Definition of Rape
The crime of rape generally refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress.
Common law defined rape as unlawful intercourse by a man against a woman who is not his wife by force or threat and against her will. However most states have refined and broadened the statutory definition of rape so that marriage, gender, and force are not relevant. The victim's lack of consent is the crucial element. A lack of consent can include the victim's inability to say "no" to intercourse, due to the effects of drugs or alcohol. Rape can occur when the offender and victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called "date rape"), or even when the offender is the victim's spouse.
To convict an offender for rape, some form of sexual penetration, however slight, must occur. Each instance of penetration can serve as a count of rape, as well.
The most common form of rape is forcible rape, in which an offender uses violence or threats of violence to force a victim into sexual intercourse. In most states, however, rape can also occur in a number of other ways, including posing as a public official and threatening to arrest or punish the victim.
Statutory rape 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 sex with them, 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. Many states punish statutory rape under laws addressing sexual assault, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse or carnal knowledge of a child. In many states, statutory rape is a felony only if one of the participants (usually a male) is at least three years older than the other; otherwise, it is a misdemeanor. There are very few federal laws dealing with statutory rape.