Back in 2011 the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) program indicated that they were going to change the archaic definition of Rape that the UCR program had been using to count rapes in the United States. This old definition only counted as rape an offense with this criteria:
Forcible rape, as defined in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, is the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Attempts or assaults to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are excluded. Source: FBI UCRThis definition was created back in the late 1920's and is pretty archaic by any definition. This definition excluded quite a number of victims of what most people would consider sexual assault. I complained about the old definition and lauded the change in posts here and here.
Recently, there was a piece over at the Mansfield News Journal that looked at the uptick in reported rapes in the Mansfield, Ohio Police crime numbers.
“In 2012, the guidelines changed in how we report rapes,” said city police Chief Dino Sgambellone. “It used to be, they would only get reported if force was used.”
With a broader scope, the number of rapes reported in Mansfield jumped from four in 2011 to 47 in 2012.
When these changes are implemented, it will be critically important for police agencies to explain the changes in reporting rules if they are going withstand any criticism the higher numbers cause.
On the whole, the change in definitions is a good thing. Crime stats are important as they help determine the extent of crime problems in a community and the allocation of resources to deal with it. By under-counting the extent of the true rape problem we are not only shortchanging the victims but we have been shortchanging our communities and ourselves.
No matter how you define it, the problem has always been there.