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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Narrow definition of ‘rape’ undermines justice

Your grandparents could be younger than the FBI’s idea of what constitutes “”rape.”” Since 1929, the FBI’s definition of rape for its annual Uniform Crime Report has been: “”The carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”” The FBI’s notion of rape is more than 80 years old, and it leaves thousands of victims of all sorts of crimes vulnerable to being uncounted.

The definition of rape goes on to clarify that, “”Attempts or assaults to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are excluded.”” The FBI’s idea of rape is the only definition that exists at the federal level. And, although the FBI recognizes other acts as a form of sexual assault, rape is the only crime classified as a Part I offense in the Uniform Crime Report. Part I offenses are considered extremely serious, and are supposed to be more reliably reported than others.

April 28 marks “”Take Back the Night,”” a national event held to shed light on sexual assault. There will be a solidarity march on the UA campus and a resource fair. But, while the UA and other college campuses take a stand against sexual violence, the FBI will continue to sit on an archaic definition of what qualifies as rape.

Preliminary data for the FBI’s 2010 Uniform Crime Report suggests a decrease of 6.2 percent in the number of violent crimes that occurred in the first six months of 2010 compared to figures reported for the same time in 2009. Forcible rape is considered a violent crime, but given how limited the FBI’s definition of rape is, the numbers for violent crimes must be skewed.  

This is more than a little spat about vague language, or a disagreement about semantics. In February, critics of a House bill that aimed to restrict federal funding of abortions forced Republican backers to retreat from including the words “”forcible rape,”” calling it an attempt to redefine rape.

But the FBI’s definition is nearly a century old, and relies on words like “”forcibly.”” It purposely omits forced anal or oral sex and rape with an object, and it assumes that men cannot be raped. For some police departments, including the word “”forcibly”” in this definition also excludes unconscious women, mentally or physically disabled women and women who were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Are you less of a victim if you were dressed a certain way? If you were unconscious? If you’re male, or your attacker used an object against you? What happened to you wasn’t rape. It was just kind of rape. Rape-ish, really.

At the beginning of April, Vice President Joe Biden addressed students and faculty at the University of New Hampshire about sexual violence. He described a college freshman who was raped at a party, and then asked if she’d been sober.

“”The student judicial panel said they didn’t find Jenny credible because she had been drinking. They decided her rapist was a nice kid and didn’t deserve the punishment under the circumstances,”” Biden said.

“”Rape is rape,”” Biden continued. If only other officials were as enlightened as he is.

The idea that one who dresses suggestively or behaves provocatively asks to be violated, or the belief that only women can be raped is backwards and callous. But the fact that this attitude is only furthered by law enforcement agencies is even more disturbing.

On Thursday, when the UA and college campuses across the rest of the nation observe “”Take Back the Night,”” we would do well to remember this: The responsibility of stopping sexual violence begins with one person and extends as far as the federal government.

— Kristina Bui is the opinions editor for the Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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