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.
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.