Health

FBI Will Revise Narrow Definition Of Rape To Correct Mass Underreporting Of Sexual Assaults

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The New York Times reports that the FBI is planning to revise its official definition of rape after more than 80 years of using an antiquated definition that drastically underestimates the number of sexual assaults every year. Currently, the FBI defines rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” — which completely excludes male rape and discounts cases that involve anal or oral penetration, penetration with an object, and cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence. Thousands of these rapes are not counted in official statistics every year. Susan B. Carbon, director of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, notes that the current data gives a distorted portrayal and sends the damaging message to victims that “if you don’t fit that very narrow definition, you weren’t a victim and your rape didn’t count.” Greg Scarbro, the FBI’s unit chief for the Uniformed Crime Report, says the agency agrees the definition should be changed and an FBI subcommittee will take up the issue at a meeting on Oct. 18.