Monday, June 9, 2008

Call it what it is

I stumbled across this little gem in the local news this morning, and couldn't resist posting my own brief four-word deconstruction: this. is. fucked. up.

From the linked article:

It's the only way Tory Bowen knows to honestly describe what happened to her.

She was raped.

But a judge prohibited her from uttering the word "rape" in front of a jury. The term "sexual assault" also was taboo, and Bowen could not refer to herself as a victim or use the word "assailant" to describe the man who allegedly raped her.

In case it's not clear what is the problem with this judge (and with other similar rulings of this kind), check out what an advocate for defense attorneys had to say (bold emphasis mine):

Those who defend the accused say the determination of whether what happened was rape or consensual sex is up to juries, not witnesses. "They shouldn't be able to use the word 'rape' as if it is a fact that has been established," said Jack King, director of public affairs and communications for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "These are loaded words."

So, let's be clear. Forced intercourse is rape. Non-consentual sexual acts of any kind are rape. This is a fact, and not some opinion open to discussions and debates about the semantics and the signification and the blah blah blah. When a women says that she did not consent, when she says that she was raped, that's what is was. It is a fact. So let's just call rape what it is -- RAPE -- and skip this dance about prejudicing juries' feelings with what is an accurate and entirely appropriate term.

(For more on why labels matter, see Shakesville's earlier post on this case here, and one of the many many installments in a multi-part series here.) In fact, a giant tip of my hat to Melissa McEwan in general for alerting me to this ridiculous phenomenon.

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