Did the NISVS 2010 Report really use CDC’s definition of rape?

…Or did they just chose to use another one more fitting for their purpose?

Some months after the NISVS 2010 Report was published a wrote an email to the CDC asking them among other things why “being made to penetrate” wasn’t categorized as rape and whether future NISVS Reports would categorize it as such.

Their answer contained this:

With regards to the definitional issues you mentioned, Made to Penetrate is a form of sexual violence that is distinguished from rape. Being made to penetrate represents times when the victim was made to, or there was an attempt to make them, sexually penetrate someone else (i.e., the perpetrator) without the victim’s consent. In contrast, rape represents times when the victim, herself or himself, was sexually penetrated or there was an attempt to do so.

In summary, rape victimization constitutes times when the victim is penetrated. Made to penetrate are incidents where the victim is forced to penetrate their perpetrator, so does not meet the definition of rape


Which basically is just a rehash of what they write on page 84 in the report.

Today I happened over this page at CDC which offers definitions of sexual violence. There is a link to it on the page (the link says “definitions” in the lower right part of the screen) one can download the NISVS 2010 Report from.  As far as I can see there is no criteria that the definition of rape requires that the victim is penetrated. There isn’t any separate category for “being made to penetrate”. Puzzled by this inconsistency I decided to dig a bit deeper – at the time hopeful that perhaps any future NISV Surveys will correctly classify “made to penetrate” as rape.

The earliest version of this page I’ve found by The Internet Wayback Machine says it was updated 27th of January 2009, which is when the data-collection part of the NISVS 2010 Report had just started and well before the actual writing of the Report which cannot have started until some time after the last data was collected in late 2009.

Here are the definitions in full from that page:

Sexual violence (SV) is any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will. SV encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed nonconsensual sex act (i.e., rape), an attempted nonconsensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (i.e., unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment). These four types are defined in more detail below. All types involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent or refuse to allow the act.

  • A completed sex act is defined as contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration, however slight; contact between the mouth and penis, vulva, or anus; or penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object.
  • An attempted (but not completed) sex act
  • Abusive sexual contact is defined as intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person without his or her consent, or of a person who is unable to consent or refuse.
  • Non-contact sexual abuse does not include physical contact of a sexual nature between the perpetrator and the victim. It includes acts such as voyeurism; intentional exposure of an individual to exhibitionism; unwanted exposure to pornography; verbal or behavioral sexual harassment; threats of sexual violence to accomplish some other end; or taking nude photographs of a sexual nature of another person without his or her consent or knowledge, or of a person who is unable to consent or refuse.

Why is a Consistent Definition Important?

A consistent definition is needed to monitor the incidence of SV and examine trends over time. In addition, it helps determine the magnitude of SV and compare the problem across jurisdictions. A consistent definition also helps researchers measure risk and protective factors for victimization in a uniform manner. This ultimately informs prevention and intervention efforts.

It refers to a paper from 2002 titled “Sexual violence surveillance: uniform definitions and recommended data elements version 1.0.”. The current version available still states that it’s version 1.0, but that it was reprinted in 2009. I take that to mean that the content is the same and that it was reprinted (and made available online in 2009). It basically lifts the definitions from that paper. So the uniform definitions which would categorize “being made to penetrate” as rape have been in place since 2002.

Was this just an oversight from the NISVS 2010 authors? Considering that the authors of the 2002 paper were Kathleen C. Basile, Ph.D and Linda E. Saltzman, Ph.D – Saltzman was the lead scientist in the early stages of the NISVS before she passed away, Basile is listed as an author of the NISVS 2010 Report I’d say no.

So why weren’t a “Consistent Definition Important” anymore to the designers of the NISV Survey? Was this a post-facto way of dealing with the finding of a surprisingly high rate of male rape victims? In order to differentiate between the categories “Rape” and “Being made to penetrate” the questions in the survey would have to separate between the two. That would mean that the decision to split this into two categories was made before the survey was done and certainly before the data from the survey were in. On the other hand the authors write on page 84 in NISVS:

It is possible that rape questions in prior studies captured the experience of being made to penetrate someone else, resulting in higher prevalence estimates for male rape in those studies.

which indicate that they sought to reduce the (too high in their opinion) prevalence estimates for male rape (as reported by prior studies) by treating “being made to penetrate” as separate from rape.

The NISVS team could very well have categorized both categories as rape and reported on them as different subcategories of rape. They did for instance combine “completed rape” and “attempted rape” into “rape” so combining “rape (by penetration)” and “made to penetrate” into “rape” could certainly have been done. But, alas, instead they intentionally chose a categorization that would lower the number of male rape victims.

In my view using the “made to penetrate”  as a separate question in the survey was a positive thing about the NISVS as research I’ve seen indicate that one get a higher quality response with more specific questions. CDC however failed hard when they decided to go against their own recommendations for the definition of rape and exclude “made to penetrate” from the category “rape” and put it into “other sexual violence”.

Given that the definition I found dates back to 2002 and hence predates the NISVS 2010 I no longer remain hopeful that future surveys on sexual violence from CDC will correctly categorize all male rape victims.

4 thoughts on “Did the NISVS 2010 Report really use CDC’s definition of rape?

  1. Pingback: CDC caught in a lie | Tamen's writings
  2. Pingback: NISVS 2011 Released – Increased Male Victimization And Rape Is Still Not Rape | Tamen's writings
  3. Pingback: NISVS 2011 Released – Increased Male Victimization And Rape Is Still Not Rape (NoH) | Feminist Critics
  4. Pingback: CDC Uniform Defiinitions of Sexual Violence and Male Victims – Feminist Critics

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