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“Rape is Rape” campaign finds strength in numbers

After attending Take Back the Night two weeks ago, I was extremely pleased by the fact that so many students, faculty and staff decided to attend the event and take a stand against the violence against women. However, on top of this excitement, I was also felt a bit discouraged. I felt that despite the efforts of many, like those who attended that night, there are still people who refuse to recognize that women (and some men) are afraid of walking around at night. How could we ever get them to listen if they are choosing not to?

After the event, I had gone to work and decided to quickly check through my Twitter feed. As I casually scrolled through, updating myself on the events of the last few hours, one post from immediately caught me by surprise.

“fempolitics: The FBI’s UCR subcommittee voted unanimously yesterday to update its 82-year-old definition of rape!”

I had first become familiar with the “Rape is Rape” campaign over this summer when I finally began to use the Twitter account I signed up for two years ago. I had just begun to follow Ms. Magazine and in order to keep up with current news on gender issues and to hopefully spark some creative ideas for future blog posts. Over a two week period, both accounts were posting information about the outdated definition of rape used by the FBI in their Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and that the current definition was leaving so many cases of rape out of its report. They also provided a link to the petition that demanded that the FBI see that “Rape is Rape” and change their currently “flawed” definition.

After some quick fact-checking research, I discovered that the definition the FBI was using, which had not been updated since 1929, included only “forcible rape” of a female against her will. According to the petition ( this definition “excludes rapes involving forced anal sex and/or oral sex, vaginal or anal fisting, rape with an object (even if serious injuries result), rapes of men and transgender people and other injurious and degrading sexual assaults. Also, because the definition includes the word “forcibly,” police departments often interpret the rule (against UCR guidelines) as leaving out rapes of women with physical or mental disabilities and those who were unconscious or under the influence of drugs and alcohol.” In addition, estimates show that the 2007 UCR numbers on the amount of “forcible rapes” could actually be 24 times higher than 91,874 the UCR had recorded.

However, this outdated definition began to receive wide attention through the petition created and promoted by Ms. Magazine. The petition, addressed to the Director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, and U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, has received 134,875 so far, which is 89% of their goal of 150,000 signatures. In addition, it only took the petition eight days to go from 2,500 signatures to 100,000. With numbers like that, how is there any doubt that change is needed and should be on the way? Well, the good news is that the wheels are beginning to turn, and the change shortly around the corner.

On October 19, reports began to come out that the UCR sub-advisory committee had met in a closed-door meeting to discuss revisiting the definition of rape and had voted unanimously to propose the change to the Criminal Justice Information Services Division’s Advisory Policy Board (APB). If approved by the APB on December 6-7, the definition would change to include “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.”

Reading up on this news, I was ecstatic to know that this had all happened as the Women in Leadership committee and I were preparing for our night to speak out against issues such as this. It reminded me that though there is much to be said for strength in numbers, what truly matters is the individuals who are unafraid of taking a stand against what is wrong and spreading the word on the issues. From signing this petition to participating in the events and learning about these issues, the individual steps that are taken set the example for the crowd to listen, learn and follow.

I have made my own personal step by signing the petition, will you?


Val Armstrong
Women in Leadership Intern

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