In order for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Human Rights & Special Prosecution Unit (HRSP) to charge sexual assaults, including rape, as torture under U.S. law, it is critical to address the requirement to prove the perpetrator’s specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering (18 U.S. Code § 2340). This memo provides justification for this line of argument through an analysis of relevant academic and legal scholarship. The literature review surveys research on perpetrators’ motivations and concludes that theories of sexual assault as a gender-based hate crime, an expression of control, or a demonstration of power to a community of other men may be relevant to HRSP’s ability to prosecute sexual assaults as torture.
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