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After Federal Reclassification, the Number of Austin Rape Cases Doubles

Nathan Bernier
Between 2013 and 2014, Austin saw a 15 percent rise in violent crime, a drop in overall property crime and over double the number of rape cases after a federal reclassification of the offense.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released its annual crime statistics report. Between 2014 and 2013, Austin saw a nearly 15 percent increase in violent crime, plus a slight rise in robberies. But the figure that stands out the most is the number of reported rapes – a number that more than doubled since 2013.

The increase is because of a shift in how law enforcement defines the crime. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, Austin had 571 rape cases last year, compared to 217 in 2013. But Austin Police say the significant rise is because of a new federal definition they adopted last year. It now includes men as rape victims, and widens the definition to include various forms of sexual assault.

So what was wrong with the federal government’s old definition of rape? The law used the Biblical euphemism “carnal knowledge” to classify the offense, defining rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

After more than 80 years of collecting crime statistics in the Uniform Crime Report, the FBI transitioned its definition to a broader, more graphic definition last year after proposing the broader definition in 2011.

The Austin Police Department said the change in definition was “decades overdue,” adding that this new reporting classification will not change how people are prosecuted for the crime in Texas.

In Austin, the report also showed a rise in motor vehicle thefts – up to 2,288 from 2,169 in 2013; an increase in robberies, which rose to 873 from 763; and an increase in violent crime.

Property crime, though, saw an overall reduction – dropping from 41,667 to 37,444 – with both burglaries and larcenies seeing a dip from 2013 to 2014.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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