FBI Finally Revises Its Definition of "Rape" After 84 Years

 The FBI’s official definition of rape, via its Uniform Crime Report, has remained unchanged since 1927: “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Obviously, this is problematic on a number of levels–basically, every word except for “the” and “of.”

1. the carnal knowledge – excluding any assault with fingers or foreign objects, on any orifice but the vagina
2. of a female – excluding anyone not a cis female (the definition actually explicitly classifies male rape victims as
3. forcibly – excluding any assault involving drugs or coercion
4. and against her will – excluding statutory rape

Correction–the words “a” and “and” also seem pretty square.

We can’t know exactly how many rapes have gone uncounted to date, because the government doesn’t track figures on we-don’t-consider-it-rapes. And so we can’t know how much funding has been withheld based on the not-real-number of rapes counted. But in the interest of clearer accounting, the FBI’s UCR subcommittee has voted unanimously to put forward a new definition for vote by the advisory board:

Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration of a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.

Now, this change doesn’t directly affect rape arrests, charges, or convictions–this is about records and reporting. But this can help keep the number of reported rates more closely in line with the number of actualrapes, meaning that federal resources can be directed to prosecution ofactual rapes. So it’s progress, 84 years in the making.


Feministe / By Caperton

Posted at October 24, 2011, 3:23am

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018
Today's Top Stories