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date: 28 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The way in which we define rape and domestic sexual assault, the rates at which it occurs, the motives for offending, and the legislative and criminal justice responses have varied across and within nation-states over time. This essay covers the historical context of rape laws, legal definitions of rape over time, how definitions of rape vary across nations, and the inclusion of domestic sexual assault in rape definitions. It reviews the rates of rape over time across nations using official and victimization data. It discusses the motives offered to explain, rationalize, or justify forced sexual assault and analyses the legislative and criminal justice responses to rape across countries over time. The essay concludes with a discussion of how rape definitions, laws, and criminal justice responses may continue to evolve.

Keywords: criminal justice, domestic sexual assault, historical context, legal definitions, rape

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