The 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!

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Annie is the Community Editor at The Nation and the former New Media Coordinator at Ms. magazine. She studied sociology and women's studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She's a big fan of birds, plants and things that are funny. Her animal totem is the bat.