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SOC 3110- Investigating Rape Laws in the U.S

Aug 31, 2023


Investigate the laws regarding rape and efforts by women’s groups to make laws tougher. Find discussions on the state of the law and public statements about how the law needs to be changed. Evaluate the state of the law and provide a summary of areas where change is needed.    

 Investigating Rape Laws in the U.S      

The USA has rape statutes divided into two categories, firstly, Federal laws that are applicable in all 50 states and Washington D.C. district under government. Secondly, state laws that are made specifically consider state responsibility in curbing rape as a felony. The differences in various laws for rape are based on the nature, severity, and circumstances of the crime. Federal laws regarding rape or sexual assault in the USA also apply to the military, like 10 U.S. Code § 920 – Art. 120. Based on the age of the victim, type of penetration, consent, and mental condition these laws decide the degree of severity and punishment. For example, in the District of Columbia, DC Code § 22–3008 sets Child Sexual Abuse of First Degree with a punishment of up to 30 years (10 U.S. Code § 920 – Art. 120. Rape and Sexual Assault Generally, n.d.).         

The two reputable organizations in the USA working for making rape laws tough and more stringent are RAINN and 1in6. The mission of these organizations also includes helping rape victims and conducting programs for the prevention of rape or sexual assault. These organizations have focused on perpetrators of crime and advocated for victims for justice. The members of organizations have a partnership with lawmakers, thus providing them with tools to pass legislation. Organizational support for movements like #MeToo had a huge impact as almost every legislature revised its policies and laws on sexual acts, especially in workplaces. These women-oriented movements and organizations helped in resolving the issue of unchecked rape kits and started procedures that will keep an eye on backlogs from time to time. Certain laws set time limitations within which a rape victim is supposed to file the case. Due to awareness and advocacy from women’s organizations, state courts have extended the date as well as decided to lift such a bar. This is beneficial for those survivors who were raped as a child and waited years to come forward and file a case. Statutes like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act was passed because of constant fight and movements created by women, for women            

The current debates and discussions are going around Non-Disclosure Agreements(NDA) that are often used by offices and other places of business to know about the victim and then use further to harass. Some state laws have not yet banned the use of such agreements that breach the privacy of the victim and make them uncomfortable at the place where they are working. The site where the US laws require changes is the very definition of rape, where the victim needs to show evidence relating to violence at the time of penetration. Since the State and Federal agencies are both acting upon different descriptions of rape, it is creating ambiguity for victims as well as organizations. Also taking marital rapes seriously is necessary for lawmakers to help statistics go down regarding sexual assault and abuse. Many states have narrowly defined consent that helps rapists with loopholes (Bergelson, 2020, p.18).

The time bar to file cases or rules of limitation is a major hurdle in states that still keep the gap between crime and case filing short. The legislators can make a strict law for insurance companies that deny victim coverage and expenses for medical treatments and rape tests. This will put less burden on State and will help victims get reliable evidence of their bodily condition after rape. Moreover, the USA statutes related to rape and sexual assault lack connection with standards set by International human rights. The courts and justice system discriminate against victims based on race, gender, and class hiding behind the veil of law (Hagerty, 2020).


10 U.S. Code § 920 – Art. 120. Rape and sexual assault generally. (n.d.). LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from

Bergelson, V. (2020). Sex and sensibility: the meaning of sexual consent. Sex and Sensibility: The Meaning of Sexual Consent” in Sexual Assault and Rape–What Can We Learn From and For Law Reform.

Hagerty, B. B. (2020, January 29). The Weinstein Trial Shows What’s Wrong With Rape Laws. The Atlantic. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from

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