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New FBI definition of rape includes men

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
rape, sexual assault, violent crime, oral sex, anal sex

WASHINGTON, DC - The term rape often brings up the image of a sexual attack on a women, despite the fact that most individuals are aware of male rape. Although the majority of sexual attacks on a man or boy are perpetrated by a male, women have been reported to sexually assault a man.

Under the current definition of rape, which was established 85 years ago, many of the sex crimes making the headlines would not be deemed to be rape by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which is the definition used by the FBI to collect information from local law enforcement agencies about reported rapes.

For example, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged assault of 10 male victims would not be counted in the UCR. However, under the new FBI policy, they would be.

The longstanding, narrow definition of forcible rape, which was first established in 1927, is “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” It thus included only forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina and excluded oral and anal penetration; rape of males; penetration of the vagina and anus with an object or body part other than the penis; rape of females by females; and non-forcible rape.

On January 6, Attorney General Eric Holder announced revisions to the Uniform Crime Report’s definition of rape, which will result in a more comprehensive statistical reporting of rape nationwide. The new definition is more inclusive, better reflects state criminal codes and focuses on the various forms of sexual penetration understood to be rape. The new definition of rape is: “The 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.”

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The revised definition includes any gender of victim or perpetrator, and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. The ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with state statute. Physical resistance from the victim is not required to demonstrate lack of consent. The new definition does not change federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the local level.

“Rape is a devastating crime and we can’t solve it unless we know the full extent of it,” noted Vice President Biden, who has been a leader in the effort to end violence against women for more than two decades and author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He noted, “This long-awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.”

Attorney General Holder said, “These long overdue updates to the definition of rape will help ensure justice for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual violence and reflect the Department of Justice’s commitment to standing with rape victims. his new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes.”

Police departments submit data on reported crimes and arrests to the UCR. The UCR data are reported nationally and used to measure and understand crime trends. In addition, the UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, enabling law enforcement to track consistent trend data until the statistical differences between the old and new definitions are more fully understood.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Editorial comment:
As an obstetrician gynecologist, I have been an advocate of women’s rights for decades; however, I have also been aware of violent attacks against men—some by women. Thus, I applaud the new FBI policy and hope that it will open the eyes of some individuals with a narrowed viewpoint. I can cite an example. Some years ago, I attended a small seminar in a rural hospital in Wisconsin. The women who chaired the seminar noted correctly that rape is an act of violence rather than a sex act and also correctly noted that it was an attack by an individual of superior strength against a weaker individual. At the conclusion of her discourse, I informed her that I had encountered several instances of a strong woman attacking a weaker—or non-combative--man. Interestingly, the majority of them were a burly Marine’s wife attacking her husband. The woman bristled in anger, unable to accept the fact that a woman could assault a man.