US expands definition of rape to include men

Reuters, Friday 6 January 2012 11.54 EST

Eric Holder

US attorney general Eric Holder announced an update to the definition on Friday. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration on Friday broadened the definition of the crime of rape to include more forms of sexual assaults such as rape of men and oral or anal sex, the first major revision to the definition in more than 80 years.

The new definition will include any gender of the victim and attacker and also assaults in which a victim cannot give consent because the individual has been incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, is under the age of consent, or is mentally or physically incapable of consent, the justice department said.

“This long-awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years,” vice president Joe Biden said in a statement.

While reports of rape to authorities are likely to rise, the justice department said that will only reflect more accurate reporting rather than the number of actual attacks increasing.

“This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes,” attorney general Eric Holder said in a statement.

Based on reports from law enforcement authorities, the FBI estimated in 2010 that there were almost 85,000 forcible rapes under the old definition, the latest raw data available, and that one occurs in the United States every 6.2 minutes.

Preliminary FBI statistics show that the forcible rape rate declined 5.1% in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period of the previous year.

For years, interest groups have been pushing for a change in the definition of forcible rape, which since 1927 was defined as the carnal knowledge of a woman, forcibly and against her will. That included penetration of a woman’s vagina, but excluded oral or anal penetration and the rape of men.

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.


Posted on January 6, 2012, in Politics, US Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Why would this have needed more legal clarity. Before I saw this, I thought it always included these acts of all genders.

  2. I am not sure, I guess there have been cases that were dismissed because the question of consent was hard to determine when the victim and attacker were of the same gender. Also, this provides confidence for those who have been victimized by an someone of the same gender to go to the authorities because they won’t be belittled in their claims. There is also another plausible argument that this is just another ploy to gather support for the Justice Department after the leak details and failure of “The Fast and Furious” operation drew lots of bad publicity and even calls for the resignation of Eric Holder. It’s an election year, and the Obama administration needs all the support they can garner from same sex couples and those who support gender equality. With all the same sex child abuse cases that have been in the news with in the last decade and especially in the last two months with the Penn State and Syracuse scandals, there probably needs to be a change to law to ensure that those responsible for such acts go to jail for a long time.

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