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Over the last few years, attitudes toward rape, as well as the definition of rape itself, have gone through some changes. Until 2012, the law only recognized rape as sexual assault involving penetration of a woman. In 2012, however, the definition was updated to better collect data about sexual assault and rape as part of the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Summary Reporting System (SRS). Today, rape is defined as penetration of the vagina or anus by a sexual organ or other object, or oral penetration using a sex organ, without that person's consent.
The new guidelines also acknowledge that there are times when a person cannot consent because of mental incapacity or because of impairment by drugs or alcohol. There is no requirement that a victim put up a physical struggle to indicate a lack of consent.
As attitudes change towards sex in the United States, state laws related to rape and what constitutes evidence of rape are changing as well. One example takes the form of rape shield laws. Beginning to surface in some states throughout the late 70s and 80s, rape shield laws forbid a defendant from introducing past sexual behavior as a defense against the crime that he or she is accused of.
One of the most dramatic changes in recent years is the adoption of laws in states like Ohio and Michigan. These law changes make it easier for victims to introduce evidence that they were raped even if they did not resist. Furthermore states are starting to trend toward reviewing the physical and other evidence based on its merits as opposed to focusing on the reputation of the victim.
Stranger rape occurs when the perpetrator of the crime and the victim do not know each other. For instance, this may occur when an individual breaks into a home and assaults a person inside. Those who are raped by strangers are often lured to a car or other private area by a perpetrator that they just met within minutes or hours before the assault took place.
While many people may believe that a rapist is usually a stranger, the truth is that most people actually know the person who has assaulted them. It is not uncommon for a person to be raped while at a party or while on a date with somebody. This is referred to as date rape.
In many cases, a person may not understand or acknowledge that he or she may have been raped when it occurs under such circumstances. Victims may blame themselves for what happened or rationalize their experience as a bad drunken encounter. However, those who have had any type of sexual experience that they did not consent to or could not consent to may wish to report it to the authorities.
Most states have a set age of consent. If a victim is under the age of consent, he or she cannot legally have sex or sexual contact with another person. This is true even if the victim is otherwise a willing participant in sex or a similar act.
There is no requirement of force in statutory rape cases. As most state laws do not allow minors to consent, it doesn't matter whether or not force was used during a sexual encounter.
The exact age in which a person can legally consent to engage in sexual activity varies by state. In some cases, the age of the age of the perpetrator can also have an effect on the legality of the act. For instance, it is illegal in New York for someone over the age of 21 to have sex with someone under the age of 17. In California, it may be illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of 18 even if the other person is also under the age of 18.
There are many factors that may impact the type of charge and type of penalty a person may receive, and these will generally vary by state. One of these factors is the difference in age between the accused individual and the victim. New York law, for example, imposes a jail sentence of 10 to 25 years for those who are over the age of 18 and have sex with someone under the age of 13. However, the prison sentence may only be three or four years for someone over the age of 21 who has sex with someone under the age of 17.
Many states also allow exceptions for those who are close in age to one another, often referred to as "Romeo and Juliet" laws. Generally speaking, someone who is 18 who has sex or sexual contact with someone who is 16 or older may only be guilty of a misdemeanor instead of a felony. It may also be possible to have sexual contact with a minor if the defendant is legally married to that person.
If the minor involved is young enough, it could result in aggravated charges in some states. In such cases, such as those in which the minor is under 14 years of age, penalties can be harsher and sentences can last longer.
If a person is accused of sexual assault or rape, it may be worthwhile to speak with an attorney. An attorney may be able to review a case and help a person learn more about his or her rights or help to develop a defense against such a charge.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified statutory rape lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local statutory rape attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.