less than 1 minute read


Incidence And Prevalence, Characteristics Of Rape Victims And Rapists, Causes Of Rape, Consequences Of Rape

When people hear the word rape, it often conjures a mental image: perhaps a stranger with a knife jumping out of the bushes at night and forcing a woman to engage in sexual intercourse. Defining rape is no easy matter, however. Definitions come from the law, the media, research, and political activism. Even within any one of these domains, definitions vary.

Historically, in English common law, rape was defined as a man's engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman other than his wife against her will and without her consent by using or threatening force (Muehlenhard and Kimes 1999). Today, legal definitions of rape differ widely across nations.

Researchers studying rape must decide what definition to use (Muehlenhard et al. 1992). Much of the research on rape has taken place in the United States, and many researchers have relied on the legal definition used in a particular state. Others, however, have decided that the legal definitions are too narrow. Some feminist political activists have offered definitions of rape to highlight the social and economic pressures placed on women to engage in sex.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Social Issues