Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Rape Definition Leads To Higher Rape Stats

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 UCR
This 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.
Via Mansfield News Journal 
Of course the important thing for Mansfield residents to understand is that there likely wasn't a huge increase in rapes in their town, just a change in the way that they were counted that led to the huge jump in numbers. I know at the sleepy little burg where I work, I expect our numbers to jump considerably when we get the word from the Texas Department of Public Safety to implement the new reporting criteria.

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.


  1. The DOJ is working to update and create the UCR so that it encompasses a relevant definition for Part 1 crimes.
    Great initiative and about time.

  2. Bright Blue, Here in Texas, law enforcement agencies report their UCR stats to the Texas Department of Public Safety. They've let us know they are aware of the UCR change and are working on the details of changing how we report rapes to them. Once they give us the go-ahead, we'll start using the new definition.


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