When is it Rape?

by Jessica Yaffa, Certified Relationship Coach

In short, the answer to the question, “When is it rape?” is: Any sexual activity performed without consent of the other person.

What is Sexual Consent?

sad woman wondering whether she has been rapedConsent is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says “yes” to sexual activity with other persons. Consent is always freely given and all people in a sexual situation must feel that they are able to say “yes” or “no” or stop the sexual activity at any point.

You may also be interested in: Am I Being Abused?

Sexual Consent Should Never be Assumed

Each one of us is responsible for making sure we have consent in every sexual situation, all the time. If you are unsure, it is important to clarify what your partner is feeling before initiating or continuing the sexual activity. Consent should never simply be assumed by:

  • Dating relationships or previous sexual activity: Just because two people are dating (or have had sex in the past) doesn’t mean that they are consenting to have sex Sex must be consensual each and every time.
  • Marriage: Even in marriage, a person should not assume they have consent for sexual activity. Our body is still our body, not our partners’. Marital rape is as serious as any other sexual assault.
  • Body language or Non-Verbal Communication: No one should never assume by the way a person dresses, smiles, looks or acts, that they want to have sex with you.
  • Silence, Passivity, Lack of Resistance, or immobility: A person’s silence should not be considered consent. A person who does not respond to attempts to engage in sexual activity, even if they do not verbally say no or resist physically, is not clearly agreeing to sexual activity.
  • Under the Influence: Alcohol consumption or use of other drugs can render a person incapable of giving consent. It is important that we act responsibly when using any sort of substance, while also recognizing that it is equally imperative that if you are engaging with someone that is under the influence there is clear capacity for consent.

So when is it rape?

The definition of rape, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network is:

“. . . forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.”

It is important to know that either gender can be the perpetrator or the victim of rape. Additionally, both heterosexual and homosexual rapes take place both inside and outside of relationships. It’s critical to understand that rape is never okay and that no matter the circumstance, rape is never the victim’s fault.

If you have been a victim of rape, please reach out and get help. There are many organizations out there that can help put you on a path to healing.

See also: Am I Being Abused?