L.A. Times: FBI’s New Definition of Rape Is ‘Not Just Symbolic’


In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times commends the FBI for its proposal to expand its definition of rape. The FBI definition, more than 80 years old, defines rape to include only incidents that involve “carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” This is so outdated that many of the cases that local law enforcement authorities categorize as rape never get listed in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reports. A new definition, expected to be adopted by spring, defines rape as a crime against a woman or man that involves any vaginal or anal penetration by any object or body part. It also includes oral sexual penetration as a rape act. It drops the word “forcibly,” and states that these acts are a crime if they occur without consent.

The Times says, “This overdue change is not just symbolic. Academics, legislators and public officials rely on the statistics when crafting laws and setting policy. What’s more, understating rape’s occurrence, women’s advocates say, not only misleads the public about the prevalence of the crime, but also hinders funding for enforcement and treatment programs…A new definition also would trigger a change in public reporting by those local law enforcement agencies that have not modernized their own descriptions of rape.” That includes the L.A. police department.

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