RAPE LAW IN THE U.S.

Rape, or forcible rape, to be more precise, currently stands as one of the eight Part I index crimes of the UCR. Along with murder, robbery, and aggravated assault, it is classified as a violent crime. While rape has been a crime with severe punishments for offenders, it has not always been classified as a violent crime. This section presents a survey of the history of rape law to demonstrate how rape and the attendant social and legal reactions to it have changed over time (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2016).

Women as Property

Throughout most of recorded human history, women have been treated as property. They were the property of their fathers until marriage, at which point ownership was transferred to their husbands. Because women did not exist as independent beings and carried no status independent of their fathers or husbands, rape of a woman was not predicated on a lack of female consent or refusal to engage in sex, nor her right to bodily integrity. Rape, therefore, whether against a man's daughter or a man's wife, was treated as a man-on-man crime; it was a property crime committed by one man against another man's property. These principles dominated from the early codes of Ancient Babylon through the early twentieth century.

No property was valued more than a betrothed virgin. Rape of virgin women was treated as a capital offense, with offenders facing a death penalty and the victimized girl considered guiltless. Married women who were raped did not fare as well. According to the Code of Hammurabi (approximately 4,000 years ago), a man would be killed if he raped a betrothed virgin; the victim suffered no consequence. A married woman who experienced the same crime, however, had to share the blame equally with her attacker. The crime was labeled "adultery" and both parties were thrown into the river. The remnants of these policies and practices are evident in some of the rape myths discussed earlier.

 
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