Rape & Sexual Assault

If you have faced sexual assault or rape and are looking for help, please call AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre at 6779 0282 (Monday-Friday, 10am-midnight). We can provide counselling or legal advice, or just offer a friendly ear to listen if that’s what you need.

What is sexual assault?

  1. What is the legal definition of rape?
  2. Can a man be a victim of rape?
  3. What does consent mean?
  4. Must the victim show the presence of violence?
  5. Can consent be given by a person who is intoxicated?
  6. What if the woman has already consented to certain acts of intimacy?
  7. Is it possible to be raped by one’s husband?
  8. How does rape harm the victim?
  9. More information

What is the legal definition of rape?

Under Singapore law, rape is committed when a man penetrates a woman’s vagina with his penis without her consent. S375(1), Penal Code. However, except in limited circumstances, this does not apply to cases where the man and the woman are married to each other (see below).

Penetration of other body orifices is NOT rape. Where a man penetrates a woman’s mouth or anus with his penis without her consent, he commits an offence known as unlawful sexual penetration. S376(1), Penal Code.

Both rape and unlawful sexual penetration are liable to the same penalty i.e. imprisonment for a term up to 20 years plus fine or caning. S375(2) and S376(4), Penal Code.

Can a man be a victim of rape?

No, legally, a man cannot be a victim of rape as rape is narrowly defined under S375, Penal Code as the penile penetration of a vagina.

However, a man may be the victim of unlawful sexual penetration under Section 376, which carries the same penalties.

What does consent mean?

Consent means agreement. There must be consent to the penetration itself – otherwise, it is rape or sexual assault.

Where a person consents to meeting someone late at night, kissing, touching, dirty dancing or mutual masturbation but indicates that she does not want to have intercourse, there is, in law, no consent to penetration.

Consent can always be withdrawn at any time. It is possible to consent to penetration at first, and then change your mind. Any further sexual penetration after someone changes their mind is rape.

Please visit our page on Understanding Consent to see more.

Must the victim show that the other party was violent or used force on her to indicate that there was no consent?

Objection need not be expressed, and may be implied from the context and from the relationship of the parties, but the absence of objection does not of itself constitute consent.

Lack of objection may result from fear of the perpetrator or an incapacity to object on the part of the victim i.e persons who are asleep, intoxicated or otherwise mentally unable to object.

Can consent be given by a person who is intoxicated?

Under Singapore law, consent is not deemed to be given if the person is so intoxicated that she is unable to understand the nature and the consequence of what she is consenting to.

Would a man be guilty of an offence of rape or unlawful sexual penetration if the woman consents only to certain acts of intimacy but does not want full-blown sex? For example, if the woman has kissed him or has even taken her shirt off, can she be raped if she doesn’t want to go the whole way but he does?

Yes, an offence is committed if the woman did not agree to penetration, even if she agreed to acts of sexual intimacy, such as kissing and petting.

Also, a woman may originally agree to sex but she is entitled to change her mind and withdraw the initial consent. If the consent is withdrawn before the act of penetration occurred, the man may be guilty of rape or unlawful sexual penetration.

Some women think that just because they have said yes to kissing or petting, or they have begun to have intercourse, they are obliged to continue. This is not the case. Women have the right to say NO or STOP at any point.

Is it possible to be raped by one’s husband?

Under Singapore law, a man who forces his wife to have sex with him is not guilty of an offence unless:

  1. his wife was living apart from him under an interim judgment of divorce or written separation agreement or
  2. the couple are living apart and proceedings have been commenced for divorce or
  3. the wife has already obtained a protection order (PPO).

Marital rape is an exception to the offence of rape except in the cases stated above. However, a man who forces his wife to have sex may still be guilty of the following offences:

Voluntarily causing Hurt, S321, Penal Code
Voluntarily causing Grievous Hurt, S322, Penal Code
Wrongful Restraint S241, Penal Code
Sexual penetration, S376, Penal Code

How does rape harm the victim?
There are many ways that rape and sexual assault can harm a victim. Harm can be physical as well as emotional.

There is no one ‘correct’ way to respond as a victim. Not all harm to a victim may be obvious to an external observer. It is important to support all victims of rape and sexual assault, even if they do not react as you would expect.

Physical harm

  • Broken bones, bruises, cuts, and other injuries from violent acts
  • Injuries to the genitals and/or anus
  • Being exposed to sexually transmitted infections
  • Unwanted pregnancy

Emotional harm

Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. However, victims may feel:

  • Ashamed
  • Embarrassed
  • Guilty
  • Worthless
  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Anger

You may also struggle with

  • Trust
  • Attraction to men (if the attacker was a man)
  • Consensual sex later in life (inability to enjoy sex without intrusive recollections of the abuse)
  • Flashbacks (re-living the rape in your mind)
  • Nightmares
  • Falling or staying asleep

Will I ever feel well again?

Rape can leave physical and emotional scars that last a long time. Some victims find that emotional scars never go away. Long-term counselling can help you to deal with guilt, fear, depression, anxiety and other emotions.