WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration announced it will expand the FBI’s antiquated definition of rape to reflect an evolved understanding of the crime, and to broaden protections.
The new definition includes men as victims for the first time, and no longer requires that victims must have physically resisted their attackers.
Vice President Joe Biden, who authored the Violence Against Women Act when he was in the Senate, said the new definition announced Jan. 6 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.”
The change will increase the number of people counted as rape victims in FBI statistics, but will not change federal or state laws or alter charges or prosecutions. The shift is significant in that lawmakers and policymakers use crime statistics to allocate money and other resources for prevention and victim assistance.
The White House said the evolved definition has been long awaited as many states and research groups made similar changes in their definitions of rape over recent decades.
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 change has been sought by women’s groups for more than a decade.
Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped at some time in their lives, according to a 2010 survey by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which applied a broader definition.
The revised FBI definition says that rape is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object,” without the consent of the victim. Also constituting rape under the new definition is “oral penetration by a sex organ of another person” without consent.