Reports of rape in Victoria increase after definition changes

Bianca Montes By Bianca Montes

March 9, 2014 at 11:05 p.m.
Updated March 9, 2014 at 10:10 p.m.

A large increase in rapes was reported by the Victoria Police Department in its January crime statistics.

A recent change in the definition of rape by the FBI is a contributing factor, said Police Chief J.J. Craig.

Nine rapes were reported in January, according to statistics.

In 2011, the FBI announced it was changing the definition of rape used in the collection of national crime statistics.

Reporting agencies were allowed two years to adjust the way they reported sexual assaults to the government.

For the past 84 years, rape was defined as "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will," limiting its scope to sexual acts on women.

The updated definition now includes sexual assaults on men and children.

"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 wrote in a news release.

The change, however, will not affect the way the crimes are prosecuted.

District Attorney Steve Tyler said crime involving indecency with a child by sexual conduct might not always constitute conduct defined federally as rape.

"Not all prohibited contact involves penetration of an orifice nor is all prohibited sexual contact involving an orifice," Tyler said. "How the FBI correlates data to present to Congress to validate funding ... is of little concern for me."

Of the nine reported rapes in January, five would have fallen under the previous definition.

Craig said the reclassification is a good thing because it will provide a more accurate and complete picture of the extent of sexual assaults in the community.

In 2013, the police department reported 39 rapes in its annual report. None were reported in January 2013.

The new numbers may be alarming, Craig said.

"We're adding 10 different crimes to a single classification," he said. "As we collect data on those crimes, it's going to have a big, significant impact on overall numbers."

Craig said it's important the public understands there will be an increase in rapes with the new definition but that the change hasn't altered the way police officers will investigate crime going forward or prove that the crimes were not adequately investigated previously.

"They were always serious crimes, and we investigated them as serious crimes," he said. "We never considered it to be less of a crime.

"We just didn't report some of the numbers to the federal government based on their standards, but it had no bearing whatsoever on whether or not we felt it was important to investigate."



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