Saturday, April 5, 2008

You Weren't Mugged, You Just Gave Away Your Belongings

A little something to make you want to stab something/one:

A court in Nebraska has denied an appeal against a woman who contested a judge's move to ban the word "rape" from a rape trial.

The initial ban happened last year when Pamir Safi was on trial for raping Tory Bowen. The judge banned the use of the words "rape," "sexual assault," "victim," or "sexual assault kit." The only words allowed in describing the incident are "sex" and "intercourse."

The judge's reason? That "rape" is not legally neutral, where "sex" or "intercourse" are. So, if you are ever robbed, don't say "I was robbed" say "I gave my wallet to that man." If at a murder trial, only say "he died" not "he was shot in the forehead." Get the point?

Bowen (the victim) immediately refused to abide by the ban, saying "I refuse to call it sex, or any other word that I'm supposed to say, encouraged to say on the stand, because to me that's committing perjury. What happened to me was rape, it was not sex."

The initial trial resulted in a hung jury, and the second was declared a mistrial before it even started, under the guise that jurors would be biased because of media coverage. Which is a huge disappointment, because this woman deserves to see justice for what happened to her.

And Dahlia Lithwick of Slate couldn't have said it better when she said

The fact that judges are not rushing to ban similarly conclusory legal language from trial testimony—presumably one can still say murder or embezzlement on the stand—reflects not just the fraught nature of language but also the fraught nature of rape prosecutions. We as a society still somehow think rape is different—either because we assume the victims are especially fragile or because we assume they are particularly deceitful. Is the word rape truly more inflammatory to a jury than the word robbery?

The victim's father has been speaking out as well, reminding everyone that his daughter's First Amendment rights have been violated.

Rape isn't really about sex, anyway. It's about power, violence, coercion, and hatred. It is manifested though an act that is sexual, but the actual crime isn't about sex.

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