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Massachusetts G.L. c. 265, § 22: Rape

Massachusetts General Laws chapter 265, section 22 governs the crime of rape. It provides as follows:

“Whoever has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse with a person and compels such person to submit by force and against his will, or compels such person to submit by threat of bodily injury, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years; and whoever commits a second or subsequent such offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term or years.”

In the context if this statute, sexual intercourse means penetration of the victim. The degree of penetration does not matter for the purposes of a rape prosecution. Digital penetration is sufficient to support a rape charge. Unnatural sexual intercourse includes forcible oral sex or penetration by use of inanimate objects.

Lack of consent is an element of rape. However, the government does not have to prove that the defendant intended that the intercourse be nonconsensual. The government may prove lack of consent through proof that the victim was physically or mentally incapable of consenting.

G.L.c. 265, section 22 also governs forms of aggravated rape. Aggravated rape takes place where the victim sustains serious bodily injuries or is subjected to other criminal conduct during the same episode as the rape. The statute has been interpreted broadly in terms of what constitutes a continuous episode, and the entire sequence of events is to be considered. For example, a rape preceding beating that caused serious bodily injury may be consider a single and continuous course of conduct.

Examples: G.L. c. 265 Section 22

One common example of rape involves the situation in which one party claims to have been too intoxicated, due to alcohol or drug use, to consent. This is because rape charges often involve parties who know each other. Date or acquaintance rape allegations are much more common than stranger rape allegations. Where the Commonwealth seeks to satisfy the element of lack of consent by proof of intoxication, the factfinder must find that the degree of intoxication was such that the victim could not consent. The fact of intoxication, by itself, is not enough to support a rape conviction. Rather, the jury must find that the alleged victim was “wholly insensible in a state of utter stupefaction.”

One example of “unnatural sexual intercourse” in the context of the rape statute would be penetration of the vagina with an object. For instance, Massachusetts cases involving rape by “unnatural sexual intercourse” have involved vaginal penetration with a mop handle and with a table leg.

Related Offenses

Offenses similar or related to rape include:

  • G.L. c. 265, section 13H, indecent assault and battery. Indecent assault and battery is a lesser included offense of rape.
  • G.L. c. 265, sections 22A and 23, rape of a child. Rape of a child is not a lesser included offense of aggravated rape. However, the crime of rape of a child is related to the crime of rape, as various terms in both statutes been interpreted by Massachusetts courts in the same manner.
Defenses to Rape Charges

Rape cases often hinge almost completely on the testimony of the complainant, and thus many rape defenses will focus on the credibility and / or motives of the complainant. Defense in a rape case may also involve argument that the victim did consent to the acts. Defendants might also file pre-trial motions to dismiss where there is viable argument that the alleged acts do not constitute sexual intercourse or unnatural intercourse within the meaning of the statute.


Rape is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for up to 20 years. Second or subsequent offenses are punishable by life or any term of years in the state prison. Aggravated rape is punishable by life or any term of years in the state prison. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for those convicted of rape while being armed with a firearm, shot gun, rifle, machine gun, or assault weapon. That mandatory minimum is 15 years for second or subsequent offenses. Persons serving sentences for such second or subsequent offenses are not eligible for furlough, temporary release, or training, employment or education programs outside of the facility until having served 2/3 of the mandatory minimum sentence or 2/3 of the aggregate of the minimum of several sentences if such sentences are not being served concurrently.

Massachusetts Rape Defense Lawyer 617-263-6800

Stephen Neyman is a criminal defense attorney with offices in Boston and other Massachusetts locations. He has decades of experience defending persons accused of rape and all other crimes in Massachusetts. Attorney Neyman is smart and aggressive, and he is passionate about his practice. He is attentive to his clients and is relentless in his efforts to protect their rights and their futures.

Rape is a very serious offense. A rape conviction will not only result in a lengthy prison sentence, it will also permanently affect your future in many different ways. If you or a person you know has been accused of this crime, it is critical that you retain an experienced defense attorney immediately. Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. at 617-263-6800 or send Attorney Neyman an e-mail today. He will promptly schedule your initial consultation and answer all questions you may have. Call him today, so he can get to work building a winning defense.

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