Was I Raped?
The exact definition of “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual abuse,” and similar terms differs by state. The wording can get confusing. For a precise legal definition, you need to check the law in your state. But here are some general guidelines based on the definitions used by the U.S. Justice Department. Please note that these definitions are a bit graphic, which is inevitable when describing crimes this violent.
Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.
- Rape victims may be forced through threats or physical means. In about 8 out of 10 rapes, no weapon is used other than physical force. Anyone may be a victim of rape: women, men or children, straight or gay.
Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.
So, how can you decide if what happened was rape?
There are a few questions to consider.
There are three main considerations in judging whether or not a sexual act is consensual (which means that both people are old enough to consent, have the capacity to consent, and agreed to the sexual contact) or is a crime.
1. Are the participants old enough to consent? Each state sets an “age of consent,” which is the minimum age someone must be to have sex. People below this age are considered children and cannot legally agree to have sex. In other words, even if the child or teenager says yes, the law says no. In Connecticut, the age of consent is 16.
2. Do both people have the capacity to consent? States also define who has the mental and legal capacity to consent. Those with diminished capacity – for example, some people with disabilities, some elderly people, and people who have been drugged or are unconscious – do not have the legal ability to agree to have sex.
3. Did both participants agree to take part? Did someone use physical force to make you have sexual contact with him/her? Has someone threatened you to make you have intercourse with them? If so, it is rape. Did you say yes? Did you then change your mind and ask the person to stop? Both people must consent and be willing participants at all times.
Common Questions (click on each to read more)
I didn’t resist physically – does that mean it isn’t rape?
I used to date the person who assaulted me – does that mean it isn’t rape?
I don’t remember the assault – does that mean it isn’t rape?
I was asleep or unconscious when it happened – does that mean it isn’t rape?
I was drunk or he was drunk – does that mean it isn’t rape?
I thought “no,” but didn’t say it. Is it still rape?
If you have been sexually assaulted, or even if you are not sure, please call our Hotline at 203-731-5206 for free, confidential help and to look at all of your options.