According to a recent article in the NY Times, the federal definition of rape is too narrow. The definition, written 80 years ago, states that rape is “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”. This definition leaves out different types of
rape such as oral or anal penetration and most noticeably it leaves out men.
Leaving out these important types of rape can lead to more underreporting and misleading information. It also can send the wrong message to the victims possibly making them feel like their rape didn’t count.
Law enforcement agencies and feminist groups are calling for a revision of this narrow definition. And after reading the article, I am with them. It is astounding the numbers of crimes that aren’t federally recognized because they don’t fit the definition. According to the article, in Chicago there were some 1400 sexual assaults reported and none of them appeared in the federal crime report because Chicago has a “broader” definition of rape that doesn’t fit into the federal one.
What could it mean if the definition is broadened? For starters, it would help give an accurate report on rape statistics so people would know what’s really going on out there. Secondly, it could help funding for rape crisis centers that depend on federal funding to survive. And lastly, it’s just another way to help make victims heard.
According to the article, there will be a subcommittee meeting on October 18 and the issue will be brought up then. Let’s hope that these voices are heard and the definition will be revised.