The history of sexual assault was changed in 2012 when Attorney General Eric Holder authorized a revised definition of rape. The previous definition, created in 1927, was “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” This definition was limited in sex of the victim and the type of physical attack. The new definition is “the 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.” This definition, while more graphic than the previous one, covers the breath of possible victims as well as types of attacks.
First, by characterizing the victim as a person instead of a female, the new definition now includes men. The second change to note is the “without the consent” part of the definition. The previous definition indicated that rape was forcible and without consent, which is common in stranger rape, but is not always the case in acquaintance rape when a person is incapacitated. The new definition now includes victims that are influenced by drugs or alcohol, mental capacity, or age.
So what does this new definition mean? This definition will be used for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which releases annual information on serious crimes committed in the United States. Since the new definition expands the category of victims and types of victimization, it allows for a more accurate reporting of the number of occurrences of rape each year.
All of the information in this blog came from the Department of Justice blog, which can be found here. For more information on rape and sexual assault, visit RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at www.rainn.org.