U.S. Department of Justice redefines ‘rape’
The U.S. Department of Justice announced a revised definition of "rape" on Friday.
The FBI's Uniform Crime Report will now include men as victims of rape, not just women, as it was previously defined. The definition is also broadened to include any penetration with any body part or object without consent of the victim.
A Department of Justice News release said the revision more closely aligns with state and local definitions of the crime.
The expanded definition will not affect current federal or state laws but it will help law enforcement gather more accurate statistical data.
Local advocacy groups said there's a hope it will help more male rape victims come forward.
"The new definition will allow law enforcement to more accurately report the different types of victimization, which will benefit all of us. It will benefit law enforcement, it will benefit prosecutors and, of course, our agency," said Janet Gabel, executive director of Crisis Services of North Alabama."
The organization offers counseling and emotional support for victims of rape.
"We do not see a lot of men coming forward, and that's certainly not to say that there aren't male victims out there," Gabel said.
Of the 129 rape victims that came forward at the center last year, Gabel said only two were men. Gabel also said 171 rape victims took part in the rape response program at Crisis Services but only eight of those were male victims.
Prior to Friday's revision, the FBI defined rape in 1927 as "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will."
For more than eight decades, men were not officially included in that definition - until now.
"A very long time coming because it will eventually provide more protections and services to both men and even victims of different crimes," said James Robinson of the GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services in Huntsville.
Robinson said there's a stigma associated with male rape victims.
"It's a very private issue, especially in the GLBT community, and I'm sure it is in the heterosexual community also," he said.
Gabel said she hopes a more inclusive definition of rape will help erase that.
"It's just refreshing to see the more accurate, broader definition of what our reality is," she said.
There are resources for rape victims to find help. You can contact Crisis Services at 256-716-1000.
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