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The FBI’s Shockingly Narrow Definition of Rape by Roxann MtJoy


Yesterday, Congress held a hearing entitled “Rape in the United States: The Chronic Failure to Report and Investigate Rape Cases.” At the hearing, Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal testified about the appallingly deficient definition of rape and how that leads to statistics that don’t accurately reflect the occurrence of rape in this country.

The current definition of rape in the Uniform Crime Report(the annual report of crime statistics compiled by the FBI) is: the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. This problematic definition, adopted in 1927, excludes a ridiculous number of sexual assault acts that, according to Smeal, “would be considered rape by any rational adult.” Among the acts not considered rape by the FBI are forced anal sex or oral sex, rape with an object, and statutory rape.  Oh, and the FBI also doesn’t count it when men rape other men or when women rape anybody. If that hasn’t made your blood boil yet, get this: this definition also excludes “the use of drugs or alcohol to subdue a victim.”

This certainly casts a new light on the latest Uniform Crime Report. Released Monday, it claims that the rape rate is decreasing. That’s like saying the homicide rate is going down, just as long as you don’t count shootings, stabbings, fratricide, and murders that happen on Tuesdays. What’s the point of such a narrowly-defined view of rape? Note to FBI: Creative accounting does not actually mean violent sexual assault is decreasing; it just means you don’t know how to do your job properly.

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At least the world of advertising is waking up and producing material that isn’t telling women to “try not to get raped” but rather targeted to men to “not engage in forced sexual agression:

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