FBI Expands its Definition of Rape

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – For the first time in 80 years, the FBI has amended its definition of “rape” under federal law.  After years of push from both women’s rights groups and gay advocacy groups, Attorney General Eric Holder finally announced the new definition.  The FBI expanded the definition tremendously from the antiquated 1929 version.

Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, officially announced the change for the definition of rape last week. (Image courtesy of FBI Files)

The previous definition of rape was “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”  Over the years, this definition did not protect men who found themselves victims of rape, nor did it protect other forms of sexual assault against women.

The new definition, which expands rape to include men and non-vaginal penetration, reads as follows: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or the anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Every year, the FBI compiles data about crime in the United States in its Uniform Crime Report (UCR).  Previously, thousands of rapes against men and women alike were not included in the data because the acts did not fit the narrow definition of rape that many police departments use. 

For example, the current prosecution of Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky would not have been included in the UCR, even though he is being investigated for the rape of 10 young boys.  Additionally, in 2010, the Chicago Police Department reported about 1,400 sexual assaults, but none of them were included in the UCR.  According to The Huffington Post, the sexual assaults did not fit the government’s definition of rape so they were not included in the report.

“If you can’t measure it accurately, you can’t monitor it and you can’t direct appropriate resources to deal with the problem,” said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project, according to USA Today.

Although every state has its own definition of rape, the FBI is hopeful that the change in the federal standard will cause the states to follow suit, according to The Daily Activist.

The change comes from advocacy by Vice President Joseph Biden, according to The Seattle Times.  In 2010, the FBI reported an estimated 84,767 rapes and it anticipates that the number will increase.  FBI Director Robert Mueller said that the previous definition was “unworkable” and “not fully applicable to the types of crimes that it should cover,” according to The Huffington Post.  The new definition will take a couple of years to be fully implemented.

For more information, please visit:

The Daily Activist — Human Rights: FBI Redefines Rape After 80 Years — 9 Jan. 2012

The Seattle Times — Rape Redefined for FBI to Include Male Victims — 9 Jan. 2012

USA Today — FBI Changes Definition of Rape to Include Men — 6 Jan. 2012

The Huffington Post — FBI Director Robert Mueller: Agency Will Update Definition of Rape — 15 Dec. 2011

Author: Impunity Watch Archive

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