After a decades-long campaign by women’s rights advocates, the FBI recently announced that it would revise the definition of rape in the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Written more than 80 years ago, the current definition is problematic for several reasons.
The only type of sexual assault on which the UCR currently collects data is “forcible rape,” defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” That definition excludes a number of crimes, including rapes where the victim was drugged or under the influence of alcohol, and all male victims of sexual assault.
Given the definition’s exceedingly narrow scope, many sexual assaults are not counted as rapes in yearly federal reports that are used to track crime rates in the United States. This under-reporting misleads the public about the prevalence of rape and results in fewer resources for both preventing future sexual violence and supporting survivors.
In mid-September, members of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), including representatives of police agencies from various cities, met with FBI officials and survivors’ advocates to discuss making the definition more inclusive. The proposed change must now go through an FBI working group later this month and an FBI advisory group in December.
Campaigning by advocates More >
Joyful Heart has been selected as one of 25 charities to compete for the chance to earn $1 million from Chase Community Giving’s American Giving Awards. With such an extraordinary gift, we could make a big difference for survivors of sexual assault. There is one day left to help us make a difference of $1 million.
Every year, tens of thousands of individuals report a sexual assault to the police. After an assault, a survivor undergoes an invasive exam that lasts between four and six hours to collect DNA and forensic evidence, which then goes into a “rape kit.”
The federal government estimates that over 200,000 untested kits are currently sitting untouched in storage facilities nationwide. Each untested kit represents a missed opportunity for healing and justice for a survivor. Eliminating the backlog would send a powerful message to survivors that their cases matter and that the criminal justice system has not forgotten them.
Joyful Heart would use the $1 million award to continue and enhance its efforts to end the rape kit backlog in cities across the country. We plan to create replicable victim-centered best practices, which will foster trusting and open relationships between survivors and responders; to completely overhaul endthebacklog.org, the only site More >
Polly Poskin, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, took some time to speak with me about her work to end sexual violence in Illinois, the progress on there on the rape kit backlog and the culture of violence against women. Her words were incredibly informed and powerful and this transcript hardly seems to do them justice. We are pleased to be sharing this interview with you today.
Sarah Tofte: Polly, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today. Let’s talk a bit about how you got interested in working on violence against women issues.
Polly Poskin: In college, I focused on women’s history for my graduate degree. That was a time when we were learning about the women’s movement. So much of the focus was improving access to education, improving employment opportunities and expanding daycare. And we got into reproductive rights. Our women’s movement focused on educational opportunities for women, equal pay, child-bearing and child-caring issues and the right of a woman to control her body. We never talked about domestic violence and rape. I wasn’t aware of those More >
Joyful Heart was proud to sponsor the Lydia Martinez Celebration of Excellence, hosted by the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault (NYCAASA) on Monday.
The Lydia Martinez Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration Awards were presented to five recipients in honor of the late First Grade Detective C. Lydia Martinez, a remarkable Special Victims Detective in New York City. I had the privilege of meeting Lydia and the strength, compassion and light that emanated from her were incredible. On Monday, her colleagues and friends, many of whom filled the room in which we were sitting, spoke about the indelible effect she had on their lives, the lives of the survivors she served and on the city’s collective response to sexual assault by law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates and medical personnel.
We were there on Monday to remember her legacy and celebrate work of those who follow in her footsteps: volunteer advocate Maegan Corcoran, Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner and Coordinator Glenda Guzman, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center Violence Intervention and Treatment Program Coordinator Deesha More >
Charles Courtney, Jr., was arrested in Franklin County, Indiana in September 1996, for the knifepoint rape of his wife, Mary Jane, when she told him she wanted a divorce the night he returned from a trip on his job as a long-distance truck driver. Like defendants in many domestic violence cases, Courtney was offered a plea to a lesser charge of sexual battery. As such, his two-year sentence was far lighter than it would have been had he raped a stranger–a sad truth about many rapists whose victims are partners or acquaintances. That conviction earned the government the right to put Courtney’s genetic profile in the FBI’s convicted-offender databank. He was released from prison on January 4, 1998.
Three months later, a 21-year-old woman named Amberly Lakes was kidnapped in a parking lot outside a grocery store in Fairfield, Ohio, and taken to a remote location where her unknown assailant raped her repeatedly at knifepoint. In 2001, Lakes’ case was solved when the evidence preserved during her medical exam after the attack yielded DNA that matched Charles Courtney’s profile. Even though her evidence kit had More >