On the Changing Definition of Rape – Part I

By Juliana Jiménez

An FBI advisory group voted unanimously to expand the definition of rape as a result of the “Rape is Rape: No More Excuses” campaign. The old, antiquated, hetero-central definition went like this (no joke):

“The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

First of all, “carnal knowledge of a female” throws you way off, way into the 16th Century. Second, as the feminist blog Feministing explains, this definition excludes “statutory rape, same-sex rape, forced anal or oral sex, rape with an object and victims who are male or transgender or have disabilities, not to mention those who have taken drugs or alcohol and therefore had their ability to consent “diminished”.

This is a landmark for human rights, not only for women, but also for men and boys, who were excluded from the definition. A Change.org petition started by these groups (which garnered over 130,000 signatures) stated that “the FBI’s 2007 Uniform Crime Report listed 91,874 ‘forcible rapes,’ but some estimates suggest the actual number may be 24 times higher.”

The new definition will include “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.”

Alaska Ex-Governor Sarah Palin at Dover, New Hampshire

When new statistics are gathered taking into account this new definition, perhaps the national discourse on sexual abuse will become more compassionate, just and effective. This will affect the way federal funds are distributed to rape kits and crime investigation and prosecution. Hopefully this will change the minds of Republican Congresspeople who work hard at defunding Planned Parenthood, or the likes of ex-governor Sarah Palin, who charged rape victims from her hometown of Wasilla for their own rape kits (which cost up to $1,000). Maybe now we can focus on the prosecution of the perpetrators and move away from blaming the victims.

More on that on Part II.


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