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Department of Justice Expands Definition of Rape to "Ensure Justice"

Department of Justice Expands Definition of Rape to "Ensure Justice"

by Derek Gilna

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has broadened the definition of rape, first established in 1927, to include "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."

United States Attorney General Eric Holder further stated, "These long overdue updates to the definition of rape will help ensure justice for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual violence and reflect the Department of Justice's commitment to standing with rape victims. This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes." The FBI collects and publishes regular reports on crime in the United States, including rape.

Advocates for the change, including Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women's Law Project, stated, "Needless to say we are very pleased that the FBI has agreed to revise its definition used in data collection so it more accurately reflects what the public understands to be rape and what our current criminal statutes say."

One of the probable effects of the change will be more accurate reporting of sex crimes, according to David Cuthbertson, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services. According to Cuthbertson, "This change will give law enforcement the ability to report more complete rape offense data, as the new definition reflects the vast majority of state rape statutes. As we implement this change, the FBI is confident that the number of victims of this heinous crime will be more accurately reflected in national crime statistics."

The change in the definition of rape will bring the federal government more into line with state statutes, and will not affect state laws concerning rape.


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