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The FBI on Friday announced it had changed its eight decades old definition of rape for the purposes of tracking crime statistics. The new definition includes men and other types of sexual violence not previously counted as rape.
Pat Nolan, vice president of Justice Fellowship, said the new definition is a step forward, in a Monday interview with The Christian Post.
The FBI's old definition of rape included only women, only vaginal penetration with a penis, and implied the victim must try to resist for it to be considered rape. It read, “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”
The FBI's new definition includes men and victims who did not consent but also did not resist (because they were under the influence of drugs or too young to understand the nature of the crime against them, for instance). Attacks in which a penis is not the instrument of the attack or there is anal or oral penetration are also included in the new definition. It reads, “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 new definition does not make any changes in the law, but changes how crime statistics are reported by the FBI. The change is important, nonetheless, because the statistics are used by the federal government to determine how to allocate resources to fight crime or assist crime victims.
Justice Fellowship, an affiliate of Prison Fellowship that advocates for prison reform, has been working to bring more attention to the problem of rape inside prisons and was active in helping to pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
“This new definition is really appropriate,” Nolan said. “Sadly, in today's society, men are raped, as we know. ... [T]o try and identify improper touching and sexual abuse of anyone of either sex is a step forward.”
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, which used a definition of rape broader than the FBI's old definition, in 2010 one in five women and one in 71 men had been raped at some point in their life.
The change in the FBI's definition came after an email writing campaign, called the “Rape is Rape” campaign, spearheaded by the Feminist Majority Foundation. Supporters of the campaign reportedly sent 160,000 emails to the FBI asking it to broaden its definition of rape.