The FBI has changed its more than eight decades old definition of rape to recognize men and those who did not physically resist their attackers as victims.
The new definition, formally announced by the Obama administration on Friday, says rape 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.”
"This major policy change will lead to more accurate reporting and far more comprehensive understanding of this devastating crime." Valerie B. Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said.
"Without an accurate understanding of the magnitude of the problem, how can we effectively solve it? Definitions matter because people matter."
The change is to increase the number of people counted as rape victims in FBI statistics, which is used for allocation of resources for prevention and victim assistance.
However, it will not affect federal or state laws nor alter charges or prosecutions. Many states already have a wider definition of rape, and it is assumed the new federal definition will encourage those who still have narrower laws to widen them.
The old definition, which defined rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”, was criticized for covering only forcible penetration of a woman’s vagina by a penis, and excluding cases of forcible oral and anal penetration, as well as penetration with an object or a body part. Also, victims who didn’t physically resist their attackers were not recognized as such, which excluded rape cases of persons who were incapable of giving consent due to the influence of drugs or alcohol, or because of age.
About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped at some point in their lives, a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control, which used a broader definition, shown.