Until recently, the FBI's 83-year-old understanding of rape was "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will." Seriously, it sounds like it was borrowed from the Old Testament.
So where does one even begin dismantling such archaic language?
For starters, the misleading word "forcibly" was finally dropped. This alone is worth celebrating, because an "un-forced" rape only paves the way for victim-blaming. And the last thing we need is law enforcement debating different types of rape and whether they're valid-- like they have for so many years.
According to the old definition, men cannot be raped. An unconscious individual cannot be raped. Anyone under the influence of mind-altering drugs or alcohol cannot be raped. And unfortunately, many sexual assaults have been ignored because the circumstances fell outside the FBI's narrow qualifications for a crime.
The new definition, ""penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim," is a massive victory for victims who were unable to take legal action against their rapists in the past.
This clearer understanding of sexual violence also generates hope for dismantling rape culture in the future.
But the FBI didn't just change their mind. They had to be convinced-- by roughly 160,000 people. And there is no one more deserving of a very special "thank-you" than the lady who got them all riled up.
Stephanie Hallet, blogger for the Huffington Post sat in on an early morning conference call between representatives from the FBI, the White House and the Department of Justice, ready to break the news. Later that day, she said this:
In Ms.[Magazine], I wrote about all the sexual assault survivors who were excluded from the FBI's official count -- including all men and boys, those raped with fingers or objects, and women with physical and mental disabilities, among others.
I wrote about how having the word "forcible" in the definition allowed police to exclude rapes of women who were intoxicated or unconscious when they were assaulted: Police told me that a woman who is out cold can't be "forced" into sex. This despite the fact that at least 22 percent of rapes are committed using alcohol and drugs, and some studies put that number as high as 77 percent.
I called on the FBI to take swift action for change, and asked readers to write to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder demanding a more accurate definition.And they did. Like, whoa. More than 160,000 responses arrived telling the FBI every rape should count.
Way to go Steph! Feminists everywhere are so very grateful for your movement within the movement.