By Janasia Giles
Rape in the first degree in New York State is defined as, “when a person engages in sexual intercourse with another person: by forcible compulsion, who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless, who is less than eleven years old, or who is less than thirteen years old and the actor is eighteen years old or more” (NYS Penal Code). Rape in the first degree is a B felony in New York State. Rape is one of the most common crimes that goes underreported within the criminal justice system. Most victims do not come forward because rape is hard to prove and even when they do they wait until the statute of limitations is up or the evidence is washed away. According to the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012, there were 346,830 reported crimes of rape and sexual assault across the United States. The number of reported crimes is nerve racking alone, but these are the ones that are reported; many unreported cases exist where victims receive no justice for the crime committed against them. Although rape may have been defined by New York State as above, it has been an illegal act dating all the way back to Medieval England. Rape in the United States is actually a very broad law because so many states have their own way of classifying and punishing this crime. The above definition of rape for New York State seems to be the basic definition of this law. The earliest statute for rape in the American colonies was passed in 1642, in Massachusetts (Allison, 1993). This statute declared that there had to be some form of force and carnal copulation with a woman or child less than ten years of age (Allison 1993). This is very similar to most of the 50 states today reflection in addition to the federal laws on rape. The differences between laws now and then are the factors such as sex and gender roles. Now, under our rape laws, gender and sex roles don’t matter, whereas back when the law was first established perpetrators of rape would get off because the sexual intercourse with a boy was not considered rape because the law stated “woman, female, or girl”. This created gray areas within the statues leaving interpretation up to the Appellate courts (Allison, 1993). The federal law was later change to disregard gender roles when it came to the act of rape. According to the opinion of the court in the case of People v. Liberta, New York states rape statues has always protected females thus it only applies to males. Presently New York is one of only 10 jurisdictions that does not have a gender-neutral statute for forcible rape as stated in the opinion of the court in the case of People v. Liberta.
Why do people commit the crime of Rape? According to Larry Baron and Murray Straus in 1989 there are four theories to why people commit the crime of Rape. The first theory they came up with was gender inequality. This theory states that because most males view females as lower on the social scale or inferior to them is the reason why rapes are committed. This theory was also proven to have little to no non-significant correlation to rape.
The second theory is Pornography is to blame. This theory states that pornography reduces woman to nothing but a sex object and promotes male dominance while encouraging sexual violence such as rape.
The third theory is the theory of social disorganization this theory is based on the idea that the wearing down of institutional and informal forces of social control undermines social constraints and frees the people to pursue nonconformity behaviors such as rape. This theory as well as the final theory is two of the most common theories as to why people commit the crime of rape. The final theory is the theory of legitimate violence, this states that high levels of violence and social acceptance of illegal/criminal acts by society creating a social norm to violence is why rape is most likely to happen because rape is considered a violent crime. These theories are