US redefines rape; adds men, others as victims
The Obama administration on Friday expanded the FBI’s more than eight-decade-old definition of rape to count men as victims for the first time and to drop the requirement that victims must have physically resisted their attackers.
The new definition will increase the number of people counted as rape victims in FBI statistics, but it will not change federal or state laws or alter charges or prosecutions.
The expansion has been long awaited because policymakers and lawmakers use crime statistics to allocate resources for prevention and victim assistance.
Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett called the change a “very, very important step.” The issue got top-level White House attention starting last July, when Vice President Joe Biden raised it at a Cabinet meeting.
Biden, author of the Violence Against Women Act when he was in the Senate, said the new definition is a victory for women and men “whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.” Calling rape a “devastating crime,” the vice president said, “We can’t solve it unless we know the full extent of it.”
Since 1929, the FBI has defined rape as the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will. The revised definition covers any gender of victim or attacker and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. Physical resistance is not required. The Justice Department said the new definition mirrors the majority of state rape statutes now on the books.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said all rape victims “should have access to the comprehensive services that will help them rebuild their lives.”
In November, Leahy introduced legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and provide an increased emphasis on efforts to stop sexual assault.