The FBI, responsible for aggregating U.S. crime statistics, is finally about to update its nearly century-old definition of rape:
Activists have been pushing for a new definition for years, but the issue went into high gear in February, after Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) attempted to make women who hadn’t been raped “forcibly” pay for their abortions out of pocket. The proposed new definition is far more to the advocates’ liking, and far closer to reality: “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.”
This is a vast improvement over the current definition: “Forcible rape, as defined in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, is the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” This changes the definition to unpack the euphemistically vague “carnal knowledge,” allows for coercion or incapacity instead of simple force, and puts the emphasis on consent rather than a requirement to say, “No.”
Most importantly, this definition no longer excludes men, though it still has problems in this respect. Men can be coerced too, and the emphasis on receptive penetration excludes that. Because this definition is used primarily for statistical purposes, and this type of rape appears to represent a very small percentage of rape victims, this oversight likely won’t affect the final numbers. However, the last thing we really want to do is tell a rape victim he doesn’t count. Also, as Rep. Smith demonstrated, this national definition of rape is used for purposes of moral authority as well.
Still, as much as I want that addition, I’d like to see the proposed improvements go into effect as soon as possible. I want the real numbers of what is being reported to police. (State laws have been updated much more recently than the FBI definition. As a result, the FBI doesn’t directly count the numbers from several places.) I want people to be able to compare reporting sites and find those anomalous cities that may be artificially lowering their rape statistics.
Most of all, though, I want us, as a nation, to stop telling anyone that their rape doesn’t count.