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FBI may change definition of rape
Current wording has been used since 1927
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The FBI's recently released yearly crime report indicated a decrease in sexual assaults because the federal definition of rape is considered too narrow and Georgia's definition is no different.

The report revealed there were 84,767 sexual assaults in the United States last year, a 5 percent drop from 2009, and now the FBI is looking to change the federal definition of rape for the first time in 80 years.

The federal definition of rape used by the FBI since 1927 — "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will" — does not include cases involving oral and anal penetration, cases involving victims being drugged or under the influence of alcohol and male victims.

"Carnal knowledge in rape occurs when there is any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ," the statute states.

Georgia's adopted the same federal definition, leading some Georgia advocates to push for change.

Jeanne Buffington, executive director of Gainesville-based Rape Response Inc., said both Georgia's and the FBI's definition need altering to include more incidents.

"I know that law enforcement here uses Georgia's definition and it, again, does not include males," Buffington said.

Rape Response Inc. is an organization whose mission is to provide support to victims of sexual assault in Northeast Georgia.

Other local officials, however, feel Georgia's definition is sufficient enough as it stands.

"Rape is defined in Georgia statute, along with instructions from the court, as to the definitions involved are sufficient for a jury's understanding," said Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh.

Along with rape, Georgia defines aggravated sodomy, statutory rape and aggravated child molestation, as well as several other sexual offenses.

These charges under Georgia law call for similar punishments.

A rape conviction calls for a punishment of death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for no less than 10 years, but no more than 20 years. An aggravated sodomy charge is the same except that it calls for imprisonment of no less than a year, but no more than 20 years.

"Rape is defined in a very specific way," Darragh said. "The Georgia law also has aggravated sodomy and all other different type sexual crimes that are not defined as rape."

Darragh did acknowledge that Georgia's definition does not explicitly include victims drugged or under the influence of alcohol, but the courts often take that into consideration.

"There's no specific thing in Georgia law that relates to whether the victim is under the influence of alcohol, but that is a factor to consider in determining whether or not there is consent involved with an adult female," Darragh said.

Statistics compiled by the Gainesville Police Department indicate the number of rapes in Gainesville have remained fairly consistent since 2005.

Last year, there were 17 forcible rapes reported, compared to 15 in 2009, 18 in 2007, 17 in 2006 and 15 in 2005. Statistics were not reported for 2008.

One of the most widely scrutinized aspects of the definition is that it does not specifically include males as victims.

"Georgia law doesn't include male victims, technically, under rape," said Kevin Holbrook, public information officer for the Gainesville Police Department.

"However, there are other charges that can be brought upon with pretty much the same punishment," he added.

Holbrook agreed with Darragh in that Georgia's definition is sufficient and other factors can be left up to the court's discretion.

"As far as Georgia's law I feel it is sufficient," he said. "Of course that allows us, whether someone is intoxicated or under the influence, we are still able to charge rape for certain cases."

Holbrook said a suspect can also be charged with sexual battery — "physical contact with the intimate parts of the body of another person without consent of that person."

A sexual battery charge could include a male victim, but it is only considered a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, which may not bring as heavy a punishment as a rape conviction.

The deciding fact lies solely on the court's discretion.

Buffington said if the FBI were to change its definition to be more broad, she hopes Georgia would follow and adopt the new definition.

"It will be interesting to see what happens with the FBI and if it impacts Georgia law or not," she said.