What is Rape?

Rape is non-consensual sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration deliberately carried out by the perpetrator against a person (typically women and girls) as a form of dominance and/or control. The term “rape”  is sometimes used interchangeably with the term “sexual assault”.

Rape may be enforced using a number of methods by perpetrators including:

  • physical force
  • psychological coercion
  • the abuse of authority
  • against an individual who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent.

Types of rape include:

  • Date rape: forcing a person to engage in sexual activities against their will while on a date.
  • Drug rape: using a drug such as Rohypnol to render the victim unconscious or pliable in order to rape her.
  • Marital rape: forcing a spouse/partner to engage in sexual activities against their will.
  • War as a weapon of war: rape and sexual assault committed during war or armed conflicts in order to subjugate the enemy, break resistance, or as part of genocide.

Sexual assault and abuse other than rape may take the form of:

  • Physical assault: unwelcome sexual advances such as – forced kisses and touches, holding another person down while touching them sexually without their consent, groping the breasts, backside, and private parts of another person without consent, rubbing genitals against another person without consent.
  • Verbal harassment: catcalling, making inappropriate suggestions/jokes about raping or sexually assault to the victim, verbally propositioning a person for sex after the person had previously said no, requesting for sexual favours.
  • Psychological harassment: pressuring another person for sex by stalking them, pestering them, or – if the perpetrator is in a powerful position – threatening to harm their career, their friends, or their family.
  • Online harassment: posting revenge porn, sending “dick pics” (pictures of your penis) to a woman without her consent, sending sexually suggestive texts and messages to a woman without her consent.

Different states/countries/legal systems may define crimes of sexual violence like “rape,” “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault” and “sexual harassment” differently.[1] However, rape is usually understood to be forced vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by a body part or object.

Some hard facts about rape and other forms of gender-based sexual violence:

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The health consequences of rape and sexual violence

Here are just some of the health issues that may be faced by survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence:


  • Traumatic Bodily Injuries/Symptoms: back pains, bleeding, broken/sprained limbs, bruising, concussion, gastrointestinal disorders, migraines, vomiting.
  • Reproductive and Sexual Injuries/Symptoms: damaged sexual and reproductive system, difficulty having children in subsequent years, difficulty establishing relationships, unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, pain during subsequent sexual intercourse, , sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy complications (including miscarriage), vaginal bleeding.

Psychological and Emotional

  • Addiction of alcohol or drugs, anxiety, attempted suicide, bewilderment, confusion, denial, depression, exhibiting numbness, flashbacks, guilt, hysteria, hypersensitivity to what others might say, hypervigilance, inability to enjoy sex, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), shame.

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Footnotes and Further Reading

  1. “What are sexual assault, abuse, and rape?”, Planned Parenthood.
  2. “Violence Against Women: An Infographic”, UN Women
  3. “Violence against women: An EU-wide survey (2014)”, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
  4. “Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence Against Children (2014),” UNICEF
  5. “The World’s Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic – How Laws Around The World Are Failing To Protect Women and Girls (2017)”, Equality Now.
  6. “World Report on Violence and Health”, World Health Organisation