Rape statistics based on 80-year old definition of the crime

by on September 29, 2011  •  In Criminal law

From the NY Times:

Thousands of sexual assaults that occur in the United States every year are not reflected in the federal government’s yearly crime report because the report uses an archaic definition of rape that is far narrower than the definitions used by most police departments…

Many law enforcement officials and advocates for women say that this underreporting misleads the public about the prevalence of rape and results in fewer federal, state and local resources being devoted to catching rapists and helping rape victims. Rape crisis centers are among groups that cite the federal figures in applying for private and public financing…
According to the 2010 Uniform Crime Report, released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week, there were 84,767 sexual assaults in the United States last year, a 5 percent drop from 2009. 

The definition of rape used by the F.B.I. — “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will” — was written more than 80 years ago… But that definition, critics say, does not take into account sexual-assault cases that involve anal or oral penetration or penetration with an object, cases where the victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol or cases with male victims. As a result, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in the yearly federal accounting…

Steve Anderson, chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, said that the F.B.I.’s definition created a double standard for police departments. “We prosecute by one criteria, but we report by another criteria,” Chief Anderson said. “The only people who have a true picture of what’s going on are the people in the sex-crimes unit.”

In Chicago, the Police Department recorded close to 1,400 sexual assaults in 2010, according to the department’s Web site. But none of these appeared in the federal crime report because Chicago’s broader definition of rape is not accepted by the F.B.I…

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