There are a number of definitions for rape.
The dictionary at dictionary.com defines rape as,
The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines rape as,
Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion and physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender(s). This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object, such as a bottle. Includes attempted rape, male and female victims, and both heterosexual and same sex rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.
The FBI’s definition of rape as defined by the Department of Justice is,
Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website defines “sexual violence,”
Sexual violence is defined as a sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent.
These are only a few of the myriad of existing definitions, but they illustrate just how different rape is based on the agency that is considering it. The website dictionary.com defines rape solely for the purpose of having a definition. The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines rape to provide a count for the number of instances a crime has occurred. The FBI defines rape to explain under what circumstances a crime has been committed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define rape to provide better assistance to their patients. It would be difficult to argue that any of these definitions is wrong, because there is no proof of a “right” definition. It is not the responsibility of simple observers of this phenomenon to provide the “right” definition. Governments have struggled with the question of how to define rape since their beginning.
In around 1780 B.C., laws stated that rape of a virgin was property damage against her father. In 1290, women who became pregnant from rape were not raped. In the 1300s, whether or not a woman was raped was affected by how promiscuous the woman was; a sexually active woman’s charges were less legitimate. After the 1300s, girls younger than 12 could not consent. In 1670, it was concluded that a man can legally rape his wife, because the marriage contract forfeited his wife’s right to consent. In 1814, it was decided once again that rape could be determined by pregnancy. In the 19th century, it was agreed that if the woman did not actively resist her rapist, she was not raped.
If any of these definitions were introduced today, they would likely be met with public outrage. Yet during the time periods in which they existed, they were rarely, if ever, contested. The definitions in use today include a greater number of circumstances, but often still exclude ones that some people may consider to be rape. However, because rape has strong ties to society, it would be impossible to create a definition that satisfied everyone.
An Updated Definition of Rape. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archives/opa/blog/updated-definition-rape
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – Rape and Sexual Assault. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=317
Definitions|Sexual Violence|Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC. (2018, April 10). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/definitions.html
Eichelberger, E. (2017, June 25). Men Defining Rape: A History. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/08/men-defining-rape-history/
Rape. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/rape?s=t