Happy New Year — out with the old, and in with the new!
More than 140,000 Change.org members signed a petition launched by Ms. Magazine demanding the FBI recognize that rape is rape — and it worked. On Friday, the Obama administration approved a new nationwide definition of rape, the first change in 80 years. Goodbye and good riddance to the FBI’s narrow Uniform Crime Report definition: “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”
And a hearty welcome to the new definition: “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.” For the first time in decades, this federal definition of rape includes victims of all genders, forced oral and anal sex, and drugging or unconsciousness. “With a modern, broader definition, FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics will finally show the true breadth of this violence that affects so many women’s lives,” said Ms. Executive Editor Katherine Spillar. As these statistics are utilized to understand crime rates and trends, which in turn influence decisions about funding and prioritization, this change can have a real impact in reducing sexual violence across the country.
The glaring discrepancy between the reality of rape and the FBI’s definition spurred Ms. Magazine to launch the “Rape Is Rape” campaign, spotlighting the stories of and seeking justice for survivors who discovered their violation wasn’t legally considered rape. Once the non-profit organization started a petition on Change.org and brought this travesty to the attention of members like you, nearly 150,000 people jumped up to tell the FBI that rape is rape, making this one of the most popular Change.org Women’s Rights petitions of all time.
You succeeded in convincing the FBI advisory board to vote in favor of an improved definition. You won FBI Director Robert Mueller’s approval. You were victorious in getting Attorney General Eric Holder to announce formal revisions to the Uniform Crime Report. “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,” stated Attorney General Holder. Long overdue indeed, because moving the FBI is no mean feat — and you did it in a matter of months.
Photo credit: Ms. Magazine