The definition of the act of rape is being revised to apply to a broader range of victims, circumstances and actions, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Jan. 6.
Under the updated definition, the act will cover “any gender of victim or perpetrator, and
includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age,” the Justice Department said in a news release.
“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,” Holder said. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes.”
The new definition of rape 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.”
The old definition, set in 1927, was limited for federal law enforcement and statistical purposed to “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” It “included only forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina and excluded oral and anal penetration; rape of males; penetration of the vagina and anus with an object or body part other than the penis; rape of females by females; and, non-forcible rape,” the Justice Department noted.
“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,” David Cuthbertson, FBI Assistant Director, for the Criminal Justice Information Service.
The definition is used by the FBI to collect information from local law enforcement agencies about reported rapes.