Rape of an adult

Verified 10 August 2023 - Legal and Administrative Information Directorate (Prime Minister)

Rape is a penetrative sexual assault committed without the victim’s consent. This is a crime punished by law. Anyone who has been raped in France can alert the emergency services and file a complaint with the police or gendarmerie.


This page presents the situation of sexual assault on an adult.

If the rape is committed against a victim under 18, the applicable rules are different.

Rape occurs when an act of sexual penetration or an oral-genital act is committed on a person, with violence, coercion, threat or surprise, that is without his consent.

Sexual penetration may be vaginal, anal, or buccal penetration, done by the sex, fingers, other body part, or an object.

The constraint may be physical or moral.

It is not necessary for there to be acts of violence to qualify an act of sexual penetration as rape.

It is sufficient that the victim did not give his consent, or that he was not in a position to give a clear answer.


Imposing a sexual act with penetration on a person constitutes rape, even if people are in a relationship. This can result in rape between spouses, cohabiting partners or CIVIL PARTNERSHIP partners.

Rape occurs when:

  • Act of sexual penetration imposed on a person who is severely beaten by his attacker (violent rape)
  • Act of sexual penetration imposed on a person who is forcibly restrained in a closed place but not beaten (rape with physical coercion)
  • Act of sexual penetration imposed on a worker by his hierarchical superior, in particular following an sexual harassment (rape with moral compulsion)
  • Act of sexual penetration imposed on a person by an armed aggressor (rape with threat)
  • An act of sexual penetration committed against a person who is sleeping, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who is vulnerable because of their state of health (surprise rape)


if there was no penetration, we're not talking about rape, but of sexual assault.

If a person attempted to rape a victim but was unable to do so because of something beyond their control (for example, the victim fought back or a third party intervened), there is attempted rape.

Attempted rape is punishable by the same penalties as rape.

Alert the police and gendarmerie by phone

In case of emergency, and only in this situation, it is possible to alert the police or gendarmerie by telephone call, or by SMS, if you are unable to speak.

Répondez aux questions successives et les réponses s’afficheront automatiquement

By telephone

In case of emergency, when a quick intervention is necessary, you can call the emergency police. Dial 17.

You can also contact the 112.

Who shall I contact
Who shall I contact

You can't call

114 is the emergency call relay service if you are unable to speak on the phone (deaf, hard of hearing ...) or if it could put you in danger.

Who shall I contact

The police station or gendarmerie must be visited as soon as possible after the assault to allow investigators to make any useful findings.

Alert the police and gendarmerie via instant messaging

An instant messenger (chat) allows you to chat with a police officer or a member of the gendarmerie. Chat history can be deleted from your computer, mobile phone or tablet at any time.

Report rape or sexual assault

Alert Transit Security Officers

If you are a victim or witness to an assault on public transportation, you can contact an officer 24 hours a day, call 3117 or text 31177.

You can also download the 3117 app.

Thus, the victim is located more quickly and the triggering of the intervention of the agents is facilitated.

If you want the perpetrator of your rape to be prosecuted, you can lodge a complaint.

Form of complaint

On the spot

You can go to a police station or a gendarme brigade of your choice.

Who shall I contact

You may not be refused the receipt of the complaint.

The police or gendarmerie refer the complaint to the public prosecutor.

By mail

You can file a complaint with the public prosecutor.

To do this, you must send an email to the court of law of the place of the offense or of the domicile of the offender.

Who shall I contact

Your mail should include the following:

  • Your marital status and full contact information (address and telephone number)
  • Detailed account of the facts, date and place of the offense
  • Name of the alleged perpetrator if known (otherwise, the complaint will be filed against X)
  • Names and addresses of any witnesses to the offense
  • Description and provisional or definitive estimate of the damage
  • Your proof documents: medical certificates, work stoppages, miscellaneous invoices, findings...
  • Your eventual willingness to become a civil party

You can use the following mail template:

File a complaint with the public prosecutor

You can send your complaint by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, by simple letter or by letter followed.

You can also file your complaint directly at the courthouse.

In any case, a receipt is given to you as soon as the Public Prosecutor's Office has registered your complaint.

The presence of a lawyer is not mandatory for the lodging of a complaint and throughout the procedure until the trial before the correctional court.

Deadline for filing a complaint

You have 20 years from the date of the facts to lodge a complaint.

After the expiry of this period, your complaint for rape will no longer be admissible.

This is called the limitation period.

Several structures can provide you with support as a victim of a sexual offense.

The site Victims' Journey guides you through each step.

Who shall I contact
Who shall I contact
Who shall I contact

You can also hire a lawyer if you want to take legal action.

Who shall I contact

Appointment of the investigating judge

Rape is a crime and an investigative judge must be appointed to conduct the investigation.

The investigating judge can be seized by the public prosecutor when you file a simple complaint.

When you file a civil party claim, the investigating judge in charge of the case shall be appointed by the Dean of the investigating judges.

Collection of evidence

Different kinds of evidence 

Apart from DNA traces and possible injuries, all other evidence you yourself have collected can be examined by the court.

It can be testimonials, sms captures, emails, recordings of conversations even without the author's knowledge, clothes.

Medical evidence

It is important to preserve all clues (fingerprints, DNA traces...) that could be used to identify the perpetrator and to have him convicted in court.

Clothing worn at the time of the assault should be kept and washing should be avoided.

At the request of the police or gendarmes, you can be examined by a doctor. It examines any injuries and looks for DNA. The doctor can also look for any trace of drugs that may have been delivered to you by the perpetrator of the rape (GHB type or rapist's drug). The doctor should give you a medical certificate stating whether or not you have any injuries.

Aids screening and, if necessary, pregnancy testing may be done.

Right to counsel

If you are a victim of rape, you have the right to be assisted by a lawyer at all stages of the legal process.

Your lawyer can be present at all confrontations between you and the person suspected of having committed the rape, and at all your hearings by the police or by the judge.

Who shall I contact

Please note

you can get financial help to pay your legal fees, thanks to legal aid, if you meet the resource requirements.

You can get advice on the preparation of your case and on legal aid from the house of justice and the law.

If the investigating judge considers that there is sufficient evidence to consider rape, the case will be referred in a Court of Assize or Criminal Court. This decision is not up to the parties to the trial.

Public Hearing

In principle, trials before the criminal court and the criminal court are public, meaning that anyone can attend the hearings.

But even if the trial is public, it is forbidden to share your images or information about your identity, without your written consent.

Failure to comply with this rule shall be punishable by a fine of €15,000.

In camera at the request of the victim

If you want the trial is not public, so it is possible to request that there be in the room only those directly involved in the case (victims, accused, witnesses...).

It's called in camera.

The court can accept your request and order it to go in camera, but it is not obliged to do so.

Basic sentence

The perpetrator of a rape shall be punished by up to 15 years of criminal imprisonment.

This penalty may be increased when the rape was committed with aggravating circumstances.

Penalties in aggravating circumstances

The maximum penalty is 20 years of criminal imprisonment in the following cases:

  • The perpetrator of the rape is ascendant, a person having authority over the victim (teacher, employer, etc.) or a person abusing the authority entrusted to him by his duties (police officer, etc.)
  • The rapist lives in pairs with the victim
  • The rapist drugged the victim
  • The perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics
  • The rapist contacted the victim via the internet
  • The victim was particularly vulnerable (disabled, sick, pregnant, poor)
  • Rape was committed against a person who was engaged in prostitution, including occasionally, in the course of that activity
  • Rape was committed in the presence of underage children
  • Rape resulted in mutilation or permanent disability
  • The rape was committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity (real or perceived)
  • Rape was committed with the use or threat of use of a weapon
  • The rape was committed by several persons acting as perpetrators or accomplices

Rape is punishable by 30 years of criminal imprisonment if he has trained the death of the victim.

Rape is punishable by criminal imprisonment forever if it was preceded, accompanied or followed by torture or barbarism.

Additional penalties

The judge may also sentence the author to one or more of the following additional penalties:

  • Injunction of care in the context of socio-judicial follow-up
  • Prohibition of stay in certain places (e.g. the home of the victim) for up to 10 years
  • Prohibition from holding public office

Penalties for indiscriminate conduct

The perpetrator of a rape, who is found criminally irresponsible because of a temporary disorder caused by excessive substance use, may be convicted for that use.

Répondez aux questions successives et les réponses s’afficheront automatiquement

General case

The applicable penalty is 7 years imprisonment and €100,000 fine.

Rape with torture, barbarism, or death

If the rape was committed with acts of torture or barbarism, or resulted in the death of the victim, the applicable penalty is 10 years imprisonment and €150,000 fine.

History of murder while under the influence of psychoactive substances

The punishment varies depending on whether the rape was committed with torture or barbarism, or whether it resulted in the death of the victim.

Rape without torture or barbarism and without causing death

Where the perpetrator of the rape has already been found criminally irresponsible for murder, because of a condition caused by the same willful use of psychoactive substances, the applicable penalty shall be 10 years imprisonment and €150,000 fine.

Rape with torture or barbarism or resulting in the death of the victim

If the person, who has already been found criminally irresponsible for a murder, committed the rape with torture or barbarism, or if the rape resulted in the death of the victim, the penalty shall be increased to 15 years of criminal imprisonment and €150,000 fine.

Criminal record

The conviction for rape is recorded in the convicted person's criminal record and his or her name is recorded in the sex offenders index.

To claim compensation for rape, you have three options:

  • Constitution of a civil party and claim for compensation at the time of the criminal trial (before the Assize Court or the Criminal Court)
  • Claim for compensation before the civil judge, once the criminal judge has rendered his judgment
  • Request for compensation from the Victims Guarantee Fund.