BALTIMORE (WJZ)– The FBI is now trying to give rape victims a bigger voice and make sure their cases don’t fall through the cracks.
Weijia Jiang explains the important changes in the works.
For years critics have blasted how the FBI constitutes a rape.
“I would consider rape anything that is forced upon someone sexually that they don’t want to participate in,” said Diane Goodman in Baltimore.
But since 1927, it’s been defined as forcible male penile penetration of a female, excluding cases involving oral or anal penetration, where victims were drugged or under the influence of alcohol, and male victims.
Now, the government is moving to revise the wording, meeting the demands of advocates.
“Not only is it time, it also will allow us to protect victims, encourage reporting,” said Marci VanDeMark of Baltimore County Social Services. “This is an incredibly underreported offense.”
Just last year, Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld overhauled the way his department investigates sex crimes following an investigation by WJZ’s media partner, “The Baltimore Sun.” He even testified at a hearing on Capitol Hill.
“Women are often ashamed and afraid to confront their attackers,” Bealefeld said. “We need and must do everything in our power to make ensure victims of sexual assault feel safe reporting incidents to police.”
Before the change, the city was No. 1 in the nation in unfounded rape reports, meaning police did not recognize an incident as rape. Over a 19-year period, there was a staggering 80 percent drop in rapes.
Investigators reclassified those cases from unfounded to founded, and beefed up a specialized Sex Offense Unit.
Since then, the number of reported rapes has jumped by nearly 70 percent– what experts say will happen across the country if rape is redefined.
A federal committee meeting about a revision is scheduled for Oct. 18 in Baltimore City. Any changes will then be submitted to the director of the FBI for approval.
The FBI reports there were nearly 85,000 cases of sexual assault last year. That’s a five percent decrease from 2009.