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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 1 November, 2014

New definition of rape in US makes men victims for first time

More people will count as victims as a result of the change in FBI crime reporting.

Since taking office Joe Biden has been determined to improve services for victims of sexual violence.
Since taking office Joe Biden has been determined to improve services for victims of sexual violence.
Image: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/Press Association Images

THE US GOVERNMENT is to make changes to how the FBI defines rape to ensure a broader understanding of the crime – and rapes against men will be included for the first time.

The new definition will mean more crimes are included in the Uniform Crime Report – the country’s main source of information about crimes.

It is also hoped that the changes will allow for more protections and services to be offered to survivors.

“For many rape survivors, today is an important day,” said Lynn Rosenthal, the White House advisor on violence against women, when announcing the changes yesterday.

The definition of rape used to compile crime statistics has not been changed since 1927.

The new language will now include rapes committed against men, as well as a broader range of sexual acts. The word “forcible” has also been removed from the official definition of the crime.

“Revisions are long overdue and welcomed by law enforcement officials and victim advocates,” added Rosenthal.

Changing this definition is about more than statistics – it’s about the women and men behind the statistics and what happened to them. It’s about how we view rape and how seriously we take this crime…When victims are suffering so greatly yet are invisible in our crime data, it limits our ability to fully understand the extent of the problem.”

Outdated term

The previous definition was limited to vaginal penetration but has now been widened to include oral and anal penetration, reports the New York Times.

The outdated terminology did not include the rape of a man or the rape of a woman by another woman.

The new definition covers “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 change is for statistical purposes – what will be included in the rape category – and will not change the codes governing the prosecution of assaults.

Vice President Joe Biden, author of the Violence Against Women Act when he was in the Senate, said the new definition is a victory for women and men “whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.”

“We can’t solve it unless we know the full extent of it,” he added.

-Additional reporting by AP

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