FBI to Change Definition of ‘Rape’ for the First Time Since 1929
Activists say the old definition undercounted sexual assaults and discouraged reporting
December 8, 2011
The FBI’s definition of “rape” is about to get a long-awaited update, for the first time since 1929.
The revamped description will be broader, pleasing activists who say the current definition leads to the low-balling of sexual assault cases, and also discourages victims to come forward.
An agency panel voted on Tuesday to change the narrow definition that’s currently in use: “Carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”
The new definition, which will more closely match the ones that police departments around the country already use, will remove the word “forcible,” along with several other amendments.
Rape will now include sex attacks by relatives, and include non-traditional penetration.
According to the FBI’s website, the proposed new definition is “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.”
These changes are crucial, according to women’s rights advocates.
Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project, said the modifications will “better inform the public about the prevalence of serious sex crimes and will ultimately drive more resources to apprehend sex offenders,” according to the HuffingtonPost.com.
The modifications will also allow law enforcement agencies to better report the number of rape cases they encounter. As long as the current definition stands, accurately accounting for rapes is tricky.
“We prosecute by one criteria, but we report by another criteria,” said Steve Anderson, chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, to the New York Times. “The only people who have a true picture of what’s going on are the people in the sex-crimes unit.”
The agency’s decision comes after several women’s rights campaigns, including one by the “Rape is Rape” foundation, which bombarded the FBI with tens of thousands of emails, all urging to change rape’s definition.
“It’s a great victory,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority Foundation, which launched the campaign.
“This new definition will mean that, at long last, we will begin to see the full scope of this horrific violence, and that understanding will carry through to increased attention and resources for prevention and action.”
While the panel overwhelming accepted the recommendation, the new definition is still awaiting approval by FBI director Robert Mueller.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/fbi-change-definition-rape-time-1929-article-1.988510#ixzz1hCy1Wb55