Rape and sexual assault affects all races, cultures, ages, and economic classes and are considered to be one of the most serious and violent crimes in the United States today. The United States has the highest rape rate among countries which report such statistics. It is four times higher than that of Germany, 13 times higher than that of England and 20 times higher than that of Japan. The startling fact is that rape and sexual assault are increasingly becoming the fastest growing violent crime in our nation. Due to the social stigma attached to this type of crime, many rape and sexual assault cases are highly under-reported and as a result, are difficult to determine. The causes and reasons for rape are deeply entrenched in our social structure. We can explore a historical perspective, myths and facts, and causes and motivations which involve and may lead to rape. .
Historically, rape was the sole "sex crime" recognized in law. In order for rape to have occurred, it meant that there had to be some penetration of a vagina by a penis. The victim had to prove that she did not want this "sex" forced upon her and had to be physically damaged (torn, bruised, beaten, etc.) in addition to being raped. In the mid-seventeenth century, the idea of "a woman scorned" was introduced into English common law. The myth of the woman who is rejected by a man and then seeks revenge by falsely accusing him of rape remains prevalent in society even today. The creation of the myth of this vindictive woman serves to exonerate perpetrators of rape and in essence, perpetuate the notion that real rape is a rare offense that occurs between strangers. Until the 1970s in the United States, jurors in rape cases were told that although rape is a horrific crime, it is an accusation easy to be made, hard to prove, but harder to be defended by the party accused, though innocent. Until only recently in our nation's history, women in the United States were subject to male violence and had little to no recourse or any means of achieving justice.