Less than three months ago, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was brutally gang-raped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. She was covering the Egyptian uprising on Feb. 11 when a group of 200 to 300 men suddenly snatched her away from her team. Then, “For an extended period of time, they raped me with their hands,” she says.
For the vast majority of us, what Logan survived would no doubt be considered a rape. But the FBI disagrees. To them, a rape only counts if a vagina is penetrated by a penis. So for the FBI, Lara Logan wasn’t raped.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which is the nation’s go-to statistical record on violent crime, defines “forcible rape” [PDF] as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Each year, U.S. law enforcement agencies tally up their violent crime records, including homicides, robberies, thefts, aggravated assaults and “forcible” rapes, and submit them to the UCR, but only rapes that fit that narrow definition can be included. The FBI then releases a national report of all violent crimes, which the mainstream media dutifully reports.
But the definition of “forcible” rape excludes most rapes: It leaves out oral, anal and statutory rape; rape with an object, finger or fist; incest; and, for many police departments that misinterpret the definition, women raped while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol are excluded, as well as unconscious women and those with physical or mental disabilities. That means our national dialogue on rape is diluted; it’s based on bad numbers and faulty reporting–and that leaves women like Logan to be ignored.
Case in point: Logan immediately spoke out about her sexual assault while recovering in Egypt. Though she didn’t disclose many details at first, she described the attack as a “brutal and sustained sexual assault.” On 60 Minutes last night, Logan confirmed that she had been raped. But back in February, the mainstream media, using a narrow definition of “sexual assault,” quickly reported that Logan had not been raped, quoting only anonymous sources.
“Sexual assault” is generally used as an umbrella term for all sexual crimes, of which the most extreme case is rape … CBS’ description of the assault on Logan implied that the attack upon her had been of the most extreme nature.
Given that news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, which was among the first to say Logan had not been raped, frequently report the findings of the UCR, it’s not unlikely that their claims were guided by the FBI’s narrow definition of “forcible rape.”
And that’s why, to truly support women like Logan, the FBI’s definition of rape must change. Join Ms. and the Feminist Majority Foundation in urging the FBI and the Dept. of Justice to update the definition of rape in the Uniform Crime Report. All rapes matter–it’s time they were counted.
Photo of Lara Logan from Wikimedia Commons.