Thanks to the consistent work of a range of activists, the FBI has finally replaced its ridiculously narrow, 85-year-old definition of rape. The new language,unveiled by the Justice Department this morning, actually fits the crime and should lead to a more accurate national tally in the Uniform Crime Report. The FBI now defines rape as:
“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.”
As we’ve previously covered, the old definition—“the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”—disappeared male victims, and discounted every variety of rape except the kind when a woman screams no and a man uses his penis to penetrate her anyway.
Also important in the DOJ statement: It clears up any confusion about a victim’s supposed responsibility to say no vigorously enough to “avoid” rape:
“The revised definition 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 ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with state statute. Physical resistance from the victim is not required to demonstrate lack of consent.”
Hopefully this will chip away at the the kind of substance-related victim-blaming crystalized by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s infamous “She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say no” poster.