FBI panel recommends expanding definition of rape

By David Edwards
Thursday, October 20, 2011 17:19 EDT
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Female protesters demonstrate against a lenient sex crime verdict on Nov. 11, 2010. Photo: Flickr user WeNews.
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is one step closer to updating their definition of rape to modern day standards.

The agency’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program currently defines rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Rape without force is not included.

The current definition does not recognize that men can be raped, women can rape women, inanimate objects can be used to commit rape or that rapes can occur while the victim is unconscious.

The FBI’s Advisory Policy Board UCR Subcommittee voted Tuesday to completely change the old definition.

If adopted by the full Advisory Policy Board, rape would be defined as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Because the current definition is different from the one used by local law enforcement agencies, the federal crime report drastically under counts the number of rapes each year.

The Chicago Police Department recorded 1,400 rapes in 2010, but none of those were included in federal statistics. Out of 1,369 recorded by the New York Police Department in 2010, only 1,036 fit the federal definition.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) used the FBI’s old definition earlier this year to propose a bill that would have limited access to abortion coverage for some rape victims.

In response to that legislation, Ms. Magazine and the Feminist Majority Foundation launched the “Rape is Rape” campaign which resulted in 140,000 emails being sent to the FBI.

“Although long overdue, we are pleased that the FBI has vetted this extensively with their local and national law enforcement advisors and a clear consensus is emerging that a more accurate definition will better inform the public about the prevalence of serious sex crimes and will ultimately drive more resources to apprehend sexual offenders,” Women’s Law Project Executive Director Carol Tracy told Ms. Magazine Thursday.

If the Advisory Policy Board approves the new definition at their Dec. 6-7 meeting, the recommendation will be sent to FBI Director Robert Mueller. The new language is not expected to be in use before 2012.

Photo: Flickr/WeNews

(H/T: The Huffington Post, The American Independent)

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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