Trigger warning for discussion of rape.
The FBI’s definition of rape has remained unchanged for more than eighty years: “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” It is unknown how many millions of rapes have gone uncounted because they were Apparently Not Really Rapes.
On Tuesday, the Uniform Crime Report Committee voted unanimously to expand the definition of rape to “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 report will move on to a higher advisory body and then to FBI Director Robert Mueller for approval.
This definition is, of course, still problematic: for instance, it does not recognize that men can be raped through penetration, because of course an erection means consent. Nevertheless, the acknowledgement that men can be raped at all is progress and could affect everything from funding for sexual violence prevention to basic statistics about how many rapes are committed.
Congratulations to all the activists who have campaigned to make the FBI change its definition, and congratulations to the FBI for being only about twenty years behind the times.