A definition was changed after eighty-five years

The “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly against her will” has been the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) definition of rape for over 80 years.  On Jan. 6, 2012, an FBI advisory board voted to expand the longstanding definition. Though the decision is the correct one, this definition has been overlooked for far too long and it shows a lack of common sense in our society.

Our social media editor handed a recent story to me about the decrease of major crime in Hammond. As I began to read the article, the breakdown of the types and number of crimes were listed.  The number of forcible rapes in Hammond had risen by 60 percent, up from 10 to 16.

What I read next shocked me.  The definition which law enforcement agencies were basing their statistics had not been changed since 1927.  Am I to believe, that over the next 85 years, nothing about our society, our views on rape and what constitutes rape have changed?  Think about the countless number of people who have been raped and may have not gotten their justice.

What does it say about our government and federal systems?  As a country, we should not sit around and wait while others become victims of these heinous crimes.  This is a prime example of how fractured our policy-making process has become.  That 85 years had to pass before the FBI changed its definition of rape refers to not only the fractured nature of our law agencies, but also the lack of action in our leaders today.

While state laws may be up to date, the report record under the FBI’s dated definition actually showed a decrease of rapes from 2009 (89,241) to 2010 (84,767).  However, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey recorded that from 2009 to 2010 sexual assaults were up, from 125,920 to 188,380.  All of these statistics were recorded under the FBI’s old definition, which, some believe, show lower estimates.

To those organizations such as the Women’s Law Project, I commend you.  With rape being a difficult subject to talk about, those who are victims of sexual assaults are often times pushed to the side.  Someone must be the voice of those who cannot or will not speak for themselves.  Without these groups pushing for law enforcement to review their definitions, it becomes even harder for the victims to receive government aid, as the funds are partly based on the former definition.

As time passes, our society grows and changes and we must explore every subject.  Sometimes those subjects may be things we rather not talk about, but we must.  If we do not, our progress stagnates, our nation falls behind and we become lost.  It is from understanding and change that we find our way.