FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program changes definition of rape

The definition of rape has been revised in order to include male victims and to better help the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, according to a recent U.S Department of Justice announcement.

The revised definition is “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 U.S Department of Justice made this change in December 2011 under the recommendation of the Advisory Policy Board for Criminal Justice Information Services, or CJIS, in order to better help the statistics that come from the Uniform Crime Report, or UCR.

“The reason for the change of the definition, which can be dated back to 1928, is that it was outdated,” said Bill Carter, FBI spokesperson.

The old definition defined rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

The UCR was conceived in 1929 in order to report the nation’s crime statistics and provide them to the public every year. Each year’s report contains the statistics for various crimes that occur in the U.S., with forcible rape being one of them. The numbers of reported rapes have fallen 18 percent the past decade.

The 1990’s had a number as high as 100 thousand, and by the 2000s, it dropped to about 90 thousand. Last year, the numbers fell to around 80 thousand, according to the UCR’s reports from the past decade.

Carter said he couldn’t speculate whether the number of reported rapes would go up with the change of the definition. But a change was needed, he said.

Jae Farkas, prevention education specialist from the Valley Trauma Counseling Center, was delighted by the revision and what it means to male victims.

“With the old definition, it made it so much harder for males to come forward because they were afraid that they would not be believed, and so they did not expect any support,” Farkas said .”Now with the new definition, survivors who’ve never identified what happened to them and never (sought out) assistance will now recognize that what happened to them was actual rape.”

The Valley Trauma Counseling Center does get a lot of male victims, but the recovery and treatment process for men is slightly different than the recovery process of a female victim, Farkas said.

The reason is that subjects, such as “masculinity,” must be addressed, and males sometimes have different troubles than women do when it comes to coming  to  terms with what they experienced, Farkas said.

“Once people learn the new definition, victims will better identify what they have gone through,”  he added said.

Although statistics show that the number of reported rapes has gone down and the definition has broadened, there are other concerns, said June Kwon, program director for CSUN’s Project Date, the date/acquaintance rape prevention program sponsored by CSUN’s University Counseling Services and the Valley Trauma Center.

Kwon challenges these statistics and numbers, questioning whether this will change the way people define sexual abuse and the way people should approach the topic and the victims.

“What’s really going on out there, and what do we really define as sexual abuse?” Kwon asked. “Numbers and statistics are very important to me as an educator, and maybe the numbers will change now. But we should really change the way we talk to someone about rape, because the language we use can be damaging to victims during their recovery.”