Encyclopedias, Dictionaries and

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on Rape and Sexual Assault


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Online Dictionaries

Medline Plus- Merriam Webster Online Medical Dictionary


Merriam Webster Dictionary


Find law legal dictionary


For legal professionals. See below link for state specific information.

Legal definition of rape from findlaw by state


The legal definition of rape from findlaw. Enter your zip code for state specific information. Sexual assault See also: criminal law from findlaw in the legal section of this site.

Other legal resources: Black's Law Dictionary, 8th

Center for Disease Control operational definition of sexual assault


This help file section provides in-depth definitions of the terms used to represent data elements in statistics for the causes of death or injury for WISQARS. Sexual Assault injuries (nonfatal) for 2003 per 100,000 people totaled 73,834 according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Online Encyclopedias and Reference


Encyclopedias are a good place to start research on any topic. They give a general overview of the subject and are a starting point to research more specific aspects.

For the topic of rape and sexual assault online Encyclopedias generally have more up to date information than paper based resources.


Groliers Online Encyclopedia



To access Groliers Online Encyclopedia free of charge- just click on high school/ online /Groliers Encyclopedia and then text only version (pop up window) and type in search term rape. It is the top return. This entry is one of the best overviews for the topic of rape that I have found. It covers recent aspects (date rape) as well as the history of rape in our society. It includes the concept that women are a legal possession of their spouse or father, information on date rape drugs such as rohypnol and ghb and the Bosnia rape trials.

See also separate entry:

Encyclopedia Americana

You can locate this by logging into grolier through your library and then pasting in this url:



Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia


Medline is a reliable source of medical and statistical information. "According to most estimates, 80-90% of rapes are not reported to authorities. Current trends project that 1 in 3 American women will be sexually assaulted at some point during her life. "


Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia


This online source is much more satisfactory than most paper based entries for rape. It mentions the overall definition of rape as well as statutory rape. Also mentioned is the history of the rape crisis movement within the women's movement of the 1970's and it's efforts to change rape laws to give rape victims more sympathetic treatment. It also covers statistics and the Bosnia and Hercegovina war rape crimes.


Encyclopædia Britannica


The entry for rape covers: Statutory rape, same-sex attacks, psychological responses of victims, distressing cross-examination in court , rape as a weapon of war and other topics. "Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is a leading provider of learning and knowledge products. We're proud to be one of the world's most trusted sources of information on every topic imaginable - from the origins of the universe to current events and everything in between."


Columbia Encyclopedia


The Columbia encyclopedia. Sixth edition, 2001-04

This entry for the definition of rape in law covers most of the current issues in sexual assault. Some of those are date rape, proof of injury, feminism's role in improving victim resources and rape as a war crime. Free to the public.


Cornell Legal Research Encyclopedia


See: women and the law. This is a good research tool as it has links to other research sites under each subject. There is a link to InSITE: InSITE highlights selected law-related World Wide Web sites.


Quick reference


Primarily free online resources such as dictionaries, thesauri and encyclopedias from UNC Chapel Hill.


Evaluation of the Groliers and Funk & Wagnalls online Encyclopedias:

Both Online Encyclopedias were much more thorough than the paper based counterparts. There were two returns each for the term rape. Subjects covered were generally the definition of rape, statutory rape, recent statistics on rape, the history of the issue, International law regarding Bosnia trials, and the previously unmentioned category of date rape and date rape drugs.

The primary difference between the two online encyclopedias is that Grolier's is much more comprehensive than Funk and Wagnalls. Both carry the same tone and mention feminism and its fight to improve conditions and rights of rape victims. Funk and Wagnall's statistics report that a rape is reported in the US every 6 minutes. It also mentions that in court "for the crime to constitute rape, the victim must resist, unless he or she is incapable of resistance because of mental or physical weakness or deterred by fear of bodily harm." Grolier's takes it a step further by explaining the history of rape in terms of underlying assumptions by our society. "The origin of rape laws can be traced to the once-wide spread belief that women were the property of men. A female was considered first the property of her father. Because her virginity was valued as her principal asset, rape was considered a theft. Once a woman was married, she belonged to her husband. Rape then was treated as a crime against the husband's exclusive sexual rights to her. Because marriage gave these rights to the husband, legally, it was not possible for him to rape his own wife." This statement points to flaws in the criminal justice system. The author of this site's general conclusion is that rape victims and researchers can get better information from internet resources that allow modern ideas on the subject to easily be expressed and updated.


Rape entry from the Encyclopedia of Psychology

"Rape is essentially an act of power and dominance. Although an estimated 15 to 40 percent of American women are victims of rape or attempted rape, men are raped as well. Women are more likely to be raped by someone they know; between 50 and 70 percent of all rapes occur within the context of a romantic relationship, and more than half the time the assault takes place in the victim's home."


Rape Crisis Online Encyclopedia Wiki


This is an editable online encyclopedia wiki. It is a community effort to research and provide information about rape and sexual assault. Includes definitions and theories about rape but is not an authoritative resource.


Information on rape from the National Atlas

From the National Atlas - scroll down. (Formerly did not include male rape - currently does)




Encyclopedias and Reference Books

You may also view a list of reference books here.


Encyclopedia of Rape

Smith, M. D. (2004). Encyclopedia of Rape. USA: Greenwood Press.

HV6558 .E53 2004 Davis, UL, Law Reference

This encyclopedia has a 3 page alphabetical listing of topics on page xx. There are alot of ancient, mythological and historical references as well as modern legal information. The history of rape is detailed on page 172 covering the 1600's - 1900's.


"In real life, however, rape victims are brutalized, ignored and harassed by the system that is designed to help them. They are traumatized stigmatized or shamed for life if they are not killed during the attack." p. 262

"Book Description-

Rape has been perpetrated throughout history and worldwide, and today ours has been called a rape culture, because sexual violence, mainly against women and children, is prevalent and tolerated to some extent. The Encyclopedia of Rape offers 185 entries in an A-to-Z essay format covering the historical scope and magnitude of the issue in the United States and globally. Written by a host of scholars from diverse fields, it provides informed perspectives on the key dimensions of the topic, from concepts, social movements, offenders, high-profile cases, legislation, influential activists, landmark texts, and victimology to representations in literature and art. This solid, accessible ready-reference will allow students and the general reader to contextualize current events and reading and viewing in history, literature and the Bible, film, art history, gender studies, psychology, criminology, popular culture, and more. "


World Book Encyclopedia

Macdonalds, J. (2007). Rape. In The World Book Encyclopedia. United States of America: World Book Inc.

The 2007 entry defines several types of rape and covers the topics of law, marital rape, the rape crisis centers founded by the women's movement during the 1970's as well as the following quotes:

"Rape is one of the nation's most under reported crimes...The actual number committed may be 2 or more times the number reported."

"Many victims do not report the crime to police because of shame or fear. Some victims dread the possible humiliation of media publicity or being asked embarrassing questions by police."

"Only about 2 percent of all rapists are convicted and imprisoned and, on average, convicted rapists serve only one half of their original sentence... the low conviction rate is due to the difficulty of proving rape under most state laws."

The 2004 entry from World Book goes into detail regarding the overall failure of the justice system and how that occurs. Some examples are the fact that only 2% of rapists are convicted due to difficulty proving the attack. In some instances proof that the victim struggled is required. World Book includes information relating all this demand for proof with intimidation in regards to reporting rape. It is also stated that defense attorneys try to prove the lack of the victim's morals. Entries are relatively similar for each yearly edition of this encyclopedia. The 2004 Encyclopedia covered the following topics:

  • The definition of rape
  • The definition of statutory rape
  • The fact that most rapists are not convicted (only 2% mentioned by world book)
  • Explanations for why victims are intimidated into not reporting the crime.
  • The fact that in trials the issue becomes whether the woman consented to sex.
  • The psychological definition of rape as an antisocial act of power rather than sex.
  • The traumatic after effects suffered by the victim.


The New Encyclopædia Britannica

Rape (2007). In The New Encyclopædia Britannica (Vol. 9). Chicago, Il.: Britannica.

"Rape is often explained or excused as a manifestation of racial, ethnic and class hatred or as stemming from a patriarchal system in which women are viewed as property of men."

The 2007 entry defines the types of victims by gender and age. It also mentions legal procedures, the fact that rapists have high acquittal rates due to the fact that there are often no witnesses, rape shield laws, the after effects of rape, societies response, secondary victimization (poor treatment by society) and quite a lot about war and rape.


Black's Law Dictionary

Black's Law Dictionary, 8th Edition (2004). St. Paul: West Publishing Co.

This dictionary covers both common law and current definitions, synonyms and legal definitions. This includes "unlawful sexual intercourse without consent after the perpetrator has substantially impaired his victim by administering, without the victims knowledge or consent, drugs or intoxicants for the purpose of preventing resistance."

Individual definitions include: acquaintance rape, date rape, marital rape, prior relationship rape, rape by means of fraud, relationship rape, statutory rape and rape shield law.


Black's Medical Dictionary

Macpherson, G. (2004). Rape in Black's Medical Dictionary. Lanham MD, Oxford: Scarecrow Press.

The rape entry covers the following:

  • Statistics - The numbers are rising
  • That rape is about domination not sexuality
  • Low reporting of rape is due to shame, fear of publicity and fear of reprisals.
  • The after effects on the victim
  • Date rape
  • Use of date rape drugs is increasing.


Handbook of American Women's History

Howard, Angela & Kavenik Francis. (2000). Handbook of American Women's History. CA: Sage Publications Inc.

This is a good resource on the history of the rape crisis movement. Other topics to look up might be Andrea Dworkin and the women's movement of the 1970's.

"Both sexist stereotypes and common law conspired to make rape a criminal proceeding on which the victim and her behavior were tried rather than the defendant." p. 465, Rape / Sexual Assault

HQ 1410.H36 2000


Encyclopedia of Associations

Available Online

Hedbled, Alan, project editor (2003) Encyclopedia of Associations 40th edition Vol 1 Part 3. Detroit, NY. Thomson Gale.

R060G152, 2003 vol 1 pt 3

"A guide to more than 22,000 national and international organizations including...social welfare."

Example entry topics:

11510 National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date rape - description and website.

11511 RAINN - description and website.


The Encyclopedia of Child Abuse

Clarke, Robin & Clarke, Julia. (2001). The Encyclopedia of child abuse 2nd edition. New York: Facts on File.

Davis Reference HV6626.5.C57 2001 UL Reference HV6626.5. C57 2001.


Encyclopedia of criminology

Wright , R., & Miller, M. (2005). Encyclopedia of criminology. New York: Routledge.

HV6017 .E5295 2005 Davis Ref


Encyclopedia of feminist literature

Whitson, Kathy J. (2004). Encyclopedia of feminist literature. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press

PN471 .W455 2004 Davis Ref

Search terms: Andrea Dworkin (take back the day), rape crisis centers, 1970s women's movement


Violence in America : an encyclopedia

Gottesman, Ronald., Brown, Richard Maxwell. (1999). Violence in America : an encyclopedia. New York : Charles Scribner's Sons

HN90.V5 V5474 1999 Davis Ref, HSL Ref


The encyclopedia of violence : origins, attitudes, consequences

DiCanio, Margaret. (1993). The encyclopedia of violence : origins, attitudes, consequences. New York : Facts on File

HM291 .D4857 1993 Davis Ref, UL Ref, HSL books

Rape p. 211

This entry covers the definition of rape, statistics on rape, the history of rape and the fact that less than 10% of rapes are reported. It states that "psychological trauma and humiliation overwhelm many victims... trying, alone, to regain their sense of personal integrity that was destroyed by the intrusion of rape." p. 211

Other individual sub topics covered are acquaintance rape, gang rape, war and rape, male rape victims, rape as an act of violence, precipitation (vulnerabililty factors) in victims, and false reporting rates. Interestingly it states that in 1960 law enforcement cited false reporting at 20%. By 1973 the statistics had dropped to 15%. After 1973 the New York city police department used female officers to investigate sexual assault cases and the rate dropped to 2% according to the FBI.


Encyclopedia of sex and gender : men and women in the world's cultures

Ember, Carol R., Ember, Melvin. (2003). Encyclopedia of sex and gender : men and women in the world's cultures. New York : Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers

HQ16 .E53 2003 Davis Ref


Sexuality and the law : an encyclopedia of major legal cases

Leonard, Arthur S. (1993). Sexuality and the law : an encyclopedia of major legal cases. New York : Garland Pub

KF9325.A7 L46 1993 Davis Ref, Law Stacks


Encyclopedia of psychology

Kazdin, Alan E. (2000). Encyclopedia of psychology. Washington, D.C. : American Psychological Association ; Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press

BF 31 E563 2000 Davis Ref, UL Ref, HSL Ref

Search terms: Rape trauma syndrome, Post traumatic stress disorder, Obsessive compulsive disorder, Dissociative identity disorder, Eating disorder


The Truth About Rape

Kittleson, M., Harper, J., & Hilgenkamp, K. (2005). The Truth About Rape. USA: Facts on File. from: The Truth About series, find this in a library

"Sexual crimes can take many different forms, and sexual assault is the most underreported of all serious crimes. Every year more than 100,000 forcible rapes are reported in the United States. Since many rapes are left unreported, this number is usually regarded as lower than the actual number.

Due to the myths and stigma surrounding it, rape remains a difficult crime to discuss. The Truth About Rape looks beyond common myths to give a factual account essential to understanding, preventing, and coping with rape and sexual assault. An important topic for all teenagers, this resource offers trusted advice, information, and accounts from real people, making this volume an invaluable addition to any home, school, or library." links

Review from School Library Journal:

"Although comprehensive in coverage and clear in presentation, the information included here is arranged as a mini-encyclopedia rather than in a logical progression of articles and chapters. Topics include different types of rape, prevention, sexual assault, statistics, abusive relationships, the roles of male and female as perpetrator and victim, drugs and alcohol, the law, and educating the public. The discussion is somewhat clinical in emphasis, with numerous studies cited repeatedly. The A to Z entries themselves include a good level of detail for reports." Burner, Joyce Adams (2006). School Library Journal. 52 (1), p154-154, 1/6p

Research books

Rape and Sexual Assault III

Burgess, Ann. (1991). Rape and Sexual Assault III: A Research Handbook. New York: Garland. Find this in a library.

HV6561 .R369 1991


List of rape crisis information research books with reviews

List II of rape crisis research books

Books and reading material by topic. Very comprehensive.

Find these books in a library


Geis, G. (2007). Rape. Encyclopedia Americana. Retrieved May 3, 2007, from Grolier Online http://ea.grolier.com/cgi-bin/article?assetid=0328610-00


Resources to research this subject:

Journals and articles

Search the NCJRS Abstracts Database

Google scholar or Findarticles

Finding books at the library

Online Libraries on sexual assault

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Search terms: rape crisis

Related links: Victim blame


Macdonalds, J. (2004). World Book Encyclopedia. United States of America: World Book Inc.

rape. (2006). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 2, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9376486

Smith, M. D. (2004). Encyclopedia of Rape. USA: Greenwood Press.

Sedney, M., "rape (crime)." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006 <http://gme.grolier.com> (February 1, 2006).



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