Rape is defined as one person forcing another, without this person's consent and using violence or threatening violence, to have intercourse or other forms of sexual activity. The same definition is applicable if the person is violated while in a vulnerable state such as sleep, unconsciousness, intoxication, physical or mental disability. Any present or previous relationship between the parties is irrelevant.
The effects of rape can be both physical/biological and psychological trauma.
Physical impact of rape
Physically documented symptoms of rape include: vaginal and anal bleeding, pain, bruises and scars on the body, irritation and tenderness in the vaginal area, and sometimes tears in the vaginal-rectal area. Others are: subsequent painful sexual intercourse, urinary tract infections, dysfunction of the hip and legs, the contraction of numerous sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS and pregnancy.
Pregnancy from rape
Pregnancy may result from rape. The rate varies between settings and depends particularly on the extent to which non-barrier contraceptives are being used.
A 1996 longitudinal study in the United States of over 4000 women followed for three years found that the national rape related pregnancy rate was 5.0% per rape among victims aged 12–45 years, producing over 32,000 pregnancies nationally among women from rape each year.
A study of adolescents in Ethiopia found that among those who reported being raped, 17% became pregnant after the rape, a figure which is similar to the 15–18% reported by rape crisis centres in Mexico.
Experience of coerced sex at an early age reduces a woman's ability to see her sexuality as something over which she has control. As a result, it is less likely that an adolescent girl who has been forced into sex will use condoms or other forms of contraception, decreasing the likelihood of her not becoming pregnant.
Sexually transmitted diseases
Rape sex can increase the risk of transmitting HIV. In forced vaginal penetration, abrasions and cuts commonly occur, thus facilitating the entry of the virus through the vaginal mucosa. Adolescent girls are particularly susceptible to HIV infection through forced sex, and even through unforced sex, because their vaginal mucous membranes have not yet acquired cellular density sufficient to provide an effective barrier that develops in the later teenage years.
For rape victims the more common consequences of sexual violence are those related to reproductive health, mental health, and social wellbeing. Though the psychological effects are potentially more life altering for the victim, the physical effects are just as adverse and are pretty much immediate.
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