AngiePen (angiepen) wrote,

Describing the Act of Unwanted Sex

So I'm reading this article about how a judge in Nebraska has banned the words "rape" and "victim" from his courtroom during a rape trial. Also "sexual assault," "assailant," and "sexual assault kit." Umm, right. [blinkblink] The idea is that using those words assumes that a crime has been committed and begs the very question the trial is intended to settle. Huh. I can see how one might make that argument, although the whole point of a trial is that it is an argument and I would hope that a juror would be smart enough to realize that just because the prosecuting attorney talks about "the rape" doesn't necessarily mean that's what happened.

I mean, come on, let's get serious here. [sigh]

And it's not only the arguing attorneys who aren't allowed to use these terms; the victim can't use them either in her testimony. So... just what is she supposed to say? "When we had intercourse..." or "Then he performed a sex act upon my person...?" Oh, except that the prosecuting attorneys were trying to get the words "intercourse" and "sex" banned from the trial as well. (Umm, you're supposed to be on the victim's side, right...?) Luckily the judge actually brought his brain to the courtroom that day and allowed some vocabulary with which the alleged act of the defendant could be described. [eyeroll]

All this is stupid enough but then on page two they mention that not only is the victim not allowed to say, "And then he raped me," but the jury isn't to be told that the language of the testimony and arguments is being censored. WTF?! I mean, come on -- you're sitting on a jury and this woman takes the stand and talks about having intercourse with some guy but never clearly says she was raped or assaulted, wouldn't you maybe wonder why exactly you were there? If the woman (never called "the victim") is talking about having had sex with this guy but never actually says that she was raped or sexually assaulted, and no one mentions that this weirdly neutral phrasing was Not Her Idea, how likely would you be to vote for a conviction? (Assuming they even let you know exactly what the defendant had been accused of.)

Or as the reporter puts it: "The result is that the defense and the prosecution are both left to use the same word -- sex -- to describe either forcible sexual assault, or benign consensual intercourse. As for the jurors, they'll just have to read the witnesses' eyebrows to sort out the difference."
Tags: issues

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