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Federal Definition of “Rape” is Updated

After 85 years, the federal definition of rape is being updated. On December 6, 2011, a Federal Bureau of Investigation advisory board voted to expand the definition and Director Robert Mueller accepted the recommendation. The former definition was established in 1927 and can be found under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. The old definition stated that rape was “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” The old definition excluded oral and anal penetration, the rape of males, the penetration of the vagina or anus with an object or body part other than the penis, the rape of females by females, the rape of children, and non-forcible rape.

The new federal definition of rape can be found on the FBI Uniform Crime Report website. Society has long acknowledged that rape can happen to women, men, and children. The new definition takes out the word “forcible” and includes men and children. It expands to include any nonconsensual penetration, regardless of the gender of the attacker or the victim. It also includes those who are mentally or physically incapable of giving consent.

The women’s rights community has claimed this as a victory for victims of sexual violence. Vice President Joe Biden, who authored the Violence Against Women Act when he was a senator stated that victims have suffered long enough.

Even though 84,767 rapes were reported in 2010, many experts claim that the sexual assault numbers are too low. The underreporting of rape affects the federal funding for resources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1-in-71 men and 1-in-5 women will be raped in their lifetime. For expanded information on sexual violence, refer to the CDC website .

According to CEO Lynn Blanco of the Rape Crisis Center of San Antonio sexual violence in Bexar county is one of the most under-reported crimes with just 18 out of every 100 being reported to police. The center provides intervention, counseling, and education for sexual violence (In 2008 the San Antonio Police Department reported 424 rape cases to the FBI, yet the city’s crisis center reported 1,024 sexual assaults that required a medical forensic exam (aka rape kit).

This new federal definition will not change existing state or federal laws currently used to prosecute sexual assault crimes. Most states already have more expansive laws concerning rape. Texas sexual assault laws have evolved over the years. The state criminal code includes expanded definition of penetration and has no gender limits.

Sexual assault is a serious matter. Unfortunately, false accusations do occur, and this undermines the serious nature of those who have been sexually assaulted. Negative reactions can have long lasting consequences for a person falsely accused of sexual assault. At the Law Office of Dayna L. Jones we believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. You have the right to a fair trial, no matter the accusations. Contact us at (210) 255-8525 to schedule an appointment with the attorney. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.