The legal definition of “rape” in the United States has not changed for nearly 100 years. Since 1920, only forcible vaginal penetration by a man has been classified as rape. This excluded situations where victims were drugged or intoxicated or the alleged anal raping of boys by former Penn State University football coach, Jerry Sandusky.

In 2011, the U.S. Justice Department requested that the F.B.I. form a committee comprised of local and state law enforcement agencies to expand the definition. As a lawyer who helps victims of sexual assault in Florida, I cannot believe it took this long.

President Obama’s administration led the crusade to expand the definition to include forcible anal or oral penetration of a man or woman or the rape of a woman by another woman. Yet, they failed to include non-consensual sex forced upon a man by a woman. I personally handled a case in Florida where a female healthcare provider improperly touched a male patient’s genitalia in a nursing home.

Florida’s criminal law refers to rape as sexual battery and defines it as oral, anal or vaginal penetration by a sexual organ or object. Florida Statute §794.011 1(h) clearly excludes any penetration done in the context of a medical procedure. I disagree with this exclusion as I have represented several women who have been sexually assaulted during medical procedures at South Florida hospitals.

States are now required to report all rapes to the F.B.I. which maintains national statistical data in the Uniform Crime Reports. However, based upon the outdated and inconsistent definitions, many rapes go unreported to the F.B.I.’s uniform crime report. The 2011 numbers have not yet been released, but Florida reported 5,373 forcible rapes in 2010. That is 28.6 forcible rapes (under the old definition) per 100,000 Floridians. Those are only the rapes that are reported to law enforcement. This makes Florida one of the states with the highest probability of being raped.

The Florida Department of Health has a campaign with specific suggestions on how to prevent being a victim of rape called “TALK ABOUT IT.” Our Coral Springs sexual assault victim’s rights advocates suggest you take a moment to consider their suggestions:

1. Trust your instincts.

2. Avoid people who ignore your feelings.

3. Let a friend know where you are going to be.

4. Know how to get help.

5. Always go out in a group.

6. Be aware of your surroundings.

7. Only accept drinks from someone you know and trust. Never leave a drink unattended.

8. Find out about a person before you agree to go out.

9. Talk about the reality of rape and sexual assault with your friends and family.

10. Identify your limits and clearly state them.

11. Trust your instincts.

Our Pembroke Pines personal injury law firm is devoted to the safety and protection of Floridians who have been victimized by a sexual assault or rape as the result of inadequate security in shopping malls, schools or businesses. We also hold hospitals, nursing homes and health care providers accountable if they improperly touch or sexually abuse patients.

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