FBI proposes new broader definition of rape, includes both genders

The definition, which has been the same since the 1920s, no longer limits rape to vaginal penetration.

An FBI subcommittee agreed to pass a motion to broaden the definition of rape.

According to a proposed definition by the Uniform Crime Reporting Subcommittee of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services, rape would be broadened to include “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.”

The current definition, crafted in 1920s, limits rape to the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.

“I think redefining the act of rape will lead to a more accurate representation of the issue of sexual violence,” Aleshia Marso, victim advocate at the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, said in an email. “It could lead to an increase in funding and resources for survivors and to an improved response by police agencies. It could also increase the amount of rape and sexual assault education and prevention efforts available in, say, schools, health departments or Domestic and Sexual Violence Shelters.”

Marso said that while other agencies already have a broader definition, this could lead to broader resources on a national level. For example, she said Missouri includes “date rape” and other coercion in its definition of rape.

MU's Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention Center educates people on the legal definition of rape, and they also educate on how to prevent any sexual crime from occurring, RSVP Center Coordinator Danica Wolf said in an email.

“We will continue to educate in this way in order to empower survivors as best we can,” Wolf said. “In order to help survivors to wish to pursue justice after a rape or assault, it is crucial that our laws are as inclusive of survivor experiences as possible. This recommended change in definition is an important step toward achieving that goal.”

Executive Director of True North Barbara Hodges said she agreed that changing the definition of rape will benefit victims.

“We believe that expanding the definition of rape will assist law enforcement in holding offenders accountable for their actions that are not now being addressed with the current limited definition,” Hodges said in an email.

According to the Missouri Law Enforcement Agency Uniform Crime Reports, 1,432 forcible rapes were recorded in Missouri in 2010. In 2005, of the 1,625 rapes reported, five were in Boone County. These numbers do not include attempted rapes.

18.8 million American women and 2.78 million American men have been victims of sexual assault, attempted rape or completed rape, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

The Advisory Police Board will vote on the motion at its Dec. 6 meeting.

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