Social attitudes toward rape and appropriate punishment are a subject of serious ongoing debate in most cultures.

The most significant and common effect of rape on victims are psychological, including depression, sometimes even leading to suicide; because of such effects, it is believed that the majority of rapes are not reported to the police. Violent rapes may also leave a victim physically wounded or dead. Medical conditions such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases can result from a rape.

Because of the sexual nature of rape crimes, victims often suffer serious psychological trauma. This is especially true in societies with strong sexual customs and taboos. For example, a woman (and especially a virgin) who is raped may be deemed "damaged" by society: She may suffer isolation, may be prohibited to marry, or may even be divorced if she was married. She may also feel "dirty" or as if the crime was her fault.

The process to denounce and eventually convict an offender is often hindered by similar psychological effects. Victims frequently feel shame when describing what has happened (especially if a female victim must report the incident to a male law officer). Also, the intimate questions and medical examinations required for prosecution can make the victim uncomfortable. In societies that do not acknowledge women as full citizens, this process is even more difficult for female victims.

Analysts have speculated that a large portion of rapes are never reported because of perceived social reprecussions or feelings of guilt and shame by the victim. This could be even more of a problem for children that have been raped, especially if the offender was a relative (frequently the case in reported incidents).

There are several ideas to help alleviate the psychological harm and to encourage higher reportage of rape crimes. One is to have female police officers deal with rape cases. A second is preservation of the victim's privacy during the legal process. Another is special hotlines that may be called to receive advice and psychological first aid.

In the US, one of the most prominent hotlines for rape victims is operated by the organizaton RAINN, or The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. RAINN is the only completely toll-free, completely-confidential 24-hour hotline in America. Their phone number is 1-800-656-HOPE.

There is a relatively high incidence of male-on-male rape in western cultures (rates in non-western cultures are not available), and many prison advocates believe that it is actually more common than male-on-female rape. Male-on-male rape is often erroneously associated with male prison inmates, though there is very little evidence to support a high rate of rape among inmates. Prison inmates are considered by US law to be unable to give consent, leading to consensual sex among any inmates being recorded as rape. Female-on-male and female-on-female rape do occur, but at substantially lower rates.

Statutory Rape Statutory rape is the crime of sexual intercourse with someone under the age of consent. This term is primarily used in the United States. It is so named because it is considered to be rape under a specific statute rather than under the principles of criminal common law because the consent of the victim is irrelevant as the state has an interest in protecting the sexual proclivities of minor children. Some states make exceptions to statutory rape when the perpetrator is also of young age, or if he marries the victim before being convicted of the crime.

Acquaintance rape Some argue that consent is based on continuous verbal communication during intimacy: the person initiating the contact must take responsibility for obtaining the other participant's verbal consent as the level of sexual intimacy increases, and again at each new level; also that "If you have had a particular level of sexual intimacy before with someone, you must still ask each and every time.". Critics argue that this reduces spontaneity. [1] (http://www.aaets.org/arts/art13.htm)

Rape among animals Sometimes an animal is sexually approached and penetrated while it is clear that it does not want it, e.g. it tries to run away.

See also: Violence Against Women Advisor Council[?]

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