Today, Rep. Roybal-Allard led 41 of her colleagues in asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to update their outdated and narrow definition of what constitutes rape.
"The FBI defines rape as 'the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,' which omits all cases where victims are drugged or are under the influence of alcohol as well as those who are violated in ways excluding intercourse," said Rep. Roybal-Allard. "This 80 year old definition has led to consistent underreporting of rape cases in the Uniform Crime Report. It is high time that the FBI redefines rape to ensure that the Bureau's statistics--on which future funding for prevention and treatment programs depends--actually reflect the prevalence of this heinous crime."
The definition of rape currently used by the FBI excludes many cases of rape where the victim is drugged, or under the influence of alcohol. It also explicitly excludes men. The FBI is planning to hold a subcommittee meeting on October 18, 2011 to discuss redefining rape under the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). The current definition has contributed to the underreporting of rape cases in the UCR. According to a recent New York Times article nearly 1,400 sexual assault cases recorded by the Chicago Police Department in 2010 were not included in the UCR data because Chicago's broader definition of rape is not accepted by the FBI.
The full text of the letter below:
October 13, 2011
Director Robert S. Mueller
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
Dear Director Mueller:
We are encouraged by the FBI's intention to revisit the way rape is defined in the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). We urge you to comprehensibly revise this definition to enable the Bureau to collect more accurate statistics to better reflect the prevalence of this heinous crime.
The UCR currently defines rape as the "carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will." In use for more than 80 years, this narrow formulation fails to include women sexually assaulted while drugged or under the influence of alcohol as well as those violated in other ways. It also explicitly excludes male victims.
Unfortunately, the Bureau's flawed definition has resulted in the consistent under-reporting of rape in the UCR. According to a recent New York Times article, 1,400 such crimes in Chicago were omitted from the 2010 edition of the Uniform Crime Report because Chicago employs different criteria to categorize these offenses. For the same reason, in New York City, only 1,036 of a total of 1,369 rape cases were included in the UCR count. The exclusion of this and other data could contribute to misleading conclusions about the incidence of rape, with serious consequences for the essential resources and tools we need to combat this crime.
Better statistics are also critical to our ability to effectively evaluate our progress in reducing the scourge of sexual assault in America. Law enforcement officers agree -- in a recent survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum, nearly 80 percent of police departments polled believe the federal definition of rape should be revised.
We are gratified by your willingness to give serious consideration to adopting a more accurate and expansive definition of rape and look forward to continuing to work with you to fight this crime and support its victims.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Jesse Jackson Jr