Finally, Finally! FBI’s “Forcible Rape” Definition Is Officially History

Last month we reported that victory was in sight in our months-long Rape is Rape campaign. At a December Senate hearing, FBI Director Robert Mueller let slip that “sometime this spring” the agency would update its archaic definition of “forcible rape.”

Mueller’s prediction gave us reason for optimism, but an official announcement today from the Obama administration gave us reason to celebrate!

The AP reports:

In a press briefing, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett called the change a “very, very important step” because it counts men and because it includes rapes of women other than by physical force.

In the FBI’s official statement, CJIS Assistant Director David Cuthbertson says that the update ensures that “the number of victims of this heinous crime will be more accurately reflected in national crime statistics.”

“Updating the FBI Uniform Crime Report definition of rape is a big win for women,” said FMF president Ellie Smeal. “We appreciate the support for this change from the Obama Administration, led by Vice President Joe Biden and by Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, and Hon. Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice.”

“This is a major policy change and will dramatically impact the way rape is tracked and reported nationwide,” says Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms. “With a modern, broader definition, FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics will finally show the true breadth of this violence that affects so many women’s lives.”

If you’re a regular reader, chances are you’ve been following our campaign since its launch in our Spring 2011 issue, and are as relieved and satisfied as we are. Eight months may seem like a long campaign, but for a federal agency this change practically happened overnight. The speed with which the new definition was adopted was due in no small part to the more than 160,000 people who signed on to the campaign. Thanks to all those who participated in this revolutionary effort to make sure that all rapes are counted!

And if you’d like to take a minute to thank FBI Director Robert Mueller for finally taking the archaic “forcible rape” definition off the books and into the history books where it belongs, you can do so here.


  1. This is the best thing I have read all day! Finally rape, a crime against humanity, is being treated as such. Now we have to fight to keep rape as rape. Thank you Ms.!

  2. Thanks to FMF , Ms. and Director Mueller for their leadership on improving peoples’ lives.

  3. Thank you Robert Mueller!

  4. This is progress, but in this new definition I don’t see equality for males who are raped. Would the men in Zimbabwe who were gang raped by women be protected by this definition? Would men who are forced to have intercourse with women be covered? It does not mention that type of rape, which while uncommon, still occurs.

    • Jane, the new definition does indeed include men and boys who are raped. The specific language is “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.”

      • That’s the problem. A male wouldn’t be penetrated by a female if she raped him, so the definition technically doesn’t count female-on-male rape.

        • While I am very happy to hear that this necessary change has been made, I have to agree that framing the definition of rape to focus only on penetration is still limiting. While the focus is understandable due to the much greater proportion of sexual assaults committed by men on both male and female victims, this ignores the much smaller but still significant number of those committed by women. Perhaps more importantly, failing to officially include rape that does not involve penetration of the victim continues to uphold much of the myth, well demonstrated in all aspects of our media, that “men would never refuse sex.” So I am happy but still disappointed.

          • See my comment below – the FBI (Mary P Reese) have subsequently *confirmed* that “Forced to Penetrate” offences (i.e., woman having non-consensual sex with man) classified as rape under the new UCR definition.

  5. Gayle Wells says:

    This is all good news, but what people are unaware of is, if you are ready, the numbers are completely
    misleading and many cases unaccounted for in the case of rape and sexual assaults nationally.
    The National Crime Statistics refuse to count rapes or sexual assaults unless a conviction has been
    completed. Can you imagine how in the dark we are. Especially with the low conviction rate it has. Starting with the statistic that 90% or so of
    rapes and sexual assaults are not reported…now let’s calculate the number taking into consideration
    that no evidence exists of women or men, adult or child, that has not had a completed conviction for
    their case, ….it never happened according the NCR system. Disgusting truth that
    no one will pay attention to. Ms. Do you have the courage to address this. I challenge you to open up
    this controversial truth. Do it now, while Obama and Biden are still there. They are our best shot
    at changing this.

  6. Jane, to answer your question, it will not do a thing for Zimbabwe because it only applies to the US. And in the US it applies the same regardless of gender. Read the DoJ announcement.

    “The new definition is:

    ‘The 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.’

    For the first time ever, the new definition includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men. It also recognizes that rape with an object can be as traumatic as penile/vaginal rape. This definition also includes instances in which the victim is unable to give consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity.”

    • It only works if the victim is penetrated. A female wouldn’t penetrate a male in most cases, so female-on-male rape is still not included.

      • Then that could not possibly be a rape!…. Think about what you’re saying….

        • nonnooononono
          Simply having an erection is not consent.

          It may not have the same physical brutality as penetration, but the emotional and mental trauma should still count.

        • Think about what you are saying Mary. Don’t you know how the male body works? Erections are not under conscious control. Do you also suppose that babies come from martians shooting goo goo rays? Haven’t you ever been to school!!!!!

          When I was 15, we had a lecture by a doctor (a lady) on the subject of sex education and then about the whole subject of acquaintance rape. She told us about a fifteen year old boy she knew who had been raped by a woman and was upset by it. To quote her “he felt really churned up in side” and had trouble trusting other people afterwards.

      • In actual fact, despite the new wording being wholly with regards to whether it requires “the victim” to be the one being penetrated, the FBI’s UCR agent Mary P Reese has actually confirmed that “Forced To Penetrate” / “Forced Envelopment” offences (i.e., a woman having non-consensual sex with a man) *are* included in the FBI UCR definition of rape. See explicit confirmation e-mails from her here:

        Which includes from the FBI: “If [example] number 7 was rewritten as you’ve suggested [female performing non-consensual fellatio on a male], it would still be classified as Rape according to the definition since the act includes oral penetration by a sex organ of another person which was without the consent of the victim.”

        This brings the FBI UCR definition into line with the UN (“sexual intercourse without valid consent”) and the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice [Title 10, Subtitle A, Chapter 47X, Section 920, Article 120] – as used in federal legal cases. Long overdue – it is ludicrous to suggest that a woman having non-consensual sex with a man doesn’t “qualify” as rape, which just reinforces sexist stereotypes of men as agents, women as acted-on objects.

  7. It is sad to think that the FBI had such an archaic definition of rape, until recently.It’s about time that this has changed. Forcibly, without consent is just that…without consent.

  8. Let’s hope this definition of rape is applied to sex trafficking asap. It should be.

  9. the FBI definition does NOT include a man’s penis, ONLY a woman’s vagina. So any attack, manipulation, penetration, or use of a man’s penis by a woman, unauthorized is NOT rape. So if a woman has unconcentual sex with a man, it is not rape. This new definition is still bias.

  10. DisEmpowered says:

    No one has yet taken into account that rape can still be against your will, but consentual. I believe there are a great many victims who are raped, because another has “power” and “control” over them; thereby creating a “force” and “penetration” against one’s will… And all because this “consent” was a lie for self preservation… This is rape, too. RAPE IS ABOUT POWER AND HELPLESSNESS, PENETRATION IS JUST an ACTION

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