What is Rape?

People’s attitudes to rape are very different. These attitudes lie anywhere on the following continuum.

Broad View

What the Law Says

Narrow View

Rape is any act of sexual violation.

Rape is penetration of a woman’s vagina by a man’s penis when she doesn’t want it.

Rape only happens violently in dark, deserted streets.

All sexual attention that is not wanted is a part of rape.

Any other forms of sexual violation are not rape, but unlawful sexual connection.

Rapists do not know the women they attack.

The narrow view comes from a lot of misunderstanding about rape. The broad view extends rape beyond the legal definition. This broad view acknowledges that   rape is not always physically violent.

Rape may also include:

  • Forced or coerced oral sex
  • Forced or coerced masturbation
  • Penetration with objects
  • Forced or coerced anal sex
  • Across-gender or same-gender sexual abuse e.g. female-on-male, male-on-male, female-on-female, male-on-female

False Beliefs about Rape

  • If a woman did not physically resist or say no then it wasn’t rape
  • Rape would not happen if women did not dress seductively.
  • Only young, attractive women are sexually assaulted.
  • Only strangers rape.
  • A woman cannot be raped by her spouse or partner.
  • It wasn’t really rape if the survivor was drinking, it was just regretful sex.


Truths about Rape

  • Sometimes resisting can prevent sexual assault, but it can also increase physical violence.
  • The way women dress has very little to do with who is assaulted.
  • All women are at risk, young or old.
  • Relatives and friends are just as capable of rape. Most women know their attacker.
  • A woman can be raped by her spouse or partner. She has a right to say “no” and the law recognises this right.
  • Drinking doesn’t cause rape. Perpetrators do.

Rape is the misuse and abuse of power.   Rape is a crime which can take away your dignity and self-determination. Rape can have profound and long-term effects on your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.