FBI Director Expects Change in Definition of Rape

(correction from original story) FBI Director Rober Mueller told a Senate panel Wednesday that the FBI National Crime Information Center Advisory Board recommended to update the current Uniform Crime Report definition of rape that many say is too narrow. He also said his “expectation is it will go into effect sometime this spring.” Currently, the FBI defines rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

“This is a very positive development,” says Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “I’m excited to hear that the next steps are being taken toward a new definition, and I’m looking forward to hearing the details. We believe that updating and broadening this archaic definition to count the vast majority of rapes will result in more resources to curb what has been an intolerable level of violence, especially against women.” The new definition, adopted by various committees of the FBI, no longer includes the requirement that the victim must be a woman and takes out the the word “forcible.” The new definition says that “rape 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.”

Following a massive grassroots feminist activism campaign, Senate hearings, and many meetings with various levels of the FBI, as well as over 160,000 emails to the Department of Justice and FBI, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Advisory Policy Board voted to recommend that the FBI update its 82-year-old definition.

The “Rape is Rape” campaign, launched by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, went viral on the petition website Change.org, generating tens of thousands emails to the FBI and the Department of Justice urging this change. The update to the definition comes after years of urging by feminist organizations, spearheaded for more than a decade by the Pennsylvania-based Women’s Law Project. “Ultimately, accurate data is a fundamental starting point to improving police response to sex crimes and improved practice should led to increased victim confidence in police and reporting,” said Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project.


Baltimore Sun 12/15/11; Huffington Post 12/15/11; ABC News 12/14/11; Feminist News 12/7/11

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