Atlanta Adopts Gender-Neutral Definition of Rape

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Atlanta is reporting that the number of rapes in the city has doubled from a year ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. That’s not necessarily because the threat is sharply higher. It’s because for the first time, crime reports include rapes where the victims are men or other people who were not counted before as rape victims. In years past, Atlanta police included in the rape count only cases where the assailant is male and the victim is female, which is how rape is defined by Georgia law. If the victim is a man, or if a woman sexually assaults another woman, the assailant can’t be charged with rape because different laws apply.

For reporting purposes, Atlanta has switched to the FBI’s gender-neutral definition of rape. “The new broader definition is resulting in a much higher number of cases being classified and reported as rape,” said police officer Lisa Bender. The rest of Georgia may also report a spike in rape cases if the legislature approves a bill to adopt a uniform definition of rape that is gender neutral. As the law stands, when the victim is a man, the charge would likely be aggravated sodomy. There are few significant legal differences between that charge and a rape charge, said law Prof. Russell Dean Cove of Georgia State University. “However, the punishment for rape includes a potential life without parole sentence, whereas the most severe sentence for aggravated sodomy is life with the possibility of parole,” he said.

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