FBI’s UCR Subcommittee votes unanimously to recommend change on rape definition

Yesterday, the Uniform Crime Report Subcommittee of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) voted unanimously to recommend a new, more inclusive definition of Rape in the UCR Report. The recommendation will be considered at a public meeting of the CJIS Advisory Policy Board in December. If approved, it will be forwarded to FBI Director Robert Mueller who will make the final decision.

The vote came after years of urging by feminist organizations, spearheaded for more than a decade by the Pennsylvania-based Women’s Law Project and reinforced by the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Center for Women and Policing and Ms. magazine. This past year, the Rape is Rape campaign, launched by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. Magazine and picked up by petition website Change.org resulted in nearly 140,000 emails to the FBI and the Department of Justice urging the change.

“Although long overdue, we are pleased that the FBI has vetted this extensively with their local and national law enforcement advisors and a clear consensus is emerging that a more accurate definition will better inform the public about the prevalence of serious sex crimes and will ultimately drive more resources to apprehend sexual offenders,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stated, “This will ensure the crime of rape is measured in a way that it includes all rape, and it will become a crime to which more resources are allocated. It’s intolerable the amount of violence against women, and we feel this will have a significant impact.”

The current definition from the 1920s, which has been criticized for underreporting rape and omitting a significant number of rape cases, defined “forcible rape” only as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” In response to a recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), eighty percent of responding police departments agreed that the definition should be changed.

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