Rape. It’s a word and action that many women and men hope to never face.
It’s also a term that for more than eight decades the definition of which has remained constant in the U.S. and restricted only to females. On Friday, however, the Obama administration expanded the FBI meaning to count men as victims for the first time.
Since 1929, rape has been defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will. The new meaning, however, drops the requirement that victims must have physically resisted their attackers. Men are also included in the new meaning, as well as instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of the influence of drugs, or alcohol, or because of age.
The new definition states rape as, “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object," without the consent of the victim.
For years, policymakers and lawmakers have used crime statistics, such as those reported for rape, to allocate resources for prevention and victim assistance. The new definition of the word will increase the number of people counted as rape victims in FBI statistics, an act many are calling a victory.
"We've always had a broad definition of who is eligible for services, and the change could result in additional resources being made available for survivors of rape," Linda McFarlane, deputy executive director of Just Detention International, a non-profit that helps to eliminate sexual abuse in prisons, told the Associated Press.
Under the old definition, a total of 84,767 rapes were reported nationwide in 2010 and, according to a survey by the National Center for Injury Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped at some time in their lives.
With a broader definition, let’s hope that even more justice will be served to those who have wrongfully exerted their power.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)