Number of rapes increases since FBI changes official definition of “rape”

Two years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it was changing the definition of rape that had been in place since 1927. It took effect for last year’s violent crime count, and, under that new definition, rapes were up in most cities.

Violent crime in general dropped about 5.4 percent between the first half of 2012 and the first half of 2013, according to the FBI’s semiannual Uniform Crime Report. Rapes, however, increased. There were 14,400 rapes reported from January to June last year, up from 13,242 in the first half of 2012.

But it’s unclear how that compares to the year before. Under the old definition, the number of rapes declined 10.6 percent between 2012 and 2013. The rise in number instead reflects the new, more-accurate definition of the crime. The number of instances of rape rose in 138 cities and fell in 119, according to comparisons where data for both years were available. The FBI data captures just a fraction of the nation — only 272 cities, a group home to just over a fourth of the national population.