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Was I Raped?

So, how can you figure 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 most states, the age of consent is 16 or 18. In some states, the age of consent varies according to the age difference between the participants. Generally, “I thought she was 18” is not considered a legal excuse — it’s up to you to make sure your partner is old enough to legally take part.

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 — may not have the legal ability to agree to have sex.

·         These categories and definitions vary widely by state, so it is important to check the law in your state.

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.

·         It doesn’t matter if you think your partner means yes, or if you’ve already started having sex — “No” also means “Stop.” If you proceed despite your partner’s expressed instruction to stop, you have not only violated basic codes of morality and decency, you may have also committed a crime under the laws of your state (check your state’s laws for specifics).

Common Questions

I didn’t resist physically – does that mean it isn’t rape?

People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape — in fact, many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be express (saying “no”) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the statutory age of consent, or if you had a mental defect, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened you with serious physical injury).

I used to date the person who assaulted me – does that mean it isn’t rape?

Rape can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is nonconsensual this time, it is rape. (But be aware that a few states still have limitations on when spousal rape is a crime.)

I don’t remember the assault – does that mean it isn’t rape?

Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “rape drugs” and from excessive alcohol consumption. That said, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may not be possible to pursue prosecution (talk to your local crisis center or local police for guidance).

I was asleep or unconscious when it happened – does that mean it isn’t rape?

Rape can happen when the victim was unconscious or asleep. If you were asleep or unconscious, then you didn’t give consent. And if you didn’t give consent, then it is rape.

I was drunk or they were drunk - does that mean it isn't rape?

Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse – or an alibi. The key question is still: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape. However, because each state has different definitions of “nonconsensual”, please contact your local center or local police if you have questions about this. (If you were so drunk or drugged that you passed out and were unable to consent, it was rape. Both people must be conscious and willing participants.)

I thought “no,” but didn’t say it. Is it still rape?

It depends on the circumstances. If you didn’t say no because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it may be rape. Sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally — for example, when someone has a knife or gun to your head, or threatens you or your family if you say anything.

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, or even if you aren’t sure, contact the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) or Contact UsConverse County Coalition Against Violence for free, confidential help, day or night.

   Since it is impossible to create a definition that encompasses each and every possible scenario, here are a few of the questions survivors and victims may have:

  • What if I know the assailant, date, or used to date the assailant?

No matter how well you know a person, they do not have the right to touch you or have sex with you if you do not consent. Any unwanted sexual activity that you experience from another person is a sexual assault, sexual abuse, or a rape. This even holds true if you have had sex with a person in the past. If you refuse at the time of the incident, a rape has occurred.

  • I never physically resisted the assailant.

Lack of consent can be communicated with a simple “no” and/or other verbal and non-verbal declarations (such as tears, fears, shacking, etc) that you do not wish to have sex. It may also be implied by the circumstances, such as your age, mental capacity, intoxication, or fear of being physically harmed. Not resisting the assault does not automatically mean that you consented. In many cases the victim fears that fighting back might result in the attacker becoming more violent.

  • I was unconscious or asleep when the rape occurred.

If you are asleep or unconscious, then you cannot give your consent to sexual intercourse. Without your consent to intercourse, a crime occurred and it’s called rape.

  • I don't remember the rape.

Not remembering the rape doesn't mean that the rape did not happen. Memory loss can be a result of date rape drugs like GHB and roofies, as well as drinking too much alcohol. When in doubt, talk to someone; contact your local authorities, or your local crisis center.

  • I was drunk/the rapist was drunk.

Alcohol or any other drug is not excuse for a sexual assault. In most states, both parties must be conscious and willing in order for sex not to be considered rape. However, these laws can also vary by state so contact your local authorities or crisis center for relevant local laws.

  • I never said "no," but I thought it.

If you were scared for your health, your life, of the life of your loved ones, then you did not freely consent to any sexual activity. Additionally, it is rape if there is a knife or gun used to threaten you if you say anything. It is also rape if the perpetrator threatens to retaliate against you, threatens to harm you if you say anything of try to fight back.