The US Federal government has finally updated (don’t read the comments!) the old quaint sounding definition of rape to one that’s more useful in this day and age. The old version was:
the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will
Which left out males of all ages, any act that didn’t involve vaginal penetration, penetration by an object rather than a body part, female on female rape, and “non-forcible” rape, as in, rape under threat/coercion, or the use of date rape drugs or possibility the victim was not able to consent (unconscious, too young, developmentally challenged, etc.).
The new definition will be:
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
This still leaves out things like groping, or forcing someone under thread to perform an act with their hands. But those are typically classified as “sexual assault”, and covered under state laws to varying degrees.
I don’t believe this will affect trials much (if someone knows better, please speak up). States have their own definitions of rape and sexual assault, many of them far more advanced than the old federal definition, and those will continue to apply to rape cases.
But what this does affect is how the Feds deal with rape, so the main benefit of this change will be vastly improved FBI/Department of Justice statistics. Police voluntarily report crimes to the FBI, but if the rapes didn’t meet the federal criteria, they didn’t get counted, or got counted as “sexual assaults” which are typically considered lesser crimes.
In Baltimore, reported rapes increased nearly 70 percent last year after police overhauled the way the department investigated sex crimes.
That means a lot of what the Feds now consider rape was being classified as sexual assault or possibly even other crimes entirely, such as domestic violence.
Stats like these are used to determine federal funding to law enforcement projects and assistance programs. For the first time, in a few years, we’ll have official federal stats about how often drugged rapes happen, or how often men are raped.
This comes slightly less than a year after the Republicans finally gave up their bid to redefine rape as as “forcible” only, for the purposes of determining who can get an abortion on Federally funded Medicaid. Their goal was, I guess, to prevent victims of date rape drugs and thirteen year old statutory rape victims from receiving abortions (while still allowing victims of brutal rape to get abortions). Of course, since then they have just switched tactics and are now focused on making it impossible for anyone to get an abortion under any conditions.
The FBI reported that in 2010 rapes occurred every 6.2 seconds. They expect that alarming number to rise considerably over the next few years, as local police update their reporting to conform to the Federal law.