rape. definition and statistics. attorney general. fbi. police.

Jus­tice Depart­ment Announces Major Step For­ward to Com­bat Rape

For many rape sur­vivors, today is an impor­tant day. It means that the dev­as­tat­ing vio­lence they suf­fered will now be counted in this nation’s crime sta­tis­tics. Attor­ney Gen­eral Holder announced today that the FBI will be chang­ing the def­i­n­i­tion of rape used to col­lect data from local law enforce­ment about these crimes. This data is pub­lished in the Uni­form Crime Report and is the nation’s main source of infor­ma­tion about crime trends.

The def­i­n­i­tion of rape used to com­pile these crime sta­tis­tics has not been revised since 1927. Revi­sions are long over­due and wel­comed by law enforce­ment offi­cials and vic­tim advo­cates. The def­i­n­i­tion will now include rapes com­mit­ted against men, as well as a broader range of sex­ual acts. The new lan­guage also removes “forcible” from the def­i­n­i­tion of rape. These changes mean that rapes that are already being reported to local law enforce­ment will now be included in our nation’s crime data.

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. The act of rape causes intense phys­i­cal and emo­tional suf­fer­ing. Rape vic­tims are much more likely to need men­tal health ser­vices, to attempt sui­cide, and to face ongo­ing health prob­lems than those who have not expe­ri­enced this type of 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.

Improv­ing our nation’s response to rape and sex­ual vio­lence has long been a pri­or­ity for Vice Pres­i­dent Biden and the White House Coun­cil on Women and Girls. Early in the Admin­is­tra­tion, the Vice Pres­i­dent con­vened fed­eral agen­cies to assess trends and iden­tify gaps in our response to vio­lence and abuse. We iden­ti­fied data col­lec­tion as one of the biggest chal­lenges we face in under­stand­ing and com­bat­ting these crime. Thanks to the hard work of the Attor­ney Gen­eral Holder, the FBI, law enforce­ment lead­ers, and the women’s orga­ni­za­tions who have long advo­cated for this change, we are one step fur­ther towards meet­ing that chal­lenge.
Lynn Rosen­thal is the White House Advi­sor on Vio­lence Against Women.