Rape

Overview

What is rape?

Rape is a form of sexual assault in which a person (man, woman or child) is forced to engage in sexual relations (vaginal, anal or oral) against his or her will or without having given consent. Often an attacker will use physical force in committing rape; however, rape also occurs when someone uses threats of violence or emotional force or manipulation to engage an individual in sex.

All rape is wrong and illegal. If you have been raped, you are the victim of sexual assault. You’re never to blame for the actions of the perpetrator.

How common is sexual assault and rape?

More than 433,000 Americans ages 12 and older experience rape or sexual assault every year. It’s estimated that a sexual assault occurs every 73 seconds. Sexual assaults affect all ages and genders:

  • 1 in 6 women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
  • 1 in 33 men will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime.
  • Approximately 63,000 children become victims of sexual abuse every year.

If you’re drunk or high, the law considers you to be too impaired to legally give consent to sexual interactions with another person. In addition, the law considers people legally incapable of agreeing to sex if they are:

  • Mentally or physically disabled.
  • Under a certain age (varies by state).
  • A minor who is younger than the perpetrator by a certain number of years (varies by state).

Consent is also a must even if you’re married to, dating or in a relationship with someone. No one may force you to engage in sexual relations even if you’ve voluntarily had sex with that person in the past. If they do, it is wrong and a crime.

What are the effects of rape?

There can be significant negative effects of rape. Some are obvious, some are less so. Common effects include:

What should I do if I have been raped?

  • Please remember that the assault wasn’t your fault.
  • If you’re not already in a safe place, find one as quickly as possible.
  • If you’re unable to get somewhere safe, call 911.
  • If you’re afraid to call the police, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1.800.656.4673) at any time of day or night.
  • Go to the nearest emergency department for treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are date-rape drugs?

Some assailants use drugs to make a victim less likely to fight back or more likely to black out (lose consciousness). A rapist may slip these drugs — called date-rape drugs — into your drink without your knowledge. You can’t always tell if someone has spiked your drink (put drugs in it) simply by looking at or tasting the beverage.

You can lower your risk of consuming date-rape drugs by:

  • Avoiding drinks served in punchbowls or other open containers.
  • Keeping your drink with you, and covering it when you’re not paying close attention.
  • Refusing to accept drinks from other people, even if you know them well.
  • Opening and pouring your own beverages.

What should I expect at the hospital?

It’s important to seek medical care if you’re sexually assaulted. The hospital will contact the police. You should talk to the police to ensure you have the option to press charges. You can make that decision later. Even if you do not wish to press charges, it is important to go to the emergency room for treatment.

At the hospital, a healthcare provider will:

  • Check for and treat any physical injuries.
  • Perform a physical exam, which includes examining your genitals and doing a pelvic exam (for women).
  • Photograph and document your injuries.
  • Collect samples of blood, saliva, vaginal and anal secretions, clothing fibers, hair from your head and genitals as well as scrapings from underneath your fingernails. Your provider may use a rape kit to store and collect this evidence.
  • Conduct a blood test to check for diseases like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Your risk of getting HIV after a rape is less than 1%.
  • Discuss STD treatments and emergency contraception options to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
  • Take a urine sample to check for date-rape drugs.

What can I do to protect myself against rape?

Rape can happen to anyone. These steps may lower your chances of a sexual assault:

  • Don’t walk alone at night or in an unfamiliar place.
  • Go to parties and gatherings with people you trust. Make a pact that no one leaves alone or with someone they don’t know.
  • Lock doors and windows in your home and car.
  • Move to a crowded area if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Never leave a place with someone you just met.
  • Stay alert to your surroundings and avoid blocking out sounds, such as with earbuds.

Will I ever feel well again?

Rape can leave both physical and emotional scars. Many rape survivors feel like the rape is their fault. Rape is never the victim’s fault, but feelings of guilt can prevent someone from getting help.

Sometimes the emotional effects of rape occur weeks or months later. Counseling can help one deal with the emotional symptoms (guilt, fear, depression, anxiety) of having endured a traumatic event. In addition, many survivors of rape find help through support groups.

It is important to get counseling for yourself as soon as possible to manage serious emotional complications, even if you choose not to press charges against your attacker.

Where can I get help?

Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1.800.656.4673) at any time of day or night.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/03/2021.

References

  • American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). . Accessed 6/3/2021.Rape (https://familydoctor.org/rape/)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . Accessed 6/3/2021.Preventing sexual violence (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/fastfact.htmlhttps:/www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/fastfact.html)
  • Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). . Accessed 6/3/2021.Sexual assault (https://www.rainn.org/about-sexual-assault)
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. . 6/3/2021.Rape (https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/sexual-assault-and-rape/rape)

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