RIO DE JANEIRO
Reported rapes in Brazil rose by 157 percent between 2009 and 2012, with Rio de Janeiro state recording 16 sexual assaults a day last year, according to official data released Sunday.
The health ministry attributed the increase to a change in the criminal code in 2009, which expanded the legal definition of rape and encouraged women to come forward about attacks, which are most often committed by family members or people close to the victims.
Before the 2009 amendment, the only act accepted as rape was "tested vaginal penetration," while other crimes, including anal penetration, were considered "indecent assault," the O Globo newspaper said.
Changing the laws gave women "more courage to denounce (attacks).
They felt less guilty and it shows in the statistics," Aparecida Goncalves, the secretary of the state agency combating rape, told the newspaper.
Goncalves also pointed to increased mobilization against rape via social media.
In just the first six months of 2012, more than 5,300 people -- 90 percent of them women -- were raped in Brazil, which is home to about 194 million people.