Thursday, 5 May 2016

Rape: Impact on Reports

Author: Blaise Wilson
Articles in this series:
Gendered Equality of Opportunity:
Definition of UK rape law:
Campaign Info:
Impact on Reports: This article
Denial of Women’s Impact and Agency:
Reponse the the GovUK Reply:

The impact of the UK legal definition of rape

As highlighted in the previous article (see links above) the legal UK definition of rape requires penetration by a penis without consent. This excludes envelopment of the vagina, which is the female equivalent action. Penetration by an object is covered under a different law.

Why should this matter?

In this article we will delve into how this definition impacts the research that informs the UK Government. This has a direct link with the information the UK Government is provided to make decisions and changes to the system.

The UK Government uses data from the Crime Survey England and Wales (CSEW) [1] and compares the data to police records. This helps them determine what crimes are officially reported, and provides an estimate of a more realistic assessment of crime in England and Wales [4].

Using surveys is not perfect, but it is the best we have at getting a more reliable and accurate picture of crime.

The CSEW Definition

The CSEW uses a questionnaire [2]. The questions ask about a range of crimes, including sexual and domestic violence. Here is an example question:

“Since you were 16, has anyone ever forced you to have sexual intercourse or take part in some other sexual act, when you were not capable of consent or when you made it clear you did not want to? By sexual intercourse we mean vaginal, anal or oral penetration.” [2, p 259] Emphasis mine.

If you say ‘yes’, the follow up question and response options are:

“You said that someone has forced you to have sexual intercourse or take part in some other sexual act when you were not capable of consent or when you made it clear you did not want to. What did they do to you?”

1. Penetrated your [vagina or anus/anus] with their penis

2. Penetrated your [vagina or anus/anus] with an object (including fingers)

3. Penetrated your mouth with their penis

4. Did some other sex act not described above

5. Don’t know

6. Don’t want to answer” [2, p259]

If a women forces a man to have sex with her without consent the only option of reporting it is ‘did some other sex act not described above’. Because according to the CSEW, women cannot even have sexual intercourse because it is defined as penetration and women can’t penetrate. A women has no agency to have sex, they cannot act – by this definition they can only be acted upon. This definition reduces women to objects that have no agency.

This is demonstrably sexist against both women, by denying them equal agency to men, and to the male victims of women by denying them equal justice.

Do women ‘rape’?

It doesn’t matter if women force themselves onto men, it doesn’t matter how many, it doesn’t matter if even ONE women has sex with a man without his consent. The numbers do not matter when it comes to equality of the law.

For there to be equality the law must equally recognise women’s agency equally to men.

However, what happens when you allow men to report being forced to have sex without consent?

The US CDC’s The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report [3] asked:

“When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever…

had vaginal sex with you? By vaginal sex, we mean that {if female: a man or boy put his penis in your vagina} {if male: a woman or girl made you put your penis in her vagina}?

{if male} made you perform anal sex, meaning that they made you put your penis into their anus?

made you receive anal sex, meaning they put their penis into your anus?

made you perform oral sex, meaning that they put their penis in your mouth or made you penetrate their vagina or anus with your mouth?

made you receive oral sex, meaning that they put their mouth on your {if male: penis} {if female: vagina} or anus?” [3, p106] Emphasis mine.

They define ‘rape’ and ‘made to penetrate’ as:

“Rape is defined as any completed or attempted unwanted vaginal (for women), oral, or anal penetration through the use of physical force (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threats to physically harm and includes times when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent. Rape is separated into three types, completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and completed alcohol or drug facilitated penetration…

“Being made to penetrate someone else includes times when the victim was made to, or there was an attempt to make them, sexually penetrate someone without the victim’s consent because the victim was physically forced (such as being pinned or held down, or by the use of violence) or threatened with physical harm, or when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.” [3, p17]

As shown, these definitions allow a much wider range of situations to be reported as ‘rape’ and ‘made to penetrate’, purposely inflating the statistics by include sex while drunk or high on drugs without making it clear if they were still had the capacity to consent or not. However, as they define them both equally a comparison of the male and female data within the CDC report is appropriate, but cannot be compared to the UK statistics as they have a different boundary on their definition of rape.

Remembering that the numbers don’t matter, the root cause problem is the legal definition of rape. However, out of pure curiosity what was the CDC’s results?

(Est. Number)
(Est. Number)
Rape & Made to Penetrate in the last 12 months
Rape & Made to Penetrate LIFETIME
1,581,000 (Rape)
5,451,000 (Made to Penetrate
[3] From page 17-18 tables 1.2 and 2.2

However, ‘made to penetrate’ includes men being forced into other men. The CDC provides data on the gender of the perpetrator:

Female Victim of Rape
Male Victim of Made to Penetrate
Male Victim of Rape
Female Perpetrator
Male Perpetrator
[3] LIFETIME data, taken from paragraph on page 24.

And the final piece of this puzzle, the relationships of the perpetrators to the victims.

LIFETIME perpetrator relationship
(Made to Penetrate)
Current/Former Interment Partner
Family Member
Person of Authority
[3]LIFETIME Data from pages 22 - 23 table 2.5 and 2.6 

NB: Relationship is based on respondents’ reports of their relationship at the time the perpetrator first committed any violence against them. Due to the possibility of multiple perpetrators, combined row percentages may exceed 100%.

The CDC did not report data that was too unreliable, hence why some of the information on male rape victims is missing.

What can be done?

The root cause problem is the UK legal definition of rape. By including envelopment/ made to penetrate within the definition women’s agency to force men into sex will be legally recognised, and the victims can start to get the help and support they need.

To help correct this injustice, please join the campaign to petition the UK Government to change the law:

If you live in the UK please sign and share the petition. If you don’t live in the UK, please promote the petition to your UK followers, spread the message. If the UK changes the law it will put pressure on other countries to follow suit.

For some useful downloadable images and further information on the campaign goto Campaign Info:


[1] CSEW website:
[2] CSEW questionnaire:
[3] Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[4] An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales by Ministry of Justice, Home Office & the Office for National Statistics, January 2013 -
[5] Petition the UK Government:

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