US Widens Its Definition of Rape
WASHINGTON — The United States widened its definition of rape on Friday to include assaults on men for the first time and those in which a victim is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said the revision will improve the accuracy of rape figures as given by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's benchmark Uniform Crime Report.
Since 1927, forcible rape has been defined as "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will" -- a perspective that Susan Carbon, director of the Office on Violence against Women, called "outdated and narrow."
From now on, rape will be defined as "the 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."
Writing on the Justice Department blog (blogs.usdoj.gov), Carbon said: "For the first time ever, the new definition includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men."
"It also recognizes that rape with an object can be as traumatic as penile/vaginal rape," she added.
"This definition also includes instances in which the victim is unable to give consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity."
The most recent Uniform Crime Report data, based on input from police services all over the United States, put the number of rapes in 2009 at 88,097, down 2.6 percent from the previous year.
Carbon acknowledged the new definition will likely produce an uptick in the number of rapes in future reports. "This does not mean that rape has increased," she said, "but simply that it is more accurately reported."
The change of definition will have no impact on federal or state criminal laws, or change the way rape cases are dealt with at the federal, state or local levels, she said.