Rape as a crime

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving
sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority , or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent .[1]
[2][3] The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault. [4]
The rate of reporting, prosecuting and convicting for rape varies between jurisdictions. Internationally, the incidence of rapes recorded by the police during 2008 ranged, per 100,000 people, from 0.2 in Azerbaijan to 92.9 in
Botswana with 6.3 in Lithuania as the median. [5] Worldwide, sexual violence, including rape, is primarily committed by males against females. [6] Rape by strangers is usually less common than rape by people the victim knows, and male-on-male and female-on-female prison rapes are common and may be the least reported forms of rape. [7][8][9]
Widespread and systematic rape (e.g., war rape) and sexual slavery can occur during international conflict. These practices are crimes against humanity and war crimes. Rape is also recognized as an element of the crime of
genocide when committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a targeted ethnic group.
People who have been raped can be
traumatized and develop posttraumatic stress disorder . [10] Serious injuries can result along with the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. A person may face violence or threats from the rapist, and, in some cultures, from the victim’s family and relatives. [11][12][13]
The term rape originates from the Latin rapere (supine stem raptum ), “to snatch, to grab, to carry off”. [14][15] Since the 14th century, the term has come to mean “to seize and take away by force”. [16] In Roman law, the carrying off of a woman by force, with or without intercourse, constituted “raptus”. [15] In Medieval English law the same term could refer to either kidnapping or rape in the modern sense of “sexual violation”. [14] The original meaning of “carry off by force” is still found in some phrases, such as “rape and pillage”, or in titles, such as the stories of the Rape of the Sabine Women and
The Rape of Europa or the poem The Rape of the Lock , which is about the theft of a lock of hair.
Main articles: Types of rape and Laws regarding rape
See also: Rape by gender
Rape is defined in most jurisdictions as sexual intercourse , or other forms of sexual penetration , committed by a perpetrator against a victim without their consent. [17] The definition of rape is inconsistent between governmental health organizations, law enforcement, health providers, and legal professions. [18] It has varied historically and culturally. [17][18] Originally, rape had no sexual connotation and is still used in other contexts in English. In Roman law , it or raptus was classified as a form of
crimen vis, “crime of assault”. [19][20] Raptus referred to the abduction of a woman against the will of the man under whose authority she lived, and sexual intercourse was not a necessary element. Other definitions of rape have changed over time.
Until 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) considered rape a crime solely committed by men against women. In 2012, they changed their definition from “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” to “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.” The previous definition, which had remained unchanged since 1927, was considered outdated and narrow. The updated definition includes recognizing any gender of victim and perpetrator and that rape with an object can be as traumatic as penile/vaginal rape. The bureau further describes instances when the victim is unable to give consent because of mental or physical incapacity. It recognizes that a victim can be incapacitated by drugs and alcohol and unable to give valid consent. The definition does not change federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the federal, state or local level; it rather means that rape will be more accurately reported nationwide. [21][22]
Health organizations and agencies have also expanded rape beyond traditional definitions. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines rape as a form of sexual assault, [23] while the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes rape in their definition of sexual assault; they term rape a form of sexual violence. The CDC lists other acts of coercive, non-consensual sexual activity that may or may not include rape, including drug-facilitated sexual assault, acts in which a victim is made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else, intoxication where the victim is unable to consent (due to incapacitation or being unconscious), non-physically forced penetration which occurs after a person is pressured verbally (by intimidation or misuse of authority to force to consent), or completed or attempted forced penetration of a victim via unwanted physical force (including using a weapon or threatening to use a weapon). [24][25] The
Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has implemented universal screening for what has been termed “military sexual trauma” (MST ) and provides medical and mental health services free of charge to enrolled veterans who report MST (Title 38 United States Code 1720D; Public Law 108-422).
Some countries or jurisdictions differentiate between rape and sexual assault by defining rape as involving penile penetration of the vagina, or solely penetration involving the penis, while other types of non-consensual sexual activity are called sexual assault.[26][27] Scotland, for example, emphasizes penile penetration, requiring that the sexual assault must have been committed by use of a penis to qualify as rape.[28][29] The 1998 International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda defines rape as “a physical invasion of a sexual nature committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive”. [17] In other cases, the term rape has been phased out of legal use in favor of terms such as sexual assault or criminal sexual

Rape is a serious crime in Nigeria. It is a criminal offence and if found guilty, carries a life sentence.
Laws that govern rape in Nigeria;
The Criminal Code – applicable in all the Southern States
The Penal Code – applicable in all the Northern States
The Criminal Laws of Lagos – applicable only in Lagos State
The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP Act)– this is a federal law that has only been domesticated in Lagos, Anambra, Ebonyi and Oyo State.

Under the Criminal Code of Nigeria (Section 357 & 358), Rape is defined as “having unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false act, or, in case of a married woman, be personating her husband.” This offence is punishable by imprisonment for life, with or without caning.AdvertisementAdvertisement

Under the Penal Code of Nigeria (Section 282), “A man is said to commit rape who has sexual intercourse with a woman in any of the following circumstance: against her will; without her consent; with her consent, when the consent is obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt.”

Under the Criminal Laws of Lagos State (Section 258) “Any man who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent, is guilty of the offence of rape”

Under the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (Section 1) “A person commits the offence of rape if he or she intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of his/her body or anything else without consent, or the consent is obtained by force”

Rape and sexual assault are serious crimes against the dignity and sexual rights of an individual. Everyone has the right and free will to make informed decisions about their sexual conduct and also to respect these same rights and dignity of others. We also all have a collective responsibility to protect the rights , safety and wellbeing of all children at risk of rape and sexual assault. From the legislations outlined, consent is a predominant factor when it comes to offences of rape and sexual assault.

The VAPP Act is also a little more expansive in its interpretation, as it makes provisions for both male and female sexual offenders. It also takes into consideration in another section the rape of a person by a group of people (commonly referred to as ‘gang rape’) which is the first of its kind in Nigerian laws.

The prosecution and conviction of sexual offenders, in spite of the prevalence of rape and sexual violence in our society, and the laws that exist to govern rape are extremely low. It is also very difficult to find established data readily available from reliable sources. Unconfirmed reports of 18 reported convictions in Nigeria till date was seen in one publication.

Certain prevailing attitudes exist in Nigeria that encourages survivors to hide in guilt and shame and perpetrators to continue with impunity may be a contributory factor in the under reporting and low conviction rates.

Effects of Sexual Violence

The most immediate person affected by sexual violence is the victim/survivor, but the effects of sexual violence also go far beyond individual survivors, impacting their closest relationships as well as impacting communities and our society at large.

Impact on the survivor*

Each survivor reacts to sexual violence in their own unique way. Personal style, culture, and context of the survivor’s life may affect these reactions. Some express their emotions while others prefer to keep their feelings inside. Some may tell others right away what happened, others will wait weeks, months, or even years before discussing the assault, if they ever choose to do so. It is important to respect each person’s choices and style of coping with this traumatic event. Whether an assault was completed or attempted, and regardless of whether it happened recently or many years ago, it may impact daily functioning. A wide range of reactions can impact victims. Some common emotional, psychological and physical reactions follow.

Emotional Reactions

  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear, distrust
  • Sadness
  • Vulnerability
  • Isolation

Psychological reactions

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Physical reactions

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Increased startle response
  • Concerns about physical safety
  • Lack of control
  • Anger
  • Numbness
  • Confusion
  • Shock, disbelief
  • Denial
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Phobias
  • Low self esteem
  • Physical injury
  • Concerns about pregnancy or contracting an STI or HIV

Some health outcomes can be fatal such as suicide, homicide, maternal mortality and AIDS related deaths.

Impact on loved ones

When someone is a victim of sexual violence, it affects not only the survivor, but also all of the people around them. Sexual violence can affect many people in a victim/survivor’s life: parents, friends, partners, children, spouses, classmates and/or co-workers.

Part of what makes it so difficult for loved ones is not knowing what to say or do, but there are ways to offer constructive help as well as for you to get support.  In addition to the information below, RVA offers free confidential services to anyone who has been affected by sexual violence, including loved ones.

Let them know that you believe them

All too often, disclosure is met by skepticism or outright disbelief. Simply letting a survivor know that you believe them and that you stand behind them is meaningful. Remember that although you may be having a strong reaction to what happened, it’s important to focus on the feelings and reactions of the survivor rather than your own.

Allow the survivor to make his or her own decisions

This point can be very difficult, it can be very tempting to “take over” for a while in an attempt to help the survivor deal with the rape. It is important to remember that because of the rape, the survivor felt a loss of control over their life. Reestablishing that control is very important. Try to defer to a survivor’s decisions, even if they decide to let you make some decisions. Then at least that was their choice and not yours. If a survivor wants to talk, try to be an open listener. If they prefer not to talk about the assault, then try to be supportive in other ways, letting them know that you care about him/her and are willing to listen at a later time if so desired.

Educate yourself about the myths of rape

Agreat deal of harm is done, often unintentionally, to survivors because the people around them believe the myths that surround rape. Rape is never the fault of the survivor, but rather the fault of the rapist. Although this sounds like a simple, even obvious, fact, much of the misinformation that exists points to the victim as being responsible for the rape. Educating yourself allows you to provide informed, compassionate support.  

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