The FBI Says Men Can’t Be Raped

Colorlines highlights this terrible quote from an FBI FAQ about the Uniform Crime Reporting system, the nation’s leading source of crime statistics. (Which is unfortunate, because the UCR is a lousy source of statistics.) The FAQ also discusses the National Incident-Based Reporting System, a newer crime data system also run by the FBI.

For UCR reporting purposes, can a male be raped?

No. The UCR Program defines forcible rape as “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” (p. 19). In addition, “By definition, sexual attacks on males are excluded from the rape category and must be classified as assaults or other sex offenses depending on the nature of the crime and the extent of injury” (p. 20). An aggravated assault is a Part I offense and would be reported on the Return A form. (A simple assault is a Part II offense but also would be reported on the Return A form.) Sex offenses qualify as Part II offenses and would be reported on the appropriate Age, Sex, and Race of Persons Arrested form (pp. 96 and 142).

However, in the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), a sexual assault on a male by a female could be classified as a forcible rape, depending on the nature of the attack and the extent of the injury. For NIBRS reporting purposes, forcible rape is defined as “The carnal knowledge of a person, forcibly and/or against that person’s will; or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity (or because of his/her youth)” (UCR Handbook, NIBRS edition, 1992, p. 21). In the NIBRS, at least one offender must be of a different sex than the victim for the event to be classified as a forcible rape. For example, a female can rape a male, or in the case of multiple offenders, a female and male can rape a male. However, a male cannot rape another male, or in the case of multiple offenders, two males cannot rape a male.

Some comments:

1) This is so fucking appalling. Men can be raped. A so-called “uniform” crime-counting system that refuses to acknowledge this fact is both anti-male and systematically designed to undercount rape.

2) I understand that they want to keep the way they measure crimes consistent to preserve compatibility with past data. But that’s a technical problem, and one that could be mitigated. Footnotes could be deployed. Scholars could still access female-victim-only data for purposes of comparing with past years.

It’s not an impossible problem. Just a problem that no one has considered important enough to solve.

3) Honestly, the UCR and NIBRS suck as a means of measuring rape anyway, because all they measure are rapes reported to police. But virtually all surveys indicate that the majority of rapes are never reported to police. It’s interesting that rapes reported to police go up or down over time, but it tells us next to nothing about how often rape occurs.

4) The good news is that the NIBRS will eventually grow to effectively replace the UCR, which means that at least some male rape victims — those raped by women — will be counted. Unfortunately, switching from the established UCR to the NIBRS reporting system costs money for the states, and most states are broke.

5) Speaking of NIBRS… WTF? At least the UCR has the excuse of being designed in the 1920s. The NIBRS was designed in the late 1980s. What possible excuse could there be for excluding same-sex rapes from their definition?

In September, a CNN article by Emma Lacey-Bordeaux addressed this issue. Senator Arlen Specter seemed to be taking the lead on addressing this issue in Congress; hopefully someone else will pick up the issue now that Specter’s no longer a Senator. Lacey-Bordeaux wrote:

Advocates question the rape statistics because, they note, the federal government is using a 1929 definition of the crime that excludes male victims, statutory rapes and those committed without force.

Using such an antiquated, narrow definition is a harmful disservice to countless victims, according to Carol Tracy, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Women’s Law Project. Specter agreed, saying the definition is not “inclusive like it should be.”

Men account for roughly 10 percent of victims in the United States, said Scott Berkowitz, head of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

The adoption of broader rape statistics is critical to the recovery process for male victims, added Dr. Richard Gartner, a spokesman for the group Male Survivor.

Interestingly, the FBI’s man in charge of the UCR is quoted saying he’s open to changing the definitions.

This entry posted in crossposted on TADA, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues, Sexism hurts men. Bookmark the permalink. 

14 Responses to The FBI Says Men Can’t Be Raped

  1. 1
    Robert says:

    The NIBRS was designed in the late 1980s. What possible excuse could there be for excluding same-sex rapes from their definition?

    I’ll be the dick who suggests that just maybe they were trying to avoid having to deal with political fallout from feminists unhappy about “what about the menz??”, at a time when men’s activism was tiny and irrelevant. Justice is always politicized, and at that time the positive payoff for a two-gender view of rape would be nonexistent while the negative payoff of “we’re changing the statistics to take men into account” would be large, or at least, nonzero.

    I’ll be fair-minded and also say that it’s plausible that caring about men’s rape might be perceived as soft-on-crime, since much of that rape is prison rape, and maybe that’s the negative hit they were worried about taking.

    Or maybe both/neither/something else. I don’t know; I’m just hypothesizing. But I do remember the climate at that point was NOT friendly towards a “hey, let’s recognize that everyone can be the victim of sexual violence” point of view.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    I’ll be the dick who suggests that just maybe they were trying to avoid having to deal with political fallout from feminists unhappy about “what about the menz??”, at a time when men’s activism was tiny and irrelevant.

    But the NIBRS definition did include male rape victims (as long as the rapist was female), so I don’t think you’re understanding what the situation was. It excluded victims of same-sex rape — both men raped by men, and women raped by women.

    Contrary to what you’re imagining, btw, as far as I know there was never any significant feminist objection to including male victims in the definition of rape.

  3. 3
    Robert says:

    Thanks for clarifying, I missed that. I think the same objection would have been raised, however. Government money follows government statistics; I know some feminists raised (and raise) objections to better tracking of domestic violence because of fears that money for women’s shelters would start going to men.

    But hey, maybe I’m wrong.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    I think that’s an unfair accusation to make without any links or evidence, Robert.

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    OK, it’s unfair. I’m not God and I don’t have any juridical power over any of these people; I don’t have to be fair to the world at large. To the extent that I feel obliged to be fair, it comes in when a specific feminist says “I don’t feel that way, I think we should collect information and understand where and what the problems are, let the chips fall where they may, let’s be compassionate towards everyone who needs help”, and I say “OK” and take them at their word. That’s fair; that’s how I’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    OK, it’s unfair. I’m not God and I don’t have any juridical power over any of these people; I don’t have to be fair to the world at large.

    No, you don’t. But you’ve known what I’m like for a long time, so when you make a generalized accusation about what feminists have allegedly done while on my blog, it can’t possibly surprise you that you’re asked to back it up. :-)

    (The bit of your comment I agreed with, I of course did not comment on. To hell with agreement, I’m all about conflict.)

  7. 7
    mythago says:

    Robert @1: You’re not only being the dick, you’re being the ignorant dick. “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” comes from the traditional definition of rape in English (and later American) common law.

    Someone who was trying to actually consider the issue, rather than simply wanting the cheap enjoyment of being the dick, might ponder that it would be pretty silly to try and placate feminists by insisting that rape must include the use of force, and mere nonconsent is not enough. Such a person might also ponder the fact that “carnal knowledge” is defined through ye olde Black’s Law Dictionary, i.e., only as penis/vagina intercourse, such that oral or anal sexual assault would not fall under this definition. (The only even arguably non-reactionary part of this definition is that it includes marital rape.)

    Amp, the source material does not match that FAQ. The links in the FAQ are dead. If you poke around a little for the UCF handbook, you find the not-really-comforting fact that the handbook is not tracking rape; it is tracking forcible rape. It doesn’t even set a hard line on the age of consent, vaguely saying that a 4-year-old can’t consent to sex but who knows, maybe a 10- or 12-year-old can. The handbook also specifically says that, for example, forcible sodomy or rape with a foreign object ARE NOT classified as forcible rape.

    In other words, the UCR system is even stupider than you thought.

  8. 8
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Well, a scarily large %age of the american public doesn’t seem to consider anything other than “violent stranger PIV rape” to be rape at all, as far as I can grok from living here. That could have something to do with it. So could the obvious bias (the only people who are likely to complain about M-M rape are gays and prisoners; people don’t like either class; therefore who cares about their statistics?) Things were also a lot more anti-gay back in the 80′s (they still are, of course)

    This may also have something to do with the federal rape laws, which I’ve never read. How do those handle same sex assaults? If the statistics match the laws that would actually make a bit of sense in a closed universe, though it would simply mean that BOTH the statistics and laws were poorly written.

  9. 9
    mythago says:

    gin-and-whiskey @8: What federal rape laws?

    It’s certainly true that US culture has a widespread view that men can’t really be raped by women, or that it isn’t really rape unless _______. But a) that’s not something that belongs in a crime-reporting system, and b) I suspect that most Americans would consider it rape if, say, the rapist used a broken bottle instead of a penis, or if the rapist decided to help himself to a woman who was in a coma.

  10. 10
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I googled the cite: 18 USC 109A, it seems.

    FWIW, I seem to recall some folks saying things like “there’s no federal murder charge” or “there’s no federal rape charge.” I don’t think that’s true at all. There are a wide list of crimes for which the federal government maintains concurrent jurisdiction with state courts; federal district court is both civil and criminal. Those are the crimes for which the US Attorney acts.

    I don’t know the federal criminal code too well, but I do know that all federal crimes are felonies; no misdemeanors are included. And within those felonies, generally speaking, only the most serious crimes are brought into federal court.

    So technically, possession of 15 joints may be a federal crime. Practically, nobody will bring that into federal court; they are more in the “2 kilos of coke” or “20 pounds of pot” line of work. I suspect that the federal government will also prosecute only the most egregious rapes, but that’s entirely a guess.

  11. 11
    Unree says:

    @gin-and-whiskey Actually there are a few federal misdemeanors. Here’s one:
    “Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.” 18 U.S.C. 2074.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    Mythago, thanks for the update (comment #7). You’re right, that’s even worse than I thought it was. And I agree with a) and b) in comment #9.

  13. 13
    mythago says:

    gin-and-whiskey @10: did you read those citations? Or the ones listed by Amp?

    I ask because those would answer your questions.

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