FBI Changes its Definition of Rape

Capitol dome against a blue sky

After decades of lobbying, and nearly a century of stasis, the FBI announced this month that it will change the way it counts rape. For the first time, rapes of men and statutory rape will be included in the official statistics that the FBI collects for the annual Uniform Crime Reports (UCR).

The FBI's change does not affect any criminal laws; it adjusts the definition only for statistical purposes, so that crimes under existing state laws will now be acknowledged, and counted by, the federal government. Up to now, only the "carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will" has been counted in UCR stats. In addition to counting crimes against men, the new definition will include rapes in which the attacker uses threats of violence, as well as all rapes in which the victim is a child and thus unable to consent.

In an interview with NPR, Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's president and founder, said, "The FBI's new definition of rape comes much closer to reflecting the reality of the crime. It happens to men and women, young and old, but in every case, it's an incredibly violent crime and we owe it to victims to acknowledge and count every one, as the FBI is now going to do."

"Rape is a devastating crime and we can't solve it unless we know the full extent of it," said Vice President Joe Biden. "This long-awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years."