As expected, an FBI panel will recommend a new federal definition of rape, moving the agency a step closer to updating the way it counts sex crimes for the first time in more than 80 years, reports the Baltimore Sun. The new definition, discussed this week at a meeting in Baltimore, is likely to expand the number of crimes that would be reported as rapes to the FBI by local police agencies. Many states already track such crimes but don’t submit them to the federal Uniform Crime Reporting data collection program as rapes because of its narrower definition.
That, experts say, misleads the public about the prevalence of rape and leads to fewer resources to investigate the crimes and catch the attackers. “This is a huge step forward in accurately reflecting the true number of rapes that are occurring in our country,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement policy think tank. Since 1927, the definition of rape used by the FBI has been “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” which excludes incidents of anal or oral penetration, male rape, and incidents where force is not used. Wexler said 80 percent of police chiefs agreed that the definition was outdated and should be updated. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said better tracking will lead to greater resources. Police and crisis centers cite the federal statistics in applying for grants and other support.