FBI and Unreported Rapes

For 80 years, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) reflected rapes under forcible rape’s common law definition: carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly against her will. This definition is sexist, insufficient, and ineffective and most states broadened their rape definitions—modernizing their criminal law long ago. However, the FBI’s UCR didn’t.


What did the FBI’s definition leave out? Statutory rape, rapes with no victim resistance, male rapes, date rape, forced sexual activities outside intercourse, and incest.


As a result modern city rape statistics were inaccurate: Either the city would prosecute under the old rape law and report those statistics, or prosecute under the modern law and then report only rape fitting the FBI definition. For example, Baltimore stopped reported 5 rapes to every 1 because the FBI labeled those rapes “unfounded.”


What city refused to report misguided information?

Chicago refused the FBI definition. Their count missed a bigger, darker picture; the misaligned information decreases police confidence for rape reports and encourages false security in victims.

Politically, using the newer definition and reporting it was bad PR. Regardless, Chicago refused to “take rapes off the books.”  For years Chicago supplied modern figures separately, promoting safety and accurate data.


Don’t worry; the FBI finally changed its definition…in 2013.




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