Rape Is Rape: FBI Committee Votes To Expand Definition

The FBI has used the same definition of rape since 1929: “Forcible rape” is defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” a definition which has excluded victims of forced anal or oral sex, rape with an object, statutory rape and male rape. On Wednesday, October 18, the Uniform Crime Report Subcommittee of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) voted unanimously to expand its definition of rape in the UCR:

The new definition–of “rape,” no longer “forcible rape”–defines the crime as “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 FBI would maintain data on “forcible rape” only for research and comparison.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), says that

“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. It’s intolerable the amount of violence against women, and we feel this will have a significant impact.”

The vote to change the FBI’s definition of rape — to say that rape is rape — has come only after years of lobbying by  groups including the Women’s Law Project.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police and working groups will now consider the proposed new definition  before it is passed on for review by the CJIS Advisory Policy Board (APB) in December. The APB will then make recommendation to FBI Director Robert Mueller  (who has already received nearly 140,000 emails asking him to update the definition) for final approval.

The vote to say that “rape is rape” and to make sure that all rapes are counted is a major victory. It is all the more so in a year that has seen a highly publicized case about sexual assault — that of former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, charged with attempted rape by New York city hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo — dropped by the Manhattan prosecutor, on the grounds that Diallo had previously lied in other instances of sworn testimony.

Last week, a French court also ruled that charges of attempted rape against Strauss-Kahn will be dropped. French writer Tristane Banon had accused Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her when she interviewed him for a book in 2003. Just on Wednesday, October 19, Banon said that she will not pursue a civil suit against him. The prosecutor had recognized that Banon was a victim of sexual assault and said that there was evidence for this, but that it could not pursue the case because the three-year statute of limitations has expired.

Banon’s case and that of Diallo have led to renewed interest about feminism and groups working for women’s rights in France. One such group, Paroles de Femmes, is hoping to extend the statute of limitations from three to ten years —  to advocate for change that, like the FBI vote to say that rape is rape in the US, will give women the legal protections that are their right.

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Photo by Helga Weber


William Baylor
William Baylor7 years ago

Understand something about Republicans Conservative Christians! Pro Life: What it really means! Republican conservative 'jesus freaks' s want to even make abortion
illegal even if your raped and ever person running for the Republican conservative party has stated that already on TV so it's no secret, so if they become President,
their first agenda is to make it the law! They want you to keep the child that you or your 12 year old daughter had by a rapist. Gee, he goes to jail and comes out a
few years later and gets a lawyer to get him visitation rights and he shows up at your house and knocks on your door, says hello to your husband and says, I came to
visit my child!. Excuse me! You people that want this are either sick or just plain morons or did you not think this thing through to the end result. I guess you are going
to invite him in for a cup of coffee! Next, they will want you to marry your rapist!!

Janine H.
Janine H7 years ago

Very sad and terrible story. Always children and women have to pay the price for egoistic goals... Have "survived" this as child, but died inside...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

colleen p.
colleen p7 years ago

lame. they want to redefine rape, but then others want it to be some kind of crime if I call someone a dumbass who dosen't deserve to live via the internet?

Brian Steele
Brian Steele7 years ago

No = No and Stop = Stop appear not to be affected by this, but should continue to be taken at face value as a clear refusal of consent. This change is simply an expansion of the physical definition of what penetration constitutes rape and sounds like a sensible one: if you go in, it's rape - no matter with what, to whom or which entrance.

The only proviso of which I can think would be to clarify whether (sorry for getting graphic here) fingering is automatically included, as I can imagine circumstances when something pretty heated crosses a line. Maybe obeying a "stop that immediately" might be a legitimate defence in such circumstances?

pete M.
peter m7 years ago

It's long over due.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola7 years ago


Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

Finally! They really do need to extend the statute of limitations to 10 years. Seriously!

To extend it to male victims also is about time also! Long time coming.

Frank S.
Past Member 7 years ago

No = No
Stop = Stop
It does not sound all that hard to understand.

Charli S.
Charlotte S7 years ago

The problem with no meaning no is that many young men are taught the "game" in which a women says no but "doesn't really mean it" This "game" must be abolished and women's sexuality must not include the "fact" that a "good girl" doesn't give in right away. Once the games are gone or when they are played with both partners knowledge maybe some things will get better. Kids are becoming sexualized much to early due to our culture, TV/advertisements and the tainted food supply (meat contains both antibiotics and growth hormones that are causing girls to prematurely go into puberty). I see girls as young as 5 years old looking like 2nd avenue whores. One has to wonder what this does to them. Not all rapes are the same. Boys and girls must both be taught early that games should only be played with both persons knowledge. This might prevent the so called "date rapes". I believe that if a women walks down the street naked she still has the right not to be raped. And our society must get over this bs of blaming the victim.

Charli S.
Charlotte S7 years ago

Until most people understand that rape has NOTHING to do with sex but has to do with POWER, we will continue to struggle with this horrible crime No one deserves to be raped and anyone who has been raped knows that many times they are blamed for somehow creating circumstances so the rape can happen. It really doesn't take penetration to rape someone. Ask anyone who has been repeatedly groped or had some other sexual act forced upon them. As long as there are inequalities in our society and a portion of the population holds the power rape will continue in all its forms.