Rape FAQ

By: LawInfo

How is rape defined?

The crime of rape, generally speaking, involves non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or some other form of duress. Date rape, meanwhile, is a (non-legal) phrase that has come to refer to when someone commits a form of sexual assault to someone they know or by drugging the victim.

Note that rape can occur within a marriage, can be carried out by either gender, and the amount/type of force can vary. The victim's lack of consent is at the crux of any rape crime, date rape included. A lack of consent can include the victim's inability to say "no" to intercourse, due to the effects of drugs or alcohol. Thus, rape can occur when the offender and victim have a pre-existing relationship (no matter the duration), or even when the offender is the victim's spouse.

It is important to remember that a conviction for rape requires some form of sexual penetration, however slight. Each instance of penetration can serve as a count of rape, as well.

Statutory rape, meanwhile, refers to sexual intercourse with a minor (someone below the "age of consent"). People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex. This means that to have sex with a minor, by definition of the strict liability statute, violates the law. Statutory rape laws vary by state, with states setting the age of consent differently, as well as using different names to refer to this crime. 

What should I do if I believe that I have been date raped?

If you believe that you have been the victim of date rape, you should:

  • Go to the police station or hospital immediately.
  • If you believe you were drugged, get a urine test as soon as possible, as “date rape” drugs can leave your system quickly. GHB leaves the body in 12 hours. Rohypnol only stays in the body for several hours, but can be detected in urine up to 72 hours.
  • Don't douche, bathe, or change clothes before getting help. These things may give evidence of the rape.
  • You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a counselor. The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE.

What are date rape drugs?

Date rape drugs are sometimes used to assist in a sexual assault. These drugs can render victims physically and mentally helpless, and can cause victims to not remember anything that happened. These drugs often have no color, smell, or taste and are easily added to flavored drinks without the victim's knowledge.

There are at least three date rape drugs: GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid), Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride). 

Is alcohol considered a date rape drug?

While GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine are considered “date rape drugs,” alcohol can also have the same effects that impair judgment, cause involuntary black-outs and memory loss, and affect behavior—putting a person at risk for unwanted sexual activity.

What if I've been wrongly accused of date rape?

Unfortunately, false reports of date rape are made.  While the motivation for lying and falsely accusing someone of rape could of course be wildly diverse, false accusations often stem from a desire to seek revenge on the accused or from the alleged victim's desire to cover-up their own sexual activity. 

There are penalties in place under various state laws for falsely reporting that a rape occurred.  However, since a conviction for date rape can result in serious penalties, it is extremely important to consult qualified legal counsel if you have been falsely accused.  An attorney can not only help protect your legal rights, but may also be able to help manage the damage to your reputation that is involved in such cases.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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