Dan Gilmore / Sep. 29, 2015

A Quick Note About Rape in the FBI Crime Stats

We must get our definitions straight.

Generally, the numbers look good. The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its annual report on the number of crimes committed in this country. “The 2014 statistics show the estimated rate of violent crime was 365.5 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, and the property crime rate was 2,596.1 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants,” the FBI wrote. “The violent crime rate declined 1.0 percent compared to the 2013 rate, and the property crime rate declined 5.0 percent.” The FBI predicted that the crime rate would only decline by 0.2%, so the report exceeded expectations except for one area. As Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes, the number of rapes in the nation increased. The number spike is due to the fact that, in 2013, the FBI changed its definition of what constitutes rape. The definition used to only apply to a specific instance: A woman being physically forced to have sex. The new definition is broader to account for both sexes and for coercion through acts like drugging and threats. According to the FBI, the rate of rapes increased 2.5% last year. However, Brown writes, “Using the pre-2013 definition, the number of rapes reported last year is down 10.9 percent from 2005 and still at one the lowest points in the past 20 years.” The moral? Rape, using both old and new definitions, is a traumatic crime that must be fought against in a moral society. But we must get our definitions straight in this age when some people are calling for the erosion of due process to stamp out the crime on college campuses.

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