Monday, February 6, 2012

One Step Closer

I'm sure you have heard about the changed definition of rape in the FBI Uniform Crime Report.  The old definition, created over 80 years ago, has been replaced with the new: “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 is a huge milestone for sexual assault prevention and awareness activists, with huge implications for more accurate crime statistics at the national level.  This new definition will abolish many stereotypes surrounding rape including the misconception that all survivors are women- as persisted by the old definition of rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”. In addition, a step away from victim-blaming ensues as the removal of “forcibly” in the definition means that proof of physical resistance by the survivor is not a necessity.  The addition of consent is a major improvement as well.
The Feminist Majority Foundation's website celebrates the promise the new definition will bring to more accurate reporting statistics and praises its collaborative, “Rape is Rape campaign that contributed to the push for a new definition. However, our work is not done.    The new definition will only provide a broader definition for what local and state level police choose to report. Eric Holder, attorney general, describes in the UCR update, "
The new definition does not change federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the local level." State crime reporting to the UCR is voluntary, and the action taken to acknowledge rape crimes within a state varies across the nation.
On another note, I mentioned that consent was an important addition, however, education on exactly what consent means, and coercion for that matter, from a primary prevention standpoint, can make this new definition even more effective.  (Kudos to SAPAC's Relationship Remix!) 
The UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, and compare it to reporting trends that occur with the implementation of the new definition. I have confidence that the data collected in this way will show just how silent this crime has been kept in the past due to the exclusiveness of the old definition.
For more ways to get involved: The Rape is Rape campaign’s second initiative (besides changing the definition of rape) is to decrease the backlog of rape kits. Directions on how to take action on the rape kit backlog are included on the Rape is Rape: No More Excuses web page.  I am currently looking in to whether or not Ann Arbor has a backlog of rape kits.

-Lindsay, NPA Volunteer

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful to hear that the hard work of so many people has finally changed this definition to be much more representative of the experience of survivors