Silencing “Rape”

Can you imagine a person who’s been robbed being barred from using the word "rob" at his assailant’s trial? How can you tell a jury your wallet was stolen without using the word "steal?"

At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick writes of a Nebraska judge who has banned the words "rape," "assault," "victim," "assailant," and "sexual assault kit" from a rape trial. The victim says that after sharing a few drinks with a man in a bar, she blacked out, and awoke the next morning in the midst of being raped. But the only language left for her to use in the courtroom to describe this act is "sex" or "intercourse." As Lithwick points out, these are words that imply mutual consent. Is it any surprise the trial resulted in a hung jury?

The victim in this case is Torey Bowen. She has said, "This makes women sick, especially the women who have gone through this. They know the difference between sex and rape."

Why do we treat rape victims differently from the innocent victims of any other crime?


One thought on “Silencing “Rape”

  1. Marcel

    Don’t we treat them differently primarily because the issue of consent is what is at issue? If I was robbed, there is no assumption that I willingly gave a bunch of money, or things from my house, to this random person. If in a court, I say “he robbed me”, the trial is about the “he”, not the “robbed”. But if a woman (in this case anyway), points and says “he raped me”, then the question is about the “raped” and not the “he”. But since in most other crimes of this nature, the verb is not in question, the verb “raped” gets a credibility it should not have. Lithwick’s analogies are (uncharacteristically) awful.

    That said, banning the word is an awful fix, and the lawyer Lithwick cites has the better idea. But there is a *need* for a fix. (Prosecutor: “So, young man, you say the girl went home with you at midnight. Can you give us the precise time of the rape?”)


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