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Rape: The Nastiest of All Four-Letter Words

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Rape: The Nastiest of All Four-Letter Words

You’d think it never happens; victims typically don’t discuss it and perpetrators uniformly deny it. But it happens a lot (see below).

In the US, the official definition of forcible rape was established in 1927, and wasn’t updated until January 6, 2012. That’s why I’m writing about rape now. The US Attorney General has just announced a revised definition of rape so that it can be more accurately reported and prosecuted. My hope is that by talking about it openly, it won’t happen to you or your loved ones; but if it does, offenders can be prosecuted and victims can more likely get justice.

Here’s how the new law differs from the old one. In 1927, “forcible rape” had been defined by the UCR SRS (Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Summary Reporting System (SRS) the “national report card”) as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” That means a man forces vaginal sex with a woman. It left a lot to be determined; required an immediate visit to the doctor to look for sperm in the woman’s vagina as well as any signs of trauma. There was no law for a woman raping a man or a man raping a child. During my training, many nights I was asked to examine women for alleged rape, and the details of what I wrote in the hospital notes had a great impact on whether or not an alleged rapist was convicted. It’s not easy for a victim to think clearly or to want to talk about it. But that’s what has to happen.

Here’s how the new law describes rape: “The 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.”

So if a person forces an object (animate or inanimate) into another person, it is rape.

Susan B. Carbon, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women, states, “For the first time ever, the new definition includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men. It also recognizes that rape with an object can be as traumatic as penile/vaginal rape. This definition also includes instances in which the victim is unable to give consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity.”

How common is it? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 1 in 6 women report that they have either been raped or an attempt has been made to rape them in their lifetime. The first time for 60 percent of these women was before age 18.

What is it? Sexual violence is any sexual activity for which you do not freely give consent. That includes both sex against your will and sex that happens when you cannot freely give your consent. If you have been drinking and suddenly wake up and find a man having sex with you and that was not your intent, it is rape. Think of it like this, if you are under the influence, you cannot sign a consent form for a medical procedure, and you cannot give consent for a sexual act, either.

Rape is more than unwanted sex. It’s an act of violence and it’s a crime.

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Dr. Mache Seibel

Women's health expert and guest speaker Dr. Mache Seibel addresses consumers' critical needs from weight control to HRTmenopause and beyond. He served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for 19 years and is founder of My Menopause Magazine on the Apple Newsstand ( Download the Free App and first Free issue. He works with companies and organizations to bring exciting educational content to consumers. Visit his award-winning website to sign up for his free monthly newsletter.


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10:32AM PDT on May 24, 2013

Good to see the definition updated.

1:37PM PDT on Apr 18, 2013


11:22PM PST on Feb 20, 2012

This is a great improvement. Keep it up! Great to see that what's considered rape is now updated. Great to see that men aren't forgotten when it comes to rape :)

4:42PM PST on Feb 19, 2012

article has good points and suggestions, thank you.

6:30PM PST on Feb 2, 2012

Thanks for posting, this topic deserves all the attention it can get!

8:37AM PST on Jan 26, 2012

Years ago a friend of mine was raped when she was 21. She has not been right since. Even now, she is afraid of most men. She was married 4 times, but acted strange around them. She is 4 times divorced and says she plans to stay that way.

I think she will be happy that the law is stronger now.

5:04AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

Lika S,
How can a paedophile website be legal? Paedophilia is illegal, so it follows that the websites are also illegal (and monitored by the police forces of many countries) - and in my country (UK) it is a criminal offence to download images from these websites. Surely that is the case in the US as well?

10:42PM PST on Jan 23, 2012

And please sign these two petitions -

1) to shut down legal pedophile websites as well as to stiffen punishments on those who sexually prey on our children on and offline:

2) to ensure that abused males have the opportunity to get into emergency shelters, support and services needed to be safe and to survive w/o abuse:

6:10PM PST on Jan 23, 2012

My aunt was raped and murdered when she was a teenager (by a person unknown to her, who also murdered her teenage male friend, and went on to rape many women). Now I am always on high alert. I refuse to wear headphones. I don't walk through parkland by myself (only with the dog in tow). I make sure all doors/windows are locked and I always feel a little jittery when I am home alone at night.

9:56AM PST on Jan 22, 2012

Finally!!!! I'm happy they changed the description of rape. I agree, even little going in, just because victim didn't want it to happen, rape is rape.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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