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Was I Raped?

Feb 07, 2023
Last updated Apr 22, 2024
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The #MeToo movement has brought to light the large-scale prevalence of sexual violence in our society. Sexual assault typically refers to situations where a person or group forces, coerces, or otherwise manipulates another into undertaking any form of sexual activity without their consent. If you are concerned that a sexual encounter you were part of was non-consensual and wondering what your next step should be, we are here to remind you that you are not alone. We are available to answer any questions you may have.

The sexual assault attorneys at Edwards Henderson are passionate about helping survivors achieve justice. Our firm has recovered billions of dollars on behalf of survivors against rich and powerful defendants, including the infamous Jeffrey Epstein. For more information or to set up a free and confidential consultation with a sexual assault attorney, contact us here.

Key Takeaways

  • Sexual assault or rape involves sexual acts with a person who has not given their consent or does not have the ability to consent.
  • Any form of sexual violence can happen to any person of any gender, and is never due to the fault of the survivor.
  • It is best to speak to a trusted sexual assault attorney who can help you understand the nature of the sexual violence committed against you, and help navigate the legal process.

What Is the Definition of Rape?

Rape is defined as unlawful sexual intercourse with a person without their consent. Note that most modern criminal law statutes have adopted a gender-neutral stance in their definition of rape. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines rape as “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.” Actual penetration, however slight, is enough to constitute rape. There is no requirement that emission is necessary to constitute rape.

How Do I Know If I Was Raped?

  • Were you old enough to consent? Most states have a legal age of consent, and it may vary from state to state. If you are below the age of consent in a given state, you cannot legally consent to intercourse with another person. Statutory rape is a strict liability crime which means neither consent by an underage survivor nor a defendant’s reasonable mistake regarding their age is a defense. In other words, it is considered rape even if a person under the age of consent agreed freely to partake in the sexual intercourse or if the abuser was convinced that their sexual partner was of age. Learn more about the age of consent in your state here.
  • Did you have the capacity to consent? An individual who consents to sexual activity must be capable of making that decision freely. You cannot legally consent if you are incapacitated, such as due to being under the influence of drugs, certain medications, or alcohol. In general, an intoxicated person is considered to be able to consent as long as they can make informed decisions without coercion or pressure from another person. Signs an individual may be intoxicated but not incapacitated include slurring words, a minor level of stumbling or wobbling, and exaggerated emotions or gestures. Signs an individual is incapacitated may include the inability to walk without assistance, speaking incoherently, or passing out.
  • Was your consent freely given? Consent should be enthusiastic and unforced. A person cannot consent to anything if they feel threatened or feel any sort of physical or emotional pressure into undertaking or continuing a sexual activity. Force, threat, manipulation, or coercion can make any “yes” involuntary. A coerced yes to sexual contact is considered sexual assault.
  • Were your boundaries crossed or did they change? When you participate in sexual activity, you have the right to set boundaries. Your consent to one act does not mean you are consenting to all sexual acts. It is also possible to change your mind during a sexual encounter. You can say no if you originally agreed to something but then decided you were no longer comfortable with it. The encounter becomes non-consensual if the other individual does not stop or takes too long to stop.
A young man looks terrified as he speaks to someone over his cellphone

What Are the Different Types Of Rape?

  • Acquaintance rape: Acquaintance rape is a term that refers to sexual assaults in which the perpetrator and the survivor are known to each other in some way, either casually or intimately. It is also sometimes referred to as date rape; however, acquaintance rape does not have to be committed by someone you are on a date with. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), over two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor.
  • Drug-facilitated rape: Drug-facilitated rape refers to sexual assault that occurs when drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual’s capacity to consent to any sexual activity. Perpetrators may employ the use of drugs like “roofies” and alcohol to commit sexual assault since these substances can diminish a person’s ability to resist unwanted action, reduce their inhibitions, and even prevent them from remembering the complete details of the assault.
  • Incest: This is defined as sexual abuse perpetrated by a close relative. According to the RAINN, 34 percent of perpetrators in child sex abuse cases are relatives. What is considered an incestuous relationship may vary from state to state.
  • Forcible rape: The FBI defines forcible rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” It includes attempts or assaults to commit rape on women by force or threat but excludes offenses like statutory rape. However, this is now considered an outdated definition in the modern context.
  • Aggravated rape: Aggravated rape refers to forced sexual acts under threats of serious bodily injury or death, involving a drugged or unconscious individual, or sexual acts with children under the age of 12.
  • Age-related rape: Age-related rape is specified as statutory rape under state and federal laws. It refers to sexual activity with an individual who gave their consent but is less than the statutory age of consent in the state. Whether or not a sexual relationship is considered age-related rape may depend on the age gap between the individuals.
  • Diminished capacity rape: Diminished capacity rape occurs when a perpetrator forces sexual penetration on an individual who is unable to consent. Individuals with limited intellectual or physical capacity are typically considered to be of diminished capacity. Examples may include individuals with intellectual disabilities or those who are incapacitated due to drugs, certain medications, or alcohol.

Is It Considered Rape If Both Parties Were Drunk?

In many states, an individual who is intoxicated is considered unable to legally consent to sexual activity. A person who takes advantage of someone they know is incapacitated due to the use of narcotics could be charged with rape or sexual assault.

A woman sitting on a bed, looking as if she's trying to remember something unpleasant

Is It Rape If I Initially Said Yes?

If you consent to sexual activity, you always have the right to revoke your consent if you are uncomfortable or would like to stop for any reason. If you tell someone to stop such sexual activity and they continue, it is a violation of your boundaries, and may be considered rape or sexual assault.

What If I Told Them It Hurt and They Didn’t Stop?

Experiencing pain or discomfort during sexual activity is a perfectly valid reason to ask the other person to discontinue immediately. If they refuse to stop or otherwise take too long to stop despite your request, they may be held accountable for sexual assault or rape.

What If I Didn’t Say No, But I Was Thinking It?

Some survivors may fear speaking up and saying no due to a number of different reasons, including fear of physical harm. Consent is not just verbal; the absence of the word “no” does not mean yes by default. When an individual seeks to manipulate, pressure, groom, or trick an individual into having sex, it is sexual coercion, and is common in sexual abuse cases.

What If I Didn’t Fight Back?

Putting up a fight may put you in greater danger if your perpetrator is using physical threats or weapons to force you to engage in sexual activity. It may also be difficult in certain other cases. Just as not saying no does not imply your consent, not fighting back does not imply your agreement to the sexual activity.

What If I Can’t Remember What Happened?

Date rape drugs like GHB as well as alcohol intoxication can blur the memories of a sexual encounter. Additionally, the body sometimes responds to traumatic situations by repressing the memories associated with the experience. This is particularly common in child sex abuse cases. Remember, a sexual encounter that you did not consent to is assault or rape, regardless of whether you remember the experience to its last detail.

Sexual coercion occurs when an abuser uses some form of influence or pressure to convince an individual to engage in any sexual activity. Abusers may knowingly coerce someone into having sex by using tactics like manipulative pickup strategies or unknowingly coerce someone by assuming the person is fine with the act when they have not displayed any enthusiasm to participate in the activity.

What If I Was Forced Into a Position Or Held Down In a Manner That I Didn’t Agree To?

When you consent to sexual activity, you have the right to set boundaries and change those boundaries at any point during the interaction. If a sexual partner forces you into an uncomfortable position or holds you down in a manner you don’t like, then you have the right to ask them to stop. If they continue the sexual act, it is a violation of your boundaries and may be considered rape or assault.

Discussing the use of protection should always be a part of the conversation when it comes to consenting to sexual encounters. When a sexual partner removes a condom without the other person’s consent, it is commonly referred to as “stealthing” and is often considered a form of sexual assault. Stealthing is a practice used by perpetrators to exert power and control, and is currently illegal in California.

What If I Said I Didn’t Want To Do A Specific Sexual Act, But The Person Tried It Anyway?

In all circumstances, you have the right to revoke consent or set boundaries regarding specific sexual acts. If a partner fails to respect these boundaries and violates your consent, it may be considered sexual assault.

What If I Was Raped By A Woman?

One false perception that some may have is that only males can commit rape. In reality, any gender can be a survivor or a perpetrator/enabler of sexual violence. Although women are statistically more likely to be survivors of sexual assault, anyone regardless of their gender can sexually abuse a person of any gender or sexual orientation.

What If I Had An Orgasm When I Was Raped?

It is not uncommon for people to have an orgasm during a sexual assault. An orgasm does not mean that the person wanted or enjoyed the act—it simply means that their body reacted to the specific stimulus. A person who has experienced an orgasm during an assault may feel confused or ashamed, thinking they must have somehow wanted or enjoyed the act to be able to reach climax. Yet, these reactions are common and do not mean the person freely consented to the sexual activity.

What If I Am Married To Or In a Relationship With The Person Who Raped Me?

Dating violence and violence within marriage are sadly not uncommon. In fact, marital rape wasn’t made illegal in the United States on the federal level until July 5, 1993, although many states had criminalized it earlier. However, there are still many marital rape loopholes, permitting cases to slip through the cracks.

If you are married or in a relationship with the person who raped you, it is not always easy to come to terms with what happened. Part of being in an intimate relationship is trusting your partner and feeling safe around them. If your partner forces you to have sex or refuses to stop when you say no, then it could be considered sexual assault. It is important not to blame yourself for the violence or abuse. Remember that your sexual partner is supposed to respect your boundaries and stop when the act is no longer consensual.

Contact without consent even within the guidelines of a relationship is still considered sexual assault. Consent must be freely given without coercion or intimidation — it’s called “enthusiastic consent.” Sexual consent can also be retracted at any time, even during a sexual act.

What If We Were Friends?

The media may portray rapists as strangers or someone they had just met, but this isn’t the most accurate portrayal as 19.5% of rapes are committed by a stranger. Despite this perception, 39% of rapes are committed by a friend — the phenomenon is so common it’s been termed “acquaintance rape.” Child and teen survivors of sexual violence are even more likely to know their abusers than adults are: 93% of them do.

Acquaintance rape is often called “date rape” but it’s not limited to first dates or 50th dates. It can happen in platonic relationships between classmates, co-workers, friends, casual acquaintances, and more. 

Alcohol and drugs are often part of acquaintance rape, but not always. Oftentimes, abusers take advantage of their target’s feelings of safety around them and use that to their advantage. Psychological, emotional, and financial pressure is another frequent tactic along with physical threats or displays of force. Those in positions of power may use their exploit others, especially in sporting leagues or academic fields. 

Sexual coercion and acquaintance rape, like marital or relationship rape, are often underreported for a variety of reasons. Survivors may believe others won’t believe them or may struggle to understand the experience until after their state’s statute of limitations has passed.

A man and woman seemingly out on a date; the woman looks terrified

Is It Rape If I Was Passed Out or Asleep?

Yes, it is rape if someone has sex with you when you are passed out, asleep, or otherwise not coherent enough to consent. A person who engages in sexual activity with someone who they know or can reasonably infer is otherwise incapacitated or unconscious, may have committed rape or sexual assault.

What If I Was High On Drugs When I Was Raped?

Like alcohol, some drugs can affect your mental ability and therefore, your capacity to consent to sexual activity. If you were not able to freely and intelligently consent or say no to the sexual act, it is possible that you were drugged without your knowledge. You may also face difficulty remembering the details of the act due to the nature of the drug. A sexual abuse attorney should be able to guide you on the next steps if you were raped while high on drugs.

What If My Attacker Was High On Drugs When I Was Raped?

Sexual assault has serious consequences whether or not the person who abused you was under the influence of narcotics. Depending on the situation, an abuser who raped or assaulted you while under the influence of drugs or alcohol may still be held accountable for their crimes.

What Is The Difference Between Sexual Assault and Rape?

Rape is the non-consensual penetration of a person’s mouth, anus, or vagina, with any body part or object, including sex toys. On the other hand, sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior made without mutual consent, and may range from acts such as fondling someone’s body to torturing them in a sexual manner.

Is It Rape If I Willingly Ingested Drugs or Alcohol?

It is important to note that if someone forces themself on another person while that person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it may still be considered rape if other elements of the crime are met. No one deserves to be sexually violated based on the fact that they willingly took narcotics and were possibly incapacitated to consent.

A group of people having drinks together

What Is “Force” When It Comes To Rape and Sexual Assault?

Force means using physical violence, threats, or intimidation. Note that force can be emotional or psychological in nature and does not have to involve physical contact. Forcing someone to engage in sexual activity with the abuser without their consent or despite their expressed disinterest is a violation of their sexual boundaries.

Can I Get An Abortion If I Was Raped?

The decision of whether or not to have an abortion belongs solely to the person who is carrying the pregnancy. However, the question of whether or not a person can get an abortion may differ from state to state. Some states that have legislated against abortion have implemented exceptions for rape and incest.

How Do Rapists Select Their Targets?

A common misconception is that an individual’s physical appearance, clothing, or demeanor played a part in a sexual assault or rape. Rapists seek out potential targets based on opportunity, accessibility, and vulnerability, such as by singling out people who may be vulnerable due to their substance abuse issues, disabilities, or mental illnesses. They may also look for people who may lack strong relationships in their life, as they may be less likely to speak up about their sexual trauma.

What Is The Motivation Behind Rape?

As with any crime, there are potentially multiple motivations behind rape. However, the most common motivation would be power, control, sadistic tendencies, patriarchy, or misogyny. Rape is normally not about sex, but about domination and control. It may also stem from a lack of understanding about boundaries, a victim-blaming attitude, or it could be about seeking revenge against a person or a gender based on the predator’s psychological trauma. Rape may also be instigated as part of hate crimes against a given group of people.

What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Rape?

The statute of limitations to file a civil rape lawsuit varies from state to state. In the United States, it is typically within three to seven years from the date of the crime. Some states have relaxed the statute of limitations for crimes like child sexual abuse. For more information about your state’s statute of limitations, visit RAINN’s state-by-state legal resource.

What Is Rape Culture?

Rape culture is an environment where the prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual abuse, predominantly against women. Rape culture includes behaviors such as objectifying women, condoning sexual violence against women, and generally, lacking concern about the consequences of such sexual violence. These norms create a society where rape becomes commonplace, with survivors often being blamed for facing sexual violence.

I Was Raped; What Should I Do?

It is often difficult to come to terms with the fact that you were raped. This is especially harder when the abuser was someone you trusted who still crossed your sexual boundaries. If you were raped or sexually assaulted, it is important to undertake the following courses of action:

  • Find safety and emotional support: The most important thing to do after experiencing sexual assault is to ensure your safety. If you feel that you are still in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, you may go somewhere safe, like the nearest hospital or a loved one’s home. Once you are physically safe, you may confide in someone you trust if you feel they can help you.
  • Seek immediate medical attention: Although many survivors are hesitant to seek medical attention after enduring sexual violence, it is advisable to consult with a medical professional to check for injuries, obtain a forensic exam report (sometimes referred to as a rape kit), and get tested for pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections. In order to preserve evidence for the forensic exam, you should avoid showering or brushing your teeth prior to going to the hospital.
  • Visit a mental health professional: Rape and sexual assault have long-term consequences, ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to substance abuse. It is best to visit a mental health specialist who can help you process the trauma and understand how you may heal from your experience.
  • Contact the police: Consider reporting the sexual incident to the police. By initiating a criminal investigation into the matter, the authorities may potentially arrest the offender. You can also inquire about filing for a protective or restraining order to ensure the abuser is legally obligated to stay away from you.
  • Report to the relevant institution: If the incident took place in an institution, such as your university or a treatment facility, and especially so if it involved an employee of that organization, you should consider reporting the incident to leadership or management. If you are a minor and a family member is responsible for the crime against you, consider speaking to a child protective specialist for help.
  • Consider your legal options: If you have been sexually assaulted, it is important that you understand your legal options, whether or not you decide to file a lawsuit immediately. Survivors of rape and sexual assault can pursue a civil sexual assault lawsuit to recover compensation for the harm they suffered.
A woman at a therapist's office

If you have been subjected to sexual violence in the form of rape or sexual assault, it is important you understand your legal options. Survivors can take steps to protect themselves and hold the perpetrator accountable:

  • Press criminal charges: Filing a police report about the incident will prompt the police to begin an investigation into what happened. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the state will decide whether or not to prosecute the perpetrator. If the state does file charges against the accused, a court of relevant jurisdiction will then determine if they are guilty. Rape and sexual assault convictions can lead to lengthy jail sentences and monetary fines, along with a criminal record.
  • File a civil lawsuit: Rape and sexual assault survivors have the right to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser, as well as any third-party institutions that may have enabled the abuser. In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff can pursue compensation for the damages they incurred as a result of the rape or assault. Such types of damages include pain and suffering, medical bills, the cost of mental health care or therapy, loss of income, loss of enjoyment, and more.
  • Pursue a lawsuit against the perpetrators: Survivors have the option to seek monetary compensation for the trauma endured by filing a civil lawsuit. However, it must be filed within the relevant state’s statute of limitations.

Who Can Be Held Liable For Sexual Assault and Rape?

The person who committed the sexual assault or rape can be held liable for the crime. However, others may have contributed to or enabled the crime in some way and can be joined to the lawsuit as well. For example, a school, a religious institution like a church, or a hospital where the assault took place may be responsible for enabling the crime by neglecting to have proper safety rules in place, ignoring the crime when reported, or covering up the sexual abuse.

We Believe You: Speak With A Compassionate Sexual Assault Lawyer Today

If you are concerned that you or your loved one was involved in a sexual encounter that resulted in assault or rape, it can be difficult to determine what happened and what your next steps should be. It is important for sexual abuse survivors to speak with a compassionate and skillful sexual assault attorney who would be able to help them understand their rights and options.

Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault. A knowledgeable sexual assault lawyer can help guide you through the process and advise you every step along the way. At Edwards Henderson, our efforts to achieve justice on behalf of sexual assault survivors have been recognized on a national and global level. For more information or to speak with a qualified sex assault lawyer, contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.

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Article Sources

  1. An Updated Definition of Rape
  2. Age of Consent by State 2023
  3. Perpetrators of Sexual Violence: Statistics
  4. Forcible Rape
  5. State by State Guide on Statutes of Limitations
  6. What Is Consent?
  7. Marital Rape Is Criminalized But Not Upheld
  8. Perpetrators of Sexual Violence: Statistics

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