FBI Revamps Its Definition of Rape

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The good news is that after 82 years, the FBI has finally expanded its definition of "rape," which since 1929 has meant simply, "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will"—a definition that, as blogger Vanessa points out, excludes "statutory rape, same-sex rape, forced anal or oral sex, rape with an object and victims who are male or transgender or have disabilities."

But thanks to "Rape Is Rape," a viral internet campaign started by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine partnering with Change.org, the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), at a meeting held on Tuesday, has recommended that the definition be expanded to read as follows: "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."

Although that's certainly cause for rejoicing, the job isn't quite over. The new definition will be brought before the International Association of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement working groups for feedback before a final recommendation is presented to the CJIS Advisory Policy Board in December—and even if they all approve the change, the final decision to implement it will rest with FBI Director Robert Muller—who's already received nearly 140,000 emails supporting the revamp.

The biggest effect of the change will be in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports statistics, which have shown rape steadily decreasing over the years, but with the new definition could see a hefty spike for 2011.

"This will ensure the crime of rape is measured in a way that it includes all rape, and it essentially becomes a crime to which more resources are allocated," stated Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal. "It's intolerable the amount of violence against women, and we feel this will have a significant impact."