It is up to all of us to ensure victims of sexual violence are not left to face these trials alone. Too often, survivors suffer in silence, fearing retribu- tion, lack of support, or that the criminal justice system will fail to bring the perpetrator to justice. We must do more to raise awareness about the realities of sexual assault; confront and change insensitive attitudes wherever they persist; enhance training and education in the criminal justice system; and expand access to critical health, legal, and protection services for survi- vors. (President Barack Obama, 2012)

A paradox surrounds the crime of rape. On the one hand, a victim’s allegations sometimes are sneered at and even can become the subject of crude, snarky jokes. On the other hand, some assailants are pun- ished so severely that forcible rape ranks as one of the most terrible and strictly forbidden interpersonal crimes. Today, who the offender is, who the injured party is, and how they acted before and during the attack determine the legal system’s response to the crime. Public reactions are shaped by social attitudes

as much as by legal codes, and both attitudes and laws have been changing in recent decades.

The problem of violence by men and boys against women and girls has been caught up in sex- ual politics. Bitter controversies and strong emo- tions intrude upon attempts by victimologists and criminologists to objectively determine precisely how many people have been harmed by rapes and sexual assaults; how frequently—or infrequently— the violations of personhood are reported to the authorities; how well—or poorly—the criminal justice system handles these cases; how often the charges lodged by the complainant are completely baseless or highly exaggerated; and who or what is to blame for this age-old problem that continues to fester and claim new victims.

Even the language used to describe this type of criminal behavior is subject to dispute and conse- quently has been evolving. If the formulation is that “a woman got raped,” the implication is that it is her problem and perhaps even her fault for arousing unstoppable desires. If the phrasing is more active and direct, that men rape women or that this is a crime by males against females, then the onus shifts and falls on the aggressors in the “battle of the sexes”—not their targets—and on those aspects of the culture that could encourage the coupling of violence with sexuality. But when the possibility of a man raping another man (or boy) is taken into account, it triggers a rethinking that inevitably leads to a deeper understanding that the crime is largely about power and control, domination and subjugation, and conquest and defeat as expressed through forceful sexual acts.

The word rape comes from the Latin rapere, which means “to seize or take by force.” In English common law, the crime was called unlawful carnal knowledge. By definition, the unwanted intrusion could be committed only by a male against a female who was not his wife. But the old common law definition has been updated by new legislation in each state. First of all, the crime is now gender- neutral, which means that males also can be targets (almost always of other men). Second, completed intercourse is not the only punishable activity.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES To become aware of the way the plight of rape victims

was rediscovered.

To understand the distinctions between stranger rapes, acquaintance rapes, date rapes, and other sexual assaults.

To become familiar with the way girls and women who reported their plight and sought help in the past were mistreated.

To recognize victim-blaming arguments and victim- defending points of view.

To appreciate the progress made by the several compo- nents of the criminal justice system in handling rape cases, as well as the problems that continue to burden victims needlessly.

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Other unwanted invasions of the body and forced submission to sexual acts are outlawed as well by statutes prohibiting sexual assaults and sexual battery.

One element of the crime remains the same: Forcible rape implies that the person treated as an object for the offender’s gratification reasonably fears bodily harm if she or he refuses to acquiesce. Lack of consent therefore remains the key factor that distinguishes a sexual assault from an unpleasant sexual experience imposed by an overly assertive partner.

Aggravated rape is penalized more severely because it involves more than one assailant, and/ or the use of a weapon, and/or the infliction of additional wounds besides unwanted penetration. Sexual assaults short of rape (for example, unwel- come sexual contacts like groping or fondling) carry a lesser penalty. Taking sexual advantage of a person who is mentally retarded or unable to give mean- ingful consent because she or he is drugged, drunk, or unconscious (whether or not this altered state was induced by the offender) also is illegal. Besides forcible rape, statutory rape also is against the law, but the penalties are not as severe. When a minor below the legal age of consent voluntarily engages in sexual intercourse, the act automatically is con- sidered to be exploitative because a young person is considered not mature enough to make such an important decision. By definition, statutory rapes do not involve violence or the threat of force (refer back to Chapter 8).

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