The Justice Department has formally changed the definition of rape that will be used by the FBI to track the crime, including men and expanding the definition to more closely follow state statutes and criminal codes.
Last year, the FBI Advisory Policy Board voted to consider changes into definition of rape that is used to track statistics used in the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR). FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III confirmed he had a pproved the change at a congressional hearing last month.
The FBI is dropping the old definition of rape under the UCR program, which defined forcible rape as, "The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will."
The old definition of rape was first used by the FBI back in 1927.
The new definition will now define rape as, "The 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."
The change is expected to reflect a more accurate picture of how many rapes are reported by state and local police agencies to the FBI for the annual crimes statistics.
"The revised definition of rape sends an important message to the broad range of rape victims that they are supported and to perpetrators that they will be held accountable," said the Justice Department's director of the Office on Violence Against Women, Susan Carbon, in a statement.
FBI officials declined to provide estimates with how the new definition may change the crime statistics.
Carbon told reporters on a conference call that the old FBI definition, "excluded an untold number of individuals."
Along with most violent crime the number of forcible rapes has declined in recent years. In 2010, there were 84,767 forcible rapes reported to the FBI. This was down from a high of 109,062 in 1992, according to a review of data in recent years.
"This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.