The federal government is changing its longstanding definition of “forcible rape” in compiling national crime statistics — expanding both the definition of victims, to include males, and the types of sexual assault that will be counted in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report.
The new definition, which has been in the works for several months and was formally announced by the Obama administration on Friday, will replace a narrower definition of “forcible rape” with one that includes, among other things, forcible oral or anal penetration. The narrower definition, which is limited to vaginal penetration, has been used since the 1920s in tracking how often such crimes are reported around the country.
Victim advocacy groups have long criticized the old definition as outdated, saying it left out many crimes that were prosecuted as rape under state laws but that were not reflected in national statistics. Last year, an F.B.I. advisory committee of law enforcement agencies agreed to a Justice Department request to update the definition.
“It’s about more than a definition,” Lynn Rosenthal, the White House adviser on violence against women, said in a conference call with reporters to discuss the change. “It’s a change of our understanding of rape and how seriously we take it as a country.”