• The first author gratefully acknowledges support for the preparation of this article from a Research Scientist Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health and supplemental funds from the Office of Research on Women's Health of the National Institute of Health.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mary P. Koss, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Arizona, 2223 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85719.


Women's rights to be free from male violence are now recognized by the United Nations as fundamental human rights. Two parallel transformations in the understanding of rape have been central to the international effort to achieve this declaration. The first is increased recognition of the extent to which rape typically involves intimates. The second is the shift from regarding rape as a criminal justice matter towards an appreciation of its implications for women's health. The focus of this paper is the health burden of rape, which is addressed from the global perspective and includes discussion of its prevalence and psychological, sociocultural, somatic, and reproductive health consequences. Quantitative efforts to capture the relative economic impact of rape compared to other threats to women's health are also discussed. The paper concludes with an agenda for future research on rape that could enrich activists’efforts on behalf of women's health and development.