Here’s Why Atlanta’s Reported Rape Total Has Doubled In A Year

By now including instances of rape involving men as the victims, the city has seen its totals climb

The skyline of Atlanta. — Getty Images
Jun 01, 2017 at 2:50 PM ET

The Atlanta Police Department recently released startling new data stating the number of reported rapes this year has doubled compared to 2016. The jump — from 50 between Jan. 1, 2016 and May 20, 2016 to 101 in the same period this year — is jarring, but the spike appears less to come from an increase in the crime itself and more from a change in how the city defines it.

This year, Atlanta PD changed how it reports rapes, following the FBI’s gender-neutral definition and allowing male victims and other people who were previously not counted in the data as part of its crime totals. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Atlanta had previously reported rapes, exclusively, as the number of times the assailant was a man and the victim was a woman, which is how the crime is defined under Georgia state rules. Because of the new definition, there’s been “a much higher number of cases being classified and reported as rape,” Atlanta Police Spokesperson Lisa Bender told the Journal-Constitution.

The state legislation outlines that if a man is the victim, then the alleged offender would more than likely be charged with aggravated sodomy, which only carries a possibility of parole, according to Russell Dean Covey, a law professor at Georgia State University. And it doesn’t hold nearly the same severity in punishment compared to rape — an offense that potentially carries a life sentence without parole.

With Atlanta’s numbers on the rise and more states adopting the FBI’s definition of rape, there’s been a push in the Georgia government to try to alter the language of what constitutes the offense. Though a bill proposed in the state senate was not passed this year, the legislation’s sponsor, state Sen. Donzella James, remains hopeful that it’ll pass next year.

Even as the nationwide data surrounding men as rape victims remains unclear, those pushing for the change, such as Kaj Gumbs, a recent graduate of Morehouse College, see no reason why the state shouldn’t adopt a more gender-neutral definition of the crime.

“This is a women’s issue. This is a men’s issue. This is an LGBT issue,” Gumbs told the Journal-Constitution.