06 Aug

Feminists Successful in Changing Antiquated Rape Law

Posted By polity_admin_user

Each chapter in Investigating Gender addresses the social construction of gender through social definitions and social policy, while also offering alternative definitions that are consistent with a feminist social justice approach. In Chapter 9, we focus on rape and how the narrow definition of “forcible” rape (requiring women to have resisted vaginal penetration with a penis) in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports overlooks the variety of ways that women and men are sexually assaulted and, consequently, results in the severe undercounting of rape.

In the spring of 2011, Ms., the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the Women’s Law Project initiated a campaign to change the over-80-year-old definition of “forcible rape” to a broader definition. Using online resources, feminists bombarded the Department of Justice and the FBI with thousands of emails demanding a definition that reflects the realities of rape – vaginal, anal and oral rape, including rape of men – and does not limit lack of consent to physical resistance.

In December 2011, Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, formally approved the recommendation of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division’s Advisory Policy Board (APB) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Subcommittee to change how rape was defined. The newly approved definition of rape is “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.Under the old definition, accusations against Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State assistant football coach, of sexually assaulting boys under his supervision would not be classified as rape, but would be under this new definition.

This instance is an example of feminist collective action resulting in a more socially just definition of rape in U.S. federal policy. The new definition expands the definition of rape to more accurately capture the realities of sexual violence in the lives of women. At the same time, it acknowledges the sexual violence that boys and men experience.